It Could Easily Happen Here, Soon

What is a coup d'état? - CNN Video

You don’t want to lose your job. How would you feel if getting fired would mean that you would spend the rest of your life in prison? You would do anything to keep working.


That’s the position in which Donald Trump finds himself.

The president is the target of a myriad of congressional, state and federal investigations into his business practices. Trump could resign in exchange for a deal with Mike Pence to pardon him as Ford did for Nixon, or hope for a victorious Joe Biden to do the same in the spirit of looking forward, not backward.

But a presidential pardon wouldn’t apply to the biggest threat to Trump’s freedom: the New York-based inquiries by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York’s attorney general and the Manhattan D.A.’s office into hush payments that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to Playboy model Karen McDougal and the adult-film actor Stormy Daniels, violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and into Trump’s business practices in general.

It’s highly unlikely that, as long as he continues to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump will be frog-marched into a police van. Many legal experts argue that presidents enjoy at least temporary immunity from prosecution. Department of Justice memos dating to 1973 state that, as a matter of policy though not law, a sitting president should not be indicted.

If Joe Biden maintains his double-digit lead in the polls, however, Trump stands to lose his executive immunity from prosecution early next year. At age 74, even a five-year prison term could effectively become a life sentence. What would Trump be willing to do to avoid that?

In the back (not all the way back) of Trump’s mind has to be the possibility of canceling the election.

There has been speculation, from such notables as Hillary Clinton, that Trump might refuse to leave the White House if he loses to Biden. Indeed, Trump has fed rumors that he plans to discredit the results in case of a loss. He says mail-in balloting would be plagued by fraud and foreign interference and refuses to commit to accepting the results. If I were the president, I would reject this option. Refusing to leave would be far from certain to allow him to remain in office more than a few weeks or months.

            Another crisis scenario making the rounds has Republican governors loyal to Trump refusing to certify the results in their states. Under one of the more arcane sections of the Constitution the final result would be determined by the House of Representatives under a one state delegation–one vote scheme. Most states are majority Republican so Trump would probably win. Trump shouldn’t go with this plan either. Relying on feckless governors in the House of Representatives process would leave too much to chance.

Only one approach comes close to guaranteeing that Trump remains at the helm for the foreseeable future and thus out of the clutches of New York prosecutors: canceling the election entirely.

On or about November 1st, he takes to the airwaves.

“My fellow Americans,” he intones, “we are a time of unprecedented crisis. We are deep in the dreaded second wave of the coronavirus. It would be reckless and irresponsible to ask people to go outside and stand in line, risking death, in order to cast a vote that can easily be cast next year, after we have a vaccine. Moreover, the streets of many of our cities have been overrun by rioters and looters. We can’t have an election without law and order. Therefore, we will delay the vote until our safety can be guaranteed. God bless America.”

Never mind that the riots will have been provoked by Trump’s own federal government goons, the so-called Federal Protective Service, or that the pandemic will be raging because of his own incompetence, denial and inaction. His argument will ring true with his Republican base and a few moderates. As usual, Democrats will be stunned, clueless and impotent.

Trump has set the stage for a too-dangerous-to-vote argument.

Black Lives Matters protests were winding down before he sent FPS to Portland and Seattle. Thanks to these violent agents provocateurs the crowds of angry protesters are growing, buildings are burning and people are getting killed. He wants to send thugs to Chicago and other cities as well. By October they could be all over the country, spreading chaos.

After downplaying the threat of COVID-19 for months, the president has radically reversed course. He is wearing a mask in public, urging others to do so and resuming coronavirus-themed press briefings, replacing public health officials as the face of the crisis response. The new messaging: COVID is deadly. Mail-in ballots, the social-distancing alternative to IRL voting, has been discredited by the GOP; anyway, it’s too late to implement it now. Just watch: he may call for schools to remain closed, another switch.

There is no legal mechanism for canceling a federal election. The Supreme Court can’t do it. There are no exceptions, not even for nuclear war. The U.S. system will have broken down.

            What will happen next? We have seen it many times in many other countries. Trump and his associates will not be able to allow the media to talk, the courts to rule or the politicians to criticize his coup.

Trump, former president and now dictator, will censor and suppress dissent to protect his regime. Martial law will be declared. Media outlets, including social media online, will be seized and censored. Lists of potential critics and opponents—leading Democrats, academics, intellectuals, pundits, even political cartoonists—will be drawn up. Those on the list will be arrested, or worse.

            They say it—fascism, authoritarianism—can’t happen here. But if you’re Donald Trump and you think you’re about to lose and go to prison, what other option do you have?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)



  • alex_the_tired
    July 26, 2020 4:18 PM

    All the investigations Trump is facing are kabuki. Even if found guilty, he won’t do a minute in jail. Two reasons: One, the gutless nothings that are Pelosi and her ilk. Two. Jailing a former president? You think he’s the only one keeping a loose set of books? They’re all whoring themselves out, and the last thing they want is the focus a Trump trial would bring to their own dealings.
    If Trump is prosecuted, he’ll do a Pinochet: his lawyers will claim he’s mentally unfit. Their evidence? Everything msm wrote in the past four years – and Trump will laugh all the way to the golf course while Maureen Dowd and pals mutter to each other, “Wait. Did he outwit us and make us all look like fools? Again?”
    Whether there’s a second wave of coronavirus or not — I can’t find any expert who states with certainty that there will be a second wave – Trump’s strategy will be to challenge the vote at the state level and get the whole thing shifted to the Supreme Court where the results for the presidential elections will be invalidated in enough states to send it to the Congress. The dems will sit quietly like the morons they are while the election is taken away from them and put in the hands of a foregone conclusion.

    Please, everyone, remember: Had Hillary not stolen 2016 from Sanders, and failed to beat the least qualified candidate in American political history, we would not be dealing with any of this. This is all. Her. Fault.

  • Hot time in the old town tonight ? You people in the United States, with your «elections» and your «democracy» do do your best to keep the rest of us in the world entertained ; i e, when we are not forced to seek shelter from your bombs….


    • Hi Henri,

      This reminds me of the time talk show host (self-avowed, Reich-wing convert) Ed Schultz, now deceased, wondered aloud if “them Iraqis ever once thanked ‘us’ for what ‘we’ have done for them.” (approximate quote.)

      Well, it’s true that every country has not YET gotten a dose of depleted uranium sufficient to cause genetic terror for several tens of thousands of years … but we’re working on it!

      As Obumma eruditely explained: “We can’t dwell on past atrocities we have committed because there are just too many new ones to inflict on the world.” (paraphrase)

      Just to be clear, not only are the US’s elections and democracy breathtaking frauds but so it it’s “capitalism.”

  • Trump couldn’t get away with it. That German fellow we have to call Godwin had the Legislative building burn down and declared a state of emergency 6 weeks after taking office. Trump would have a very hard time declaring a state of emergency and cancelling the election, US law says it can’t be done, and Trump doesn’t have an army of goons to protect him. They’ll protect him as long as he’s legally president, but it’s highly unlikely they’d follow him into an electionless ‘State of Emergency.’ Godwin had lots of fanatically loyal troops (I believe their attire was quite famous, some kind of shirt). Trump has lots of fanatically loyal working class Americans, but they could never stand up to the police and the US military, who aren’t all that bound to Trump.

    • alex_the_tired
      August 1, 2020 10:55 AM

      Trump will use the democratic leadership to achieve his end.
      First, he’s spreading all the rumors about how the elections are going to be fraudulent. There is no way to satisfactorily disprove this assertion to Trump’s base. They will believe it for the same reason people believe in astrology and Jesus.
      When the election comes, if Trump wins (and I still think he could win it by an eyelash margin), he will tell his followers that because they raised the suspicion, the democrats weren’t able to do another Hillary.
      Note how he ties truth to the lies. Just enough truth to hold it all together: Hillary did steal an election. And the dems did help her. And everyone on the demside pretends it didn’t happen.
      If Trump loses the election — and this is the genius — he will challenge the results. And you know what Nancy Pelosi will do? First she’ll go home to the mansion she lives in thanks to her husband running a hedge fund — all those middle class jobs sent overseas to hongs, that must make the $14 a pint ice cream in that $25,000 refrigerator taste even better. Then, she and the rest of the dems will wait for their instructions from the corporations that own them. And they will “decide” that the risk is simply too great that Trump’s people will become violent, and somehow, the election will be handed to Trump.
      Even if Biden won 538-0, if Trump rattles enough sabres, the dems will back down, if that’s what the 1% want, because, in the end, Trump or Biden, we’re not getting healthcare, decent retirements, pay raises, affordable housing, tuition-free college, etc.