Is Trump Plotting Coup?
The president has lost the election.
That fact is clear, whether Donald Trump accepts reality or not. When all is said and done, Joe Biden will win the electoral college by a decisive 306-232 margin. The president-elect is also leading the largely irrelevant popular vote by approximately five million.
A plurality of Americans want Trump gone, but the president can’t seem to come to grips with it. In the days since every major media outlet projected the result, the administration has taken several steps that, looked at in a certain way, could be viewed as laying the groundwork for something nefarious and unprecedented.
It started when a little-known Trump-appointee at the General Services Administration named Emily Murphy refused to sign paperwork authorizing the transition, effectively slamming the brakes on necessary funds and resources for the Biden team. At the same time, John McEntee, the director of the White House’s Office of Presidential Personnel, threatened to immediately fire anybody caught looking for a job before the end of Trump’s term.
The White House has directed executive-branch agencies to proceed with their budget plans for February. President-elect Biden isn’t getting daily intelligence briefings yet, because Trump officials won’t recognize him as having won the election.
Most concerning of all, Trump abruptly terminated Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday and replaced him with Christopher Miller, a loyalist. The next day, three more Trump loyalists were installed in high-level positions at the Pentagon. This is particularly noteworthy because it was Esper who pushed back against Trump’s desire to use active-duty military to quell civil unrest over the summer in the wake of the George Floyd murder.
Then, on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made what appeared to be a joke about a smooth transition to a second Trump term during a news conference. It should also be noted that, so far, only four Senate Republicans -- Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse -- have acknowledged Joe Biden’s win. That means 49 others have not.
Biden doesn’t seem concerned by any of this, outwardly at least. But should he be? Should we be?
Here is a terrifying hypothetical scenario that is not all that far-fetched.
Donald Trump continues filing one frivolous lawsuit after another in a hopeless attempt to get his defeat overturned. Every lawsuit will get thrown out, because there is no evidence of irregularities.
Next month, he could attempt to recruit enough faithless electors to reverse the will of the people. That endeavor will also fail, because it will be impossible to get 37 individuals to flip.
At that point, Trump could make his final stand by announcing he is invalidating the result of the election, citing electoral fraud as justification. His administration would continue to not cooperate in any way with the Biden transition team.
In response, Americans would take to the streets in numbers that would make this summer’s Floyd protests seem small by comparison. What could start off as peaceful demonstrations would rapidly deteriorate into widespread rioting.
Trump could then declare martial law and use the Insurrection Act to call out active-duty military to do battle with enraged civilians. The new Trump-friendly brass at the Defense Department would enthusiastically back the president.
Once order is restored, Trump would be in charge for the foreseeable future, and we would all be left to live in a dystopian nightmare, stuck with an incompetent authoritarian leader who does nothing to protect us from a viral pandemic, while political dissidents get rounded up and imprisoned.
Hopefully, none of this will happen. Hopefully, Joe Biden will be inaugurated, as scheduled, on Jan. 20, 2021 at 12 p.m., Eastern time. Hopefully, there will be enough Congressional Republicans who, for once, have enough spine and patriotism to put the president in his place.