2020 Election: Is Trump Planning a Coup d’État?

Donald Trump
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[2020 Election\Donald Trump]
The Nation: "The report warns that a desperate Trump could push the American republic to the breaking point. The authors even envision scenarios in which Trump wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote and exploits the ensuing unrest."
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Will the American the people have to remove Donald Trump from the White House after the November Election?

This summer, shortly after scores of camo-wearing, heavily armed federal agents descended on Portland, Ore., to attack protesters, Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, pondered the implications of what he was seeing on the streets. What he saw scared him; he remembered the use of paramilitaries by fascist leaders in 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into paramilitarism in the United States. (His family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.)

Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. You might as well put brown shirts on them. It’s a very bad thing.”

A Harvard Law School professor who still counts himself as a Republican and a board member of groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Checks and Balances, and Republicans for the Rule of Law, Fried has grown increasingly worried in recent months about Trump’s willingness to stir chaos and violence as an electoral strategy in the run-up to November’s vote and about the willingness of his attorney general, William Barr, to burn the country’s democratic institutions to the ground to preserve this administration’s hold on power.

Like earlier authoritarians, Trump could, Fried fears, utilize “agents provocateurs, getting right-wing people to infiltrate left-oriented and by-and-large peaceful demonstrations to turn them violent to thereby justify intervention.”

Fried, a student of history who chooses his words carefully, has concluded that Trump and his team are “certainly racist, contemptuous of ordinary democratic and constitutional norms, and they believe their cause, their interests, are really the interests of the nation and therefore anything that keeps them in power is in the national interest. Does that make you a fascist? It kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?”

Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, has come to share Fried’s conviction that Trump is a threat to the Republic, although Steele believes the Trump cult is more about naked political opportunism than any grand fascist ideology.

Steele bitterly resents Trump’s takeover of the GOP. He feels that Trump and his acolytes are trying to drive genuine Republicans out of their political home. As Steele piquantly puts it, “I come into your house and shit on the carpet. I tear down your drapes, write on your walls, offend the people who live in the house. Do you leave or kick my ass out? I don’t know anyone who leaves their house without a fight. What kind of America, what kind of country do you want? What kind of leader do you want?”

Like Fried, Steele in recent months concluded that Trump, aided and abetted by the GOP’s congressional leaders, is willing to “open up a Pandora’s box of mischief” to remain ensconced in the White House, Steele says. “He’s laying down the predicate—taking shots at vote by mail and saying he already knows there’s fraud— and therefore it’s likely he won’t accept the results of the election.” For Steele, Trump is “the P.T. Barnum of the 21st century, on steroids,” a man with a mastery of the art of manipulation. “He doesn’t give a shit about the people of Portland. He doesn’t give a crap about Chicago,” Steele avers. “This is not complicated. I don’t know why people keep overthinking this man. His goal is to protect himself. He uses the system against itself.”

This summer, Fried, Steele, and other devotees of traditional conservatism began coordinating with fellow anti-Trump conservatives around the country, as well as with progressive organizations, to strategize responses should Trump attempt to maintain power despite rejection at the polls. Some participants formed the Transition Integrity Project, which includes campaign experts such as Michigan Democratic ex-governor Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Party consultant Donna Brazile, along with Steele and other old-guard GOP stalwarts. They fear that if mail-in votes are still being tabulated weeks after the election and—as seems increasingly likely—barrages of lawsuits are filed by the candidates’ campaigns, conditions could be ripe for Trump to create maximum mayhem.

In their sobering 22-page report, they write of the potential for “escalating violence” if Trump loses and refuses to bow out gracefully. Given the administration’s record of embracing “numerous corrupt and authoritarian practices,” huge numbers of Americans must be ready to take to the streets should Trump and his henchmen try to illegally curtail the counting of mail-in ballots. The administration could deploy federalized National Guard troops to stop vote counts. Indeed, on the day Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump suggested on Fox News that he could order federal agents, even local sheriffs, into polling stations ostensibly to monitor fraud. Trump and his allies could also challenge the results in numerous states simultaneously, send federal forces into Democratic-controlled cities, and through social media accounts and speeches, activate right-wing paramilitary groups.

The report warns that a desperate Trump could push the American republic to the breaking point. The authors even envision scenarios in which Trump wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote and exploits the ensuing unrest, goading Western states into attempting to secede from the Union.

Increasingly, election observers point to the possibility of Trump using the courts to contest so many states’ ballot tallies that the Supreme Court ends up as the ultimate arbiter, as happened in the 2000 election. In some scenarios he loses, but his campaign refuses to accept state results, aiming to tie up the process so that states can’t certify their results in time for the January inauguration.

In others, he dispenses with the legal niceties and simply refuses to cede power, banking on enough backing from quasi-military agencies supportive of his agenda, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection as well as law enforcement agencies at the local level and militia groups, that it would take a military intervention to bounce him from the White House.

Something like this scenario was outlined in an open letter to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by two Iraq War veterans, John Nagl and Paul Yingling, in mid-August. “If Donald Trump refuses to leave office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order,” they wrote.

But relying on a conservative-dominated Supreme Court or a military that has been conditioned—for good reason—never to intervene in domestic political disputes is hardly a surefire path to protecting the country from Trump’s dictatorial ambitions.

Read rest of this The Nation story here: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/trump-coup-elections-gop/

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