I'm Not Saying Donald Trump Is Planning a Coup, but He's Doing Exactly What Someone Would Do if They Were Planning a Coup

Illustration for article titled I'm Not Saying Donald Trump Is Planning a Coup, but He's Doing Exactly What Someone Would Do if They Were Planning a Coup
Photo: Brendan Smialowski (Getty Images)

I’m not the kind of person who shares conspiracy theories. But last night, as I was searching Fo’Chan (It’s like Black Twitter, but for 4Chan) for a leatherbound copy of The Willie Lynch Letter, I happened to run across a few articles on Donald Trump that made my whitey senses tingle (It’s like “Spidey senses,” but for Black people when they know white people are up to something. Basically, it never stops tingling...Or maybe I have the gout.)

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Anyway, I think Donald Trump may be planning a military coup d’etat.

I know, of course, this scenario is batshit crazy. No one would ever let it happen. It is as unimaginable as having the president invite a suspected Russian spy to the Oval Office and giving away top-secret information in plain sight. Or, for instance, if someone accused him of asking a foreign country to undermine the election on a phone call and we found out he hid the transcript in a secret classified computer but no one ever made him release the actual transcript. Or, for instance, if his son-in-law failed a background check and admitting he created a backchannel to Russia but still received a security clearance.

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Nah, it could never happen.

But, for shits and giggles, let’s imagine that this could happen. We’d probably need a team of former intelligence officials, government experts and legal analysts to explain how it could happen. Then, we’d probably need them to go through all the possible scenarios and explain how this totally fictional coup could happen.

And, if in this dream scenario, someone like Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks organized 67 legal scholars, retired military officers, former senior government officials and political strategists —let’s call them the Transition Integrity Project— to act out every imaginable post-election scenario, how exactly would Trump pull off this supposed coup?

Well, months before the election, someone actually did this and wrote a report (pdf) about ways Trump could conceivably steal the election that he’s totally not doing. But what would Trump hypothetically do?

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Well, here are all seven of the possible steps Trump would take if a close and contested election was “resolved through the exercise of power, not through the courts.”

  • Calling for recounts in all states in which victory was not already apparent.
  • Launching coordinated investigations at the state and federal levels into alleged “voting irregularities” in an effort to undermine public confidence in results that did not go Trump’s way and/or alter the results.
  • Attempting to halt the counting of mail-in ballots by filing cases in state court or leaning on Republican leaders to stop vote counting or to certify a result early, without waiting for the certified results from the secretary of state.
  • Turning out their well-organized and committed base to take to the streets in Trump’s favor, in part by disseminating disinformation about the danger posed by pro-Biden demonstrators (e.g., by suggesting likely Antifa violence, etc.).
  • Relying on both FOX News and right-wing social media to echo and amplify pro-Trump messages and facilitate the harassment and bullying of election officials, to cause chaos and delay and/or to intimidate officials into taking actions that benefited Team Trump
  • Using federal agencies to justify or support Trump campaign tactics. In one of the more aggressive moves undertaken in one of the TIP exercises, Team Trump had Attorney General Bill Barr order the seizure of mail-in ballots to ensure that vote counting would stop.
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While these may sound like this TIP team can see into the future, none of their predictions are shocking. It’s when they get to the military coup part that I started worrying.

Read it for yourself.

The one area of genuine uncertainty related to whether Team Trump could convince the military to deploy active duty troops domestically. In the scenario, the military refused to support Team Trump, but there was concern that this reflected “recency bias” given that the exercises were run shortly after participants observed the military’s cautiousness in the wake of the June 1, 2020 events in Lafayette Square...

Of particular concern are the President’s ability to federalize the national guard; to deploy the military domestically; to launch investigations into opponents and to freeze their assets; and even to control communication in the name of national security. The politicization of the Department of Justice adds an additional worrying dimension, including whether and how the agency could provide legal cover for the President’s actions.

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The team eventually concluded that the military leaders would almost certainly refuse to carry out his unconstitutional orders. But what if the military leaders weren’t military leaders?

According to the New York Times, days after his election loss, Trump fired four top officials at the Pentagon, replacing them with loyal supporters, including naming an acting defense secretary, including one who called Obama a “terrorist leader” and another who was kicked out of the National Security Council for clashing with the top brass. Then, Trump put Michael Ellis, another MAGAficionado, in charge of the National Security Agency’s legal team. Then he ousted the person in charge of defeating ISIS.

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And, while it is doubtful if the new guys have the power to kick out the country’s actual military commanders, perhaps they won’t need to. As soon as Chris Miller was installed as defense secretary, one of his first moves was to take the special forces from the military leadership and put them under his civilian command, Politico reports.

Of course, there’s the fact that Trump is also pressuring state legislators to overturn the will of the voters. Then there are his convicted felon friends asking him to declare martial law and suspend the Constitution. Also, have I mentioned the GOP’s plans to challenge the Electoral College?

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Is this what a coup looks like?

If not, it’s a great impression of a coup. Of course, Trump probably would deny it (he would definitely pronounce it a “coop dee tatt”) and argue that he doesn’t even own any chickens so why would he build a tattoo house for them?

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But me and the actual experts who know best are probably all wrong.

Yeah, probably.

I hope.

Now if I could just stop this tingling.

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.

DISCUSSION

I’m really hoping all of this is just in service to the grift of getting his followers to give him money to ‘overturn things in the courts’. However, getting USSS, FBI, DHS, to play ball with a scheme like this, much less the military, is extremely unlikely. USSS honestly, will be the first group to march him out of the White House come 1/20, ‘Sorry sir, time to go, your detail is waiting, don’t let the door hit your butt sir.’