Donald Trump discussed the possibility of imposing martial law to overturn the election with Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, it was reported in the US.
According to the New York Times, the president asked Mr Flynn to expand on the idea at a White House meeting on Friday.
The meeting was the latest surreal twist in Mr Trump’s relentless – and up to now unsuccessful – attempt to reverse his crushing defeat by Joe Biden.
Mr Flynn, who was pardoned by Mr Trump after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation into Russian election interference in 2016, has emerged as one of the most outspoken supporters of the claim that Mr Biden’s victory was “rigged”.
Undeterred by court after court rejecting legal bids to overturn Mr Trump’s defeat and the Electoral College confirming Mr Biden’s victory, Mr Flynn proposed more drastic measures on the conservative political website, Newsmax.
Mr Trump should plan for every eventuality, Mr Flynn said, “because we cannot allow this election and the integrity of our elections to go away.
“It is totally unsatisfactory, there’s no way in the world that we are going to be able to move forward as a nation with this.
“He could immediately on his order seize every single one of these machines around the country,” he added, before suggesting Mr Trump send troops into the swing states which he lost to Mr Biden in November.
“He could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states, and basically rerun an election in each of those states.”
The tone of the meeting will ring alarm bells in the US, even if the ideas seem outlandish.
Rudy Giuliani, who acted as Mr Trump’s legal adviser, attended the meeting by phone. He is understood to have pressed the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines.
According to sources cited by the New York Times, the meeting was rowdy with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, forcefully rejecting the ideas being floated.
Also attending the meeting was Sidney Powell, a lawyer whose outlandish claims about the election – including suggesting that Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez rigged the presidential election from the grave – led to her being dropped by the Trump legal team.
Apparently back in the Trump fold, she was considered as a potential special counsel tasked with investigating the fraud allegations.
The next stage in the election timetable is when the House and Senate hold a joint session to count the electoral votes, with the hearing presided over by Mike Pence, the vice-president.
Normally the meeting is a formality but Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, has said he will challenge the result. If he can find a Senator to do likewise, then the result would be debated in both chambers for up to two hours.
Given that the Democrats hold a majority in the House and several Republican senators – including party leader Mitch McConnell – have said they accept the result, there is no chance of the election being overturned.