Trump Tees Up a New Type of Coup: In Plain Sight

            Donald Trump revolutionized political campaigning. It was by accident. Because he was too lazy to prepare for or memorize a stump speech, he ad-libbed his rallies; TV networks gave him $2 billion worth of free airtime because something he said might prove newsworthy. Because he was cheap, he made appearances at any random dump that would have him for free; he used the money he saved on big data research that paid off handsomely.

            Now the president is attempting to revolutionize the art of the coup d’état.

            Leaders of broad-based movements who want to overthrow an existing government usually agitate for revolution in plain sight. The activism of a popular front attracts new recruits.

            A coup is the opposite of a revolution. Unlike revolutionaries, who need the masses to succeed, coup plotters require secrecy. A coup is usually carried out by a very small group of insiders. Coup schemers are not interested in, or have concluded that they cannot obtain popular support. They do not seek to transform society. They simply want power. It is an attempt by a minnow to swallow a whale.

Without the protection of millions of adherents and operating outside constitutional norms, politicians and/or military men who plot a coup must take over the government by surprise. Leaders of the outgoing regime have to be in prison or dead, and thus powerless, before their supporters realize that their nation has been seized by a small faction. A coup d’état is over before it begins in the event that some element of the conspiracy comes to light before the zero hour. The classic example of a failed coup is Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Nazi government of Germany by a group of military officers. The plot unraveled when Hitler survived a bomb attack and went on the radio.

Successful coups include the 2004 overthrow of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, whom the CIA kidnapped and spirited away to the Central African Republic, whose president Ange-Félix Patassé had himself been deposed in a coup a year earlier, the Taliban-supported takeover of Pakistan by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, and the bizarre 1993 self-coup by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who illegally shelled and dissolved parliament.

All of these events seemingly came out of nowhere. By contrast, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup attempt in plain sight.

Defying tradition, Trump is still refusing to concede the election since the Associated Press and other media organizations called the race in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, November 7th. Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has filed several lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.

Most top Republicans are supporting Trump, or remaining silent and refusing to congratulate Biden. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the U.S. Senate. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” said McConnell. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

Asked whether he planned to congratulate Biden, Ron Johnson (R-WI) replied: “Nothing to congratulate him about.” Even as world leaders called to acknowledge Biden’s win, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Roger Stone, the political adviser and loyalist pardoned by Trump, previewed the possibility of a post-election military takeover in September. If Trump lost, Stone said at the time, he ought to declare “martial law,” invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, nationalize state police forces and round up critics and political opponents including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “the Clintons,” and journalists because they’re involved in “seditious activities.” On November 2nd Stone said former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey and other ex-officials who offended Trump “must be tried and convicted of treason” and then “they must be hung by the neck until dead.” Stone is still tight with Trump: news just broke that the president had the IRS wipe away Stone’s bill for back taxes, which totaled $1.5 million.

Attorney General William Barr, following Stone’s recommendation, ordered the Department of Justice to investigate irregularities and improprieties in the election.

In order to enforce martial law Trump would need, and has, widespread support among the police. He would also need the military. Though inherently reactionary, active-duty troops have moved away from the president in recent months. So he is replacing top Pentagon brass with compliant loyalists likelier to follow his illegal and unconstitutional orders.

On November 9th Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who refused to deploy troops against Black Lives Matters protesters in June. “In my experience, there would only be a few reasons to fire a Secretary of Defense with 72 days left in an administration,” Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and an official in Obama’s Pentagon, said. “[One] would be because the President wants to take actions that he believes his Secretary of Defense would refuse to take, which would be alarming.”

 “Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election,” reported The New York Times.

In a major, unprecedented transition-period shakeup, policy chief James Anderson, intelligence boss Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart have also been fired from the Pentagon. Anderson’s replacement is retired Army General Anthony Tata, a nutty far-right white nationalist who called Obama a “terrorist leader,” said Islam was the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” and used a racist slur against CNN host Don Lemon. He will do whatever Trump wants.

What’s going on? Stupid impetuous drama? Or a real coup?

If it turns out to be a coup, it may well prove that teeing it up in plain sight improves its chances of success. Trump’s supporters, disproportionately prone to violence and more heavily armed, are watching and waiting. They can only pitch in as paramilitaries or freelance goons if, like the rest of us, they see the dark days ahead.

Then Trump’s coup becomes a counterrevolution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “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
    November 11, 2020 3:25 PM

    Yes, let us blame Trump. But let us backtrack. In 2016, Hillary Clinton rigged the primary. Bernie lost, then Hillary lost to Trump by half an asshair. And the msm simply would not point out that she was going to lose and they would not criticize her for rigging a primary. Privileged children who went to fine colleges and aren’t drowning in student loan debt simply kept chanting the mantra of how sublime she is.
    When Trump won, it wasn’t just a repudiation of hrc and her centrist ways, it was a notice to the msm that the people had had enough of biased cheerleading. In 2020? I have never, ever, ever seen such condescension, arrogance, hatred, contempt, and unprofessionalism as I have seen with the media discussing Trump. Yes, he is an Olympic-standard Grade Triple-A horse’s ass, but–and I know it stings–he’s playing by the rules. Yes. He is. He is entitled to challenge the results. He is permitted to ask for a recount.
    Is he lying about voter fraud? Tonkin Gulf. Welfare queens. Babies in the incubators during the Kuwaiti invasion. No relations with that woman.
    Until the media, and the ordinary people, start having the same complete disgust for all presidents, regardless of party, it is hypocritical to fault Trump for attempting to destroy Americuh’s democracy. That’s already been done. Every president runs a coup. Trump’s biggest (metaphorical) crime is that, as Ted points out, he’s doing it in the open.

    • Interesting points.. I think Trump’s Plan A was to win bigly. That didn’t work out. Plan B was to have a squeaker decided at the Supreme Court like in 2000. Same result. Now he’s on to Plan C. In my opinion it could be having a newly replaced FBI chief arrest Biden with charges that are somehow legal, even if they are partially or fully made up. Arresting the opposition is clearly in the playbook for Fascists worldwide. Ok, he hasn’t replaced the FBI chief yet, but that’s the rumor. I know the whole Four Seasons Landscaping thing made them look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, but they’re pretty dangerous nonetheless. His circle of friends has been yelling about arresting people for a long time now. If it was ever going to happen, this is it. Replacing the Secretary of Defense is just a backstop to the unrest that follows, not the primary mechanism.

  • With a manux like that, Ted, how can this season’s reality show be anything but a hit ?…


  • I’ve just read my third article or commentary in two days in the LA Times about how all this is talk of coup is just hand wringing and basically something we will all just laugh about later.

  • jackalope66’s Plan B ain’t dead yet. Trump’s lawyers have filed in state courts, pretty much losing every case, with one minuscule exception: Trumpeters said they wanted to watch the count, but were not allowed, and the court let them get very slightly closer to the counters.

    But Trump is still hoping for a 5-4 Supreme Court win that tosses out enough Biden ballots to give him back the lead he still had on the 5th. Not much chance of that, but it is his only hope. A coup requires a bunch of things Trump lacks. Black Shirts, for one. (I don’t think he even has any Black Footer Pants like Lord Spode had.)

    Trump ordered the troops out of Syria 3 times. They’re still there. And if the Joint Chiefs refused a lawful order, they sure ain’t gonna follow an illegal one.

  • A coup? Trump? ROTFL!!!

    This clown is not a strong man or a leader, he is just a wheeler-dealer.

    I think the guy is trying to find a way to weasel out of this POTUS deal and protect his fat ars.. So he is just talking a lot of hot air hoping to ratchet up the stakes.

    Indeed, he can theoretically still inflict a little more damage on the US gov. Gut some departments a bit further, pardon some more crooks, etc … But nothing big. So what?

    His biggest problem is probably to find people to make a deal with.

    Senile Joe? Don’t make me laugh!

    But a Kamala & Pelosi duo could possibly become his worst nightmare.

  • FYI: I’m Independent & NO Party Affiliation. It is obvious that this site is a Joke! One, the Media does NOT decide who the President is. Two, the Hammer-Scorecard software program run by Dominion Voting Systems was already being monitored by Military Intelligence Agents. The QFS Blockchain Voting Fraud Sting Operation was run by the M.I. Agents! The Trump Administration had to allow the “Shoplifters” to Exit the Store before they could start Arresting the Communists that run the Voting Fraud. Dominion is Controlled by Feinstein’s Husband (Richard Blum) & lobbied for by Pelosi’s Ex-Chief of Staff. Like Stupid Mice, Hitler’s Democrats walked Right into the Trap! Think: “You Must Kill Some Chickens to get the Monkeys to Understand “!

  • Comments Await “Moderation”, or…
    Post my previous comment.
    It IS The TRUTH!

  • You say “Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has filed several lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.” This sounds like propaganda when with a little searching you will find lots of evidence of fraud. Looks again like propaganda when you say “arrest Biden with charges that are somehow legal, even if they are partially or fully made up.” Of course we all know that the Democrats are always honest and truthful especially when they were promoting the Iraq or how they forced Sanders out of the primary. Here is just one example of possible fraud: TUCKER CARLSON PROVIDES COMPLETE TOTAL PROOF OF WIDESPREAD DEMOCRAT VOTE FRAUD THAT STOLE THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

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