In an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on December 14, Stephen Miller, perhaps the most deranged and malevolent of Trump's senior advisers, openly declared the administration's plan to overturn the election results in the upcoming joint session. Ratified in 1804 in the aftermath of the hotly disputed election of 1800 (which ultimately seated Thomas Jefferson as the nation's third president), the 12th Amendment modified the procedures that govern the Electoral College.
Under the ECA, if a single member of both the House and Senate signs and submits a challenge to any state's electoral votes, the joint session must immediately go into recess to allow each chamber to meet separately and debate the merits of the objections. It's all but certain that when the joint session convenes on January 6, objections to the electoral votes cast in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania indeed will be lodged.
Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, one of the zaniest of the GOP's bloated stable of right-wing fanatics, has announced that he will file an objection. A drama not seen in this country since the election of 1876, when alternate slates of electors were sent to the Senate on behalf of Democrat Samuel Tilde and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (the eventual winner), will then ensue.
Reminiscent of 1876, alternate pro- Trump slates of Republican electors have met in several swing states, and plan to send their votes to the Senate in time for the joint session to back up the objections that will be raised by Brooks and Turberville. Because the Democrats control the House, and several Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have recognized Biden as president-elect, the Brooks and Turberville objections, even if backed by alternate electors, are destined to fail, as their objections will be subject to an ordinary majority vote in each chamber.
Flynn, the disgraced retired Army lieutenant general and former national security adviser whom Trump pardoned in November for lying to the FBI, has been promoting the idea of martial law on Twitter and on right-wing media. The trouble is, we're living in the increasingly treacherous waning days of the Trump era, dominated by a fascist and a malignant narcissist desperate to remain in power.
Well, here are all seven of the possible steps Trump would take if a close and contested election was “resolved through the exercise of power, not through the courts.” Attempting to halt the counting of mail-in ballots by filing cases in state court or leaning on Republican leaders to stop vote counting or to certify a result early, without waiting for the certified results from the Secretary of State.
Turning out their well-organized and committed base to take to the streets in Trump ’s favor, in part by disseminating disinformation about the danger posed by pro-Biden demonstrators (e.g., by suggesting likely Antifa violence, etc.). In one of the more aggressive moves undertaken in one of the TIP exercises, Team Trump had Attorney General Bill Barr order the seizure of mail-in ballots to ensure that vote counting would stop.
The one area of genuine uncertainty related to whether Team Trump could convince the military to deploy active duty troops domestically. The politicization of the Department of Justice adds a worrying dimension, including whether and how the agency could provide legal cover for the President’s actions.
According to the New York Times, days after his election loss, Trump fired four top officials at the Pentagon, replacing them with loyal supporters, including naming an acting defense secretary, including one who called Obama a “terrorist leader” and another who was kicked out of the National Security Council for clashing with the top brass. Then, Trump put Michael Ellis, another Aficionado, in charge of the National Security Agency’s legal team.
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 the 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into para militarism in the United States.
Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. 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.
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 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.9 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.
Kevin argues that Trump “can try to cling to power and use extra constitutional means,” but “the tool we have is people at the local level. Indivisible points to its demonstrated ability to mobilize huge numbers of people to protest family separation early in the Trump presidency and to activate the networks that marched in the streets calling for impeachment in 2019.
We’re going to fight like hell to make sure we are.” 18 People power: Thousands gathered in New York City’s Battery Park to protest Trump ’s Muslim travel ban, January 29, 2017. “I wrote an op-ed during the campaign of ’16 pointing out all the similarities between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump,” recalls Tom Coleman, a former Republican representative for the Sixth Congressional District of Missouri and now a member of the National Task Force on Election Crises.
“A concern is what we are seeing right now: federal law enforcement in major cities engaged in actions with protesters that generates civil unrest and battles in the streets,” says Trevor Potter, ex-chairman of the Federal Election Commission and currently president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. It could lead to sufficient civil unrest that it is, in fact, difficult to conduct an election in those cities.” Potter worries that Trump could declare a form of martial law in Democratic- controlled cities or pressure GOP governors to issue stay-at-home orders in their bigger, more liberal cities.
And in recent weeks he’s leaned on legal advice from people such as John Yew, an author of the infamous torture memos used by the George W. Bush administration, who advocates the use of executive orders to exert virtually unfettered presidential power.21 Bush, says this moment increasingly reminds him of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which was about a “society based on predictive behavior, and then along comes a character called the Mule, who upsets the democratic apple cart.
He thinks he’s Louis XIV.” 23 Black Lives Matter: Demonstrators near the White House protest police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, June 3. Gerson has concluded that Trump is only too willing to circumvent Supreme Court decisions, is perfectly capable of issuing illegal orders to the military to attack domestic political opponents, and would likely show no compunction in ignoring an election result that doesn’t go his way.
Here’s what I do know: whatever love of country and the craft work 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 Gray bar Hotel.
The only reason I can imagine that Trump would leave office peacefully on January 20th would be that he is psychologically broken. But the continuing rambunctiousness of his Twitter feed and recent public statements reveal zero evidence that he’s resigned to his fate.
“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 will almost certainly fail in Congress,” Ignatius says.
“Government officials fear that if violence spreads, Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military. 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.
As long as the armed forces stay out of the way of local and state police, a coup may succeed. Cash 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.
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 Nazarene. These moves follow the post-election firings of the Secretary of Defense and top officials at Homeland Security.