But Mr. Ratcliffe and his senior aides were unaware until recently that Mr. Waldron and Mr. Flynn had plans involving the report, which was not submitted until well after the Dec. 18 deadline in part because of disputes within the intelligence community over how to characterize China’s role in seeking to influence American public opinion ahead of the election.
The report concluded that there had been no foreign interference in the casting, tabulation or counting of the votes. It said that several countries had engaged in operations to shape public opinion over the course of the campaign.
Mr. Waldron, an information warfare expert who has claimed he served with Mr. Flynn in the Defense Intelligence Agency, had a longstanding interest in China’s purported involvement in election interference.
In August 2020, months before a single presidential vote was cast, he developed a relationship with a Texas cybersecurity firm, Allied Security Operations, which was co-founded by two men: a technology expert named Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and a former soldier named Adam T. Kraft, whose online biography shows he also served at the Defense Intelligence Agency at the same time as Mr. Flynn.
In the podcast interview, Mr. Waldron maintained that Mr. Ramsland’s team at Allied Security had made a startling discovery in the summer of 2020: that the Chinese Communist Party, through software companies it controlled, had developed a way to flip votes on American tabulation machines, particularly those built by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion has adamantly denied that its machines have security flaws and has filed defamation suits against many of those who have repeated the claims, including Fox News, Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell.
Before they were used as the basis for the draft orders sent to Mr. Trump, these allegations about Dominion were the centerpiece for four conspiracy-laced federal lawsuits that Ms. Powell filed in late November and early December 2020, seeking to overturn results of the election.
The suits — accompanied by affidavits from Mr. Ramsland, among others — made the baseless claim that Chinese officials, international shell companies and the financier George Soros had conspired to hack into Dominion’s machines in what Mr. Waldron once described as a “globalist/socialist” plot to steal the election.