Robert A. Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America who served as an assistant secretary of state during the Trump administration, confirmed to CNN that he met with the two activists on January 6, 2021 around the same time as the chaos was unfolding on Capitol Hill.
The two activists who met with Destro — Colorado podcaster Joe Oltmann and Michigan lawyer Matthew DePerno — had been working behind the scenes to help promote Trump’s false election claims in the lead-up to January 6 and both have previously alluded to high-level meetings with officials at the State Department around that time.
DePerno is now the Republican nominee for attorney general in Michigan and has been endorsed by Trump. He declined to comment to CNN about the meeting with Destro. CNN has reached out to an attorney who has represented Oltmann and has not yet received a response.
“I met with hundreds of American citizens and foreign nationals during my time at State, all of whom had foreign-focused issues to discuss,” Destro, who served as the assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from September 2019 to the end of Trump’s term, wrote to the Post in an email. “I won’t talk about any of the details of those meetings, either.”
DePerno filed a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s 2020 election results that relied on the debunked allegations surrounding Antrim County.
Trump himself touted those same debunked election fraud claims, as did members of his legal team, and they ultimately ended up in a draft executive order directing the military to seize voting machines nationally.
The idea of using the federal government to access voting machines in states that Trump lost was the brainchild of retired Col. Phil Waldron and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, the sources told CNN earlier this year. Both Army veterans spread misinformation about the election being stolen from Trump.
While advisers publicly floated the idea at the time, revelations that two draft executive orders were actually drawn up for different agencies to carry out the job underscores the extent to which the former President’s allies wanted to weaponize the powers of his lame-duck administration to overturn the election.