Richard Grenell’s quest to be secretary of state in a second Trump administration began late on Election Day in 2020, when the defeated president dispatched loyalists to run shambolic "stop the steal” operations in battleground states.

President Donald Trump tapped Grenell — his combative former ambassador to Germany, acting national intelligence chief and special envoy to the Balkans — to fly by private plane to Nevada, where Grenell ensconced himself, his dog Lola, lawyers and a crew of activists in a suite at the Venetian Resort, which served as the group’s war room in Las Vegas. In a dayslong spectacle, the Trump team filed a lawsuit and aired false accusations of fraud, including one wrongly implicating hundreds of members of the military.

It was all a sham. Grenell told the team in the war room, two GOP operatives recalled, that the Nevada vote was not, in fact, stolen. The operatives, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal from Grenell, said he told the team that the goal was simply to "throw spaghetti at the wall” — the operatives described Grenell making a theatrical tossing gesture as he spoke — to distract the media from calling Nevada while the election battle in neighboring Arizona played out.