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Politics: Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says

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In the aftermath of the 2020 election, some of Donald Trump's closest allies embarked on an unprecedented effort to get the Department of Defense to chase down outlandish voter fraud conspiracy theories in hopes of helping Trump retain power, ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl writes in his new book.

In "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," scheduled to be released today, Karl reports that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist a Pentagon official to help overturn the election.

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According to the book, Flynn -- who had just received an unconditional pardon from President Trump after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI during the Russia probe -- made a frantic phone call to a senior Trump intelligence official named Ezra Cohen (sometimes referred to as Ezra Cohen-Watnick), who previously worked under Flynn at both the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Council.

  Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says © Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

"Where are you?" Flynn asked the DoD official, who said he was traveling in the Middle East.

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"Flynn told him to cut his trip short and get back to the United States immediately because there were big things about to happen," according to the book. Karl writes that Flynn told Cohen, "We need you," and told the DoD official that "there was going to be an epic showdown over the election results."

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Flynn, according to the book, urged Cohen that "he needed to get orders signed, that ballots needed to be seized, and that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to stop Democrats from stealing the election."

"As Flynn ranted about the election fight, [Cohen] felt his old boss sounded manic," Karl writes in the book. "He didn't sound like the same guy he had worked for."

"Sir, the election is over," Cohen told Flynn, according to the book. "It's time to move on."

Flynn, according to Karl, fired back: "You're a quitter! This is not over! Don't be a quitter!"

Karl writes that after a heated few minutes, Flynn hung up the phone -- and that was the last time the two men talked.

Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, leaves Federal Court in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2017. © Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, FILE Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, leaves Federal Court in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2017.

"Betrayal" also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn's former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called Cohen shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.

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"Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany," Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. "You need to launch a special operations mission to get her," Powell said.

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Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl -- none of which was true.

"The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence -- in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy," Karl writes.

Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: "They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess," Karl writes.

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a man looking at the camera: Attorney Sidney Powell speaks during a news conference with Rudy Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, about lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2020. © The Washington Post via Getty Images Attorney Sidney Powell speaks during a news conference with Rudy Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, about lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2020.

Cohen thought Powell sounded out of her mind, according to the book, and he quickly reported the call to the acting defense secretary.

A CIA spokesperson subsequently debunked the claim, telling news outlets that "I’m happy to tell you that Director Haspel is alive and well and at the office.”

Neither Powell nor Flynn responded to repeated requests for comment.

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