Trump is Still Plotting a Possible Coup

Violence erupts in D.C. after the 'Million MAGA March' as protesters and Trump supporters brawl | Daily Mail Online

            Late last month I wrote that there was a strong chance–I called it 50-50—that Donald Trump would engineer a “self coup” in order to remain in power despite having lost the election.

            The president is a desperate cornered rat. Once he leaves office, he becomes vulnerable to several criminal investigations. By far, the one he has to worry about the most is being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney into his corrupt business practices, charges that could not be discharged by a presidential pardon if Joe Biden were to issue one. “[Trump] could spend the rest of his life in prison,” I wrote, “unless he declares martial law and becomes America’s first dictator.”

            I acknowledged that Trump “doesn’t have the support of the military—but he doesn’t need it.” Instead of a Latin American-style military coup, I said, “his would be a ‘police coup’ carried out by the numerous local police departments whose unions endorsed him for reelection, alongside federalized state police and deputized paramilitary MAGA goons.”

            It hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it won’t, but nothing has changed about Trump’s precarious legal situation. No human need trumps the motivation for personal survival. An intelligent assessment of Trump’s thinking must begin with the question: why wouldn’t he attempt a coup?

            Patriotism? Love of country? Respect for constitutional norms? I won’t go as far as many of the president’s other critics, who call him a narcissist who doesn’t care about anyone except himself. They don’t know that. Neither do I.

Here’s what I do know: whatever love of country and the craftwork of the Founding Fathers is in Trump’s soul cannot possibly weigh as heavily on his mind as the prospect of dying in prison, the first president in history to have faced prosecution and conviction. And that’s after months or years of humiliating hearings and trials and appeals where he has to sit quietly and watch his lawyers try to save his skin as prosecutors try to “flip” members of his family lest they, too, wind up inside the Graybar Hotel.

A more powerful reason to hesitate is the possibility of failure. If Trump’s “police coup” goes belly up, he goes to prison, possibly for treason, for life. Terrifying yet no worse than the New York charges that he’s so scared of. Anyway, what would you rather go to jail for, cheating on your taxes or trying to take over the government?

The only reason I can imagine that Trump would leave office peacefully on January 20th would be that he is psychologically broken. It’s theoretically possible. But the continuing rambunctiousness of his Twitter feed and recent public statements reveal zero evidence that he’s resigned to his fate.

Feel free to dismiss this column as the paranoid rant of a left-wing political cartoonist, albeit one who told you we would lose the Afghanistan war and predicted that Trump would win the 2016 election when everyone else was telling you something different. But you should probably consider this: The dean of Very Serious Journalist Persons, columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post—a foreign affairs writer so mainstream and respectable that he supported invading Iraq and argued that the CIA should not be held accountable for torture—now agrees with me. In doing so, he draws upon some interesting deep-state sourcing.

“Not to be alarmist,” Ignatius wrote on December 26th, “but we should recognize that the United States will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power.”

“Trump’s last-ditch campaign [for Republican members of the House and Senate to challenge the electoral college vote count certification on January 6th] will almost certainly fail in Congress,” Ignatius says. I agree.

“The greater danger is on the streets, where pro-Trump forces are already threatening chaos. A pro-Trump group called ‘Women for America First’ has requested a permit for a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, and Trump is already beating the drum: ‘Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!’” Ignatius worries. “Government officials fear that if violence spreads, Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military. Then Trump might use ‘military capabilities’ to rerun the Nov. 3 election in swing states, as suggested by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.”

Trump officials recently discussed martial law at the White House.

Ignatius continues: “The Pentagon would be the locus of any such action, and some unusual recent moves suggest pro-Trump officials might be mobilizing to secure levers of power.” If I were his editor, I would have reworded this because it wrongly implies that Trump is planning a coup with Pentagon support. What Trump really requires, as I wrote a month ago, is Pentagon neutrality. He needs troops to remain in their barracks. As long as the armed forces stay out of the way of local and state police, a coup may succeed.

Ignatius’ description of Trump’s latest behind-the-scenes maneuvers is worth quoting in its entirety:

Kash Patel, chief of staff to acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller, returned home ‘abruptly’ from an Asia trip in early December, according to Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin. Patel didn’t explain, but in mid-December Trump discussed with colleagues the possibility that Patel might replace Christopher A. Wray as FBI director, one official said. Wray remains in his job. Another strange Pentagon machination was the proposal Miller floated in mid-December to separate the code-breaking National Security Agency from U.S. Cyber Command, which are both currently headed by Gen. Paul Nakasone. That proposal collapsed because of bipartisan congressional opposition. But why did Trump loyalists suggest the NSA-Cyber Command split in the first place? Some officials speculate that the White House may have planned to install a new NSA chief, perhaps Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the young conservative recently installed to oversee Pentagon intelligence activities.

These moves follow the post-election firings of the Secretary of Defense and top officials at Homeland Security.

Ominous as hell, though I think Ignatius’ conclusion misses the point: “With firm control of the NSA and the FBI, the Trump team might then disclose highly sensitive information about the origins of the 2016 Trump Russia investigation.”

A more obvious motivation for hijacking direct control of the nation’s top foreign and domestic intelligence agencies is command and control during a coup. The NSA and FBI would monitor and disrupt resistance inside government as well as in the streets.

“Trump won’t succeed in subverting the Constitution,” Ignatius assures us. Maybe.

It’s going to be an eternity between now and January 20th.

(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.)

December Will Be Very Dangerous

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            It’s too early to celebrate, back-to-brunch Democrats.

            Liberal voters are counting Biden’s corporatist cabinet picks. But we still don’t know for sure that Trump will let them hatch. There’s still a significant chance — I would put it at 50-50 — that the “outgoing” president will engineer a coup d’état in order to remain in power.

            Democratic-aligned media outlets are promulgating wishful thinking. They’re crowing about a routine, peaceful transfer of power. They’re making fun of the Trump campaign’s losses in court challenges to the election results and making light of the president’s hope that faithless electors will trigger the 12th Amendment scenario by causing Biden to fall short of 270. The mainstream pundit class points to the bureaucracy’s granting of access to Biden’s transition team and to excerpts from a recent Trump interview as evidence that he has accepted defeat. (In fact, Trump said that if the electoral college votes for Biden, they will have “made a mistake, ’cause this election was a fraud.”)

            But they are ignoring human motivation.

            Trump has every reason to use radical means to remain president, democracy and constitution be damned. If he leaves the White House on January 20, the former president loses executive immunity and becomes exposed to an array of fraud and corruption charges related to his businesses. The New York State charges are the most hazardous. He could well be convicted and sent to prison on those. Even if Biden were to issue a presidential pardon, a law specifically directed at Trump ensures that a federal pardon would not apply to New York’s state convictions. Trump is an old man, hardly in good health. He could spend the rest of his life in prison — unless he declares martial law and becomes America’s first dictator.

            Cynics, a group I usually identify with, believe that wealthy and powerful white guys like Donald Trump are never held accountable for their crimes, much less go to prison. For Trump, that has been the case so far. But there have been exceptions. As happened to Martin Shkreli, Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Epstein, everything indicates that Trump’s white privilege card has been revoked. The ruling classes are dying to see Trump humiliated, perp-walked, and mug-shot in a jumpsuit that matches his skin tone. The neoliberals never considered the master of crass to be one of their own. Now he is a full-fledged class traitor, our Huey Long. Populist and verbally skeptical of the militarism and job-exporting free trade agreements that line the capitalists’ Cayman accounts, Trump has proven that a sizable portion of the American public—on the right, no less!—agrees with him. The elites despise him for this. They will not save him.

            Trump’s lawsuits will fail. (He knows.) The electoral college will elect Biden.

Trump will then have five weeks to decide what to do. Await his fate at Mar-a-Lago? Trump isn’t passive, especially when he fears he’s going to lose. Fly to exile in Israel or Saudi Arabia? Netanyahu is too beholden to the U.S. to risk offending an incoming Biden Administration; Saudi Arabia is one of the most unpleasant places on earth.

Trump’s coup calculus is simple: what’s the worst-case scenario if he fails? Arrest and prison? He’ll be no worse off than if he didn’t try.

Trump has two major advantages that the usual coup plotter doesn’t. First is incumbency: he currently has his hands on the levers of power. He’s not looking to change anything; he’s trying to keep things the way they are. Second, he doesn’t have the support of the military—but he doesn’t need it. His would be a “police coup” carried out by the numerous local police departments whose unions endorsed him for reelection, alongside federalized state police and deputized paramilitary MAGA goons.

Leaders of the armed forces, the only institution that could stop Trump, would face an awful choice. If they remove the civilian head of government, even a rogue, they are carrying out a military coup. They would have to shoot at local police, many of whom are veterans. If the army were to stand down, they would be tacitly endorsing Trump’s police coup. My experience is, when people face two bad choices, they do nothing—which is why I don’t think Trump has to worry about the military.

History tells us how such a coup would go down. Newspapers will disappear, radio will go silent, television will go dark, the Internet will be turned off. Police checkpoints will spring up on city streets and along highways. After a short time, perhaps a few days, the president will inform us that it’s all for our own good, that he’s trying to protect America and democracy and everything beautiful, but that a state of emergency is necessary to preserve law and order. There will be curfews, martial law, a ban on political protests and gatherings. Communications will resume in a limited fashion. Even news media outlets that used to be critical of Trump will sing his praises.

In most other countries, a coup leader like Trump would face dogged resistance. But that usually requires socialists and communists; only a disciplined Marxist movement stands a chance at destabilizing an authoritarian regime. Fortunately for Trump, a century of ruthless oppression and right-wing propaganda has eliminated the actual left.

Trump set the stage for a coup by moving loyalists into key positions. After the election he fired the Secretary of Defense, a man notable because he refused to send the military to fight protesters on American streets, and replaced him with a toady. The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence also got the axe. He did the same to the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at Homeland Security. The directors of the CIA and FBI reportedly have targets on their backs as well. Wishful-thinking Democrats speculate that the firings are mere retribution by a spiteful Trump. If so, it’s interesting that Trump’s revenge is limited to key national security figures. Didn’t anyone in the Department of Agriculture ever piss him off?

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free,” counsels Sun Tzu. “Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” The powers that be are ignoring this advice. If they were wise, they would approach Trump with a deal: go quietly, return to your real estate business, and you won’t be prosecuted. No more rallies. No more political campaigns.

Instead they have turned him into a cornered rat. Because the authorities are hell-bent on humiliating and destroying a sitting president, the American republic is about to go through one of its most dangerous months in history.

Trump might resign himself to months and years of court hearings, trials, prison for him and his family. But I wouldn’t count on it.

(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.)

 

If Trump Launches a Coup D’état to Try to Stay in Power

Trump hasn’t only refused to concede to Biden. He is challenging election results, hoping to trigger the 12th amendment, and firing key officials who might resist his orders to impose martial law if he refuses to leave. What would the resistance look like? Not much.

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.)

Both Parties Lost the Election. Now the Real Trouble Begins.

Five myths about lame-duck presidents - The Washington Post

            My liberal friends are relieved. I am terrified.

            Democratic voters got what they wanted last Saturday: the electoral defeat of Donald Trump.

By this time next year if not sooner, Joe Biden’s win will look like a Pyrrhic victory.

            Rather than pushing an affirmative platform of policy proposals, Biden’s entire campaign boiled down to opposition to Trump. This is the first time that a purely negative campaign has unseated an incumbent president.

            I was skeptical of Biden’s decision to target disaffected anti-Trump Republican swing voters rather than shore up the progressive base, but it worked. That’s why he won personally, yet didn’t have coattails in the House (where Dems lost seats), Senate or state races. Many Republican voters, tired of Trump’s tweets and disgusted by his COVID buffoonery, voted straight red except for crossing party lines for President-elect Biden.

            Going forward, there are several reasons to be scared.

            First: Trump isn’t gone. He isn’t the quiet type. Coupled with his refusal to concede the race, Trump’s silence and that of his MAGA supporters is spooky. As previously discussed in this space, Trump is a desperate man fighting for his freedom. On January 20th he loses executive immunity, becoming exposed to the New York prosecutors who are gunning for him on bank fraud, tax fraud and insurance fraud charges that will probably land him in prison for the rest of his life. He will do anything — wouldn’t you? — to avoid that fate.

            Trump’s Plan A, I believe, is his flurry of lawsuits related to supposed voter fraud and vote-counting irregularities. Trump doesn’t care about winning his cases. He wants to run out the clock by delaying ballot certifications past the December 14th electoral college deadline in enough states in order to trigger the 12th Amendment, which would grant him a second term via a vote in the new House of Representatives. Trump’s legal filings probably won’t prevail. But his odds are better than zero. This is why so few GOP politicians have broken rank — they know the SOB isn’t yet done for.

            Plan B, because there is no other option that leaves him in the White House and thus out of prison, is for Trump to declare some sort of “state of emergency” in response to a real or imagined crisis (Antifa, coronavirus, ISIS, just the election having been “stolen”). Martial law, tanks in the streets, stay in your homes or you will be shot. We’ll figure out the election later…much later…never.

            On-and-off Trump crony Roger Stone recently suggested that Trump invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, declare martial law, arrest Harry Reid, Mark Zuckerberg, the Clintons and journalists. Trump himself threatened to use it to crush the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer.

His armed redneck MAGA brigades may be deputized as the coup’s paramilitaries “to protect law and order.” He could pull it off; liberals are wimps and Trump has widespread support among local police forces and sizable support among the white nationalists and other reactionaries within the military. On the other hand, a presidential attack on democracy could unite the left and the mainstream right.

            There might not be a coup. Trump might slink off into the night or fly into Saudi exile. Point is, I won’t breathe easily until he’s gone on January 20th.

[Edit Added 11/10/20:]

Adding to the growing sense that a coup attempt may be in the works were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, and the fact that no Republican not previously identified anti-Trump has come out to urge Trump to accept defeat and concede the election to Biden. “President Trump is 100-percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said. Only one GOP senator, moderate Susan Collins of Maine, congratulated Biden on his win. While acknowledging that Biden won, Fox News continues to use weasel language like “if and when Biden takes the oath of office.”

Two other developments give cause for concern.

First, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Why would an outgoing administration fire a cabinet officer two months before the end of its term? Because it intends to remain in office. Esper was notable for refusing Trump’s order to deploy the military against BLM protesters in June. Trump will require a compliant defense secretary to stage a coup that cannot succeed without troops in the streets; he appears to have found such a figure in Esper’s acting replacement.  Second, Attorney General William Barr ordered the Department of Justice to investigate voter fraud in the recent election, providing a fig leaf for Trump’s allegations that he was cheated.

[/end of edit]

            If that happens, Joe Biden’s problems begin. And ours become immeasurably worse.

            Republicans will probably retain control of the Senate. Anyone remotely familiar with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows that it will be impossible to pass big-ticket Democratic legislation. The $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, public option for Obamacare, partial student loan forgiveness and anything that approaches a Green New Deal are all dead on arrival.

Biden hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet. But he is already the lamest of all lame ducks. Progressives will protest and attack Biden from the left, arguing that his centrist campaign failed to generate the Blue Wave necessary to get big things done. (They will be right.) Centrists, seeing that Biden’s presidency is doomed, that Bidenism never meant anything and will never accomplish more than to simply exist, will resign themselves to apathy.

The country will be in big trouble. It will have been over half a year since the last infusion of economic stimulus. Unemployment will be soaring, the long-term unemployed will face evictions and foreclosures, the sagging housing market will begin to collapse and securities markets, which have managed to teeter along through COVID, will start to feel the pain. And the coronavirus will be ravaging us through its second or third wave of death and disability, no vaccine yet available, in an insane for-profit healthcare system.

Biden and the Democrats will be in the worst possible position. The pandemic will be raging and the economy will be in depression. Democrats will be blamed for the mess left behind by Trump but they won’t be able to do anything to try to fix it. They’ll complain about McConnell but voters won’t listen.

Ordinary citizens will suffer the most. We need a huge stimulus package but we’re not going to get one. Gridlock will prevent the U.S. government from doing anything to save the planet, the economy or us.

Or itself.

(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.)

 

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.

Anything.

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.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Not a Revolution, Just an Old-Fashioned Coup

Egypt Offers Lessons for America’s Left and Right

The U.S.-backed military coup that ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi reconfirms two historical lessons that Americans repeatedly refuse to accept.

The first is for American activists, the idealistic progressives working to make the world a fairer and more decent place. Once again in Egypt, we are seeing how you can’t make a revolution without revolutionizing society – which requires the complete, violent overthrow of the ruling class. The second lesson is for elite policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals, but they won’t learn it until the inevitable blowback from their incessant manipulation and backroom schemes prompts another September 11 — or worse.

First, the takeaway for leftists.

Western critics, most of them unabashedly pro-coup, blame the Muslim Brotherhood for its own overthrow. They weren’t inclusive enough, they presided over a lousy economy, after decades of exile they just weren’t ready to govern. For the sake of argument, let’s concede all that.

No matter where you stand on Morsi, it is undeniable that his nascent presidency never stood a chance. The 2011 “revolution” that began and ended in Tahrir Square, which defined the Arab Spring and inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement, toppled an aging U.S.-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak. But Mubarak’s regime mostly remained in place. Mubarak’s old judiciary blocked Morsi and his party, a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, at every turn. The other major holdover, the military and security forces, orchestrated his political demise, culminating in last week’s coup. Now there is a strong chance that Egypt is about to disintegrate into a civil conflict whose scale of violence might eclipse the mayhem in Syria.

Western analysts, liberals and even leftists who ought to know better have so cheapened the word “revolution,” attaching it to developments that, though notable, are nothing of the kind: independence struggles, civil rights movements, and most recently events like the Arab Spring, which enjoyed support by Western media and governments precisely because they were not violent, or at least not very violent, and thus not revolutionary — and therefore not a threat to the power of elites in charge of the current system. Although there may be strains of continuity in government and culture before and after a true revolution, such as the maintenance of some ministries and place names and so on, real revolution is characterized first and foremost by the replacement of one set of ruling elites — economic, cultural and political — over another. Revolution is also indicated by a vast set of radical transformations in the way that ordinary people live, such as the legalization of divorce, the abolition of the Catholic Church, and the establishment of the metric system after the French Revolution.

Though important and meaningful, what happened at Tahrir Square in 2011 didn’t come close to qualifying as a bona fide revolution. The rich remained rich, the poor remained poor, and though a few officials here and there lost their jobs, the ruling class as a whole retained their prerogatives. Meanwhile, life on the street remained miserable — and in exactly the same way as before.

Similarly, the 2013 coup d’état — weasel words to the contrary, if language has any meaning whatsoever, it is always a military coup when the military deposes a democratically elected ruler — isn’t a revolution either. Even if it was demonstrably true that, as General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed and many protesters agree, that “it is not the army who took over, it is the army who acted on behalf of the people,” what we have here is nothing more than a personnel change. The system remains intact.

At the height of the Occupy movement during the fall of 2011, many knee-jerk pacifists, besotted with the post-1960s religion of militant nonviolence (in spite of its repeatedly proven ineffectiveness), agreed that radical transformation — revolution — was necessary in the United States. Yet these liberals also argued that (even though there was no historical precedent) the triumph of the mass of ordinary American workers over the corrupt bankers and their pet politicians could result from purely nonviolent protest.

They have only to look at Egypt to see why they are wrong. The Arab Spring was a huge experiment in the efficacy of nonviolence to affect political change. No country has seen a true revolution since the events of 2011. There were, however, changes — and these were most dramatic in the nations that saw the most violence, such as Libya.

Unless you dislodge the ruling elites, who have everything to gain from continuity and everything to lose from reform, your wannabe revolution doesn’t stand a chance of getting off the ground. The privileged classes won’t relinquish their privileges, power or wealth voluntarily. They will use their control over the police and the military (and, as we have recently learned, their access to the intimate details of our daily lives) in order to crush any meaningful opposition. They are violent. Their system is violence. Defeating them requires greater violence. Nothing less results in revolution.

Egypt is about to teach America’s political class yet another lesson about blowback, the tendency of meddling in the internal politics of foreign countries to result in anti-Americanism, which manifests itself in the form of terrorism.

After 9/11 you’d think that the U.S. would tread lightly in the Muslim world. This would go double in Egypt, where America’s pet dictator Hosni Mubarak ruled for 29 years, only to go down in flames despite being propped up by billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid. In the end, like a bored and easily distracted infant, the State Department green-lit Mubarak’s removal. Now, two years later, they’re at it again, brazenly orchestrating and signing off on an old-fashioned military coup to remove the first democratically elected leader of the spiritual center of the Arab world — who just happens to be an Islamist.

The behind-the-scenes machinations of the White House are sordidly reminiscent of CIA-backed coups in Latin America in the 1960s.

“As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said,” reported The New York Times over the weekend. “The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors.”

Over my dead body, Morsi replied.

This was conveyed to Anne Patterson, Obama’s ambassador to Egypt, and Susan Rice, his national security advisor. Rice told Morsi’s advisor she had green-lit a coup. “‘Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,’ an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, ‘Mother America,'” the Times reported.

What could go wrong?

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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