Sunday, December 20, 2020

It's white-knuckle time

I've been afraid to write recently. For much of the past month, I've seen the signs -- indicators of  a possible coup attempt by Donald Trump. A REAL coup, with guns and violence and restrictions on civil liberties. Look at the last-minute restructuring of the Pentagon. Look at the firing of Bill Barr. Look at Trump's possible meeting with the leader of the Proud Boys. 
One cannot help but think of chess pieces being carefully put into position. (Of course, one feels ridiculous applying a chess metaphor to Donald Trump.)
For weeks, I have yearned to scream "DOOM IS COMING!" -- knowing full well that nobody likes a Prophet of Doom, and knowing full well that my recent apocalyptic forecasts have not been fulfilled. I'm the guy who predicted that Trump would win the election by using an "Epstein girl" to smear Biden. I'm well aware that my constant doom-speak has caused a certain loss of face. It would be best, I decided, not to make any more dismal prophecies until some of that missing face grew back.
But right now, on this chilly December morning, lots of people are screaming "DOOM IS COMING!" Here's Jonathan Chait:
At the White House on Friday, President Trump held what may have been his most deranged meeting yet. In it, the president raged at his loyalists for betraying him, and discussed taking extralegal measures to overturn the election.

The meeting, first reported by the New York Times, included lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, convicted felon Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani. One plan floated at the meeting was for Trump to appoint Powell as a “special counsel” overseeing allegations of voter fraud. Powell’s voter fraud claims are so fantastical she has been mocked even by other far-right legal conspiracy theorists. Andrew McCarthy, a former birther and author of one book titled How Obama Embraces Islam’s Sharia Agenda and another calling for his impeachment on multiple counts, has described Powell’s vote-fraud claims as “loopy.”
Jesus! Powell is so wacky even Rudy G wants nothing to do with her! Democracy depends on the ability of the crazy Trumpers to put a leash on the ULTRA-crazy Trumpers.
Trump also reportedly brought up Flynn’s proposal, which he has expounded on cable news, to impose martial law and direct the military to hold a new election. “At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea,” reports the Times.
There is no reason to believe Trump commands the power to actually implement any of these wild ideas.
We've reached the stage where we are no longer talking about legal pretexts but raw power. Don't be complacent. When Trump has placed his hard-core cronies in charge of the military, when he commands an irregular army ready to do street battle with protestors, when a corrupt loyalist has taken charge at DOJ -- who can say what Trump's power truly is?
A serious internal divide has formed within Trump's campaign following the election with tensions at their highest between the campaign's general counsel, Matt Morgan, who sent the memo Saturday, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Though the campaign once distanced itself from Powell, Trump has been urging other people to fight like she has, according to multiple people familiar with his remarks. He has asked for more people making her arguments, which are often baseless and filled with conspiracy theories, on television.  
Trump's base and QAnon are now nearly one and the same.

Now go here:
“Many former intelligence officers, myself included,” retired CIA presidential briefer David Priess told SpyTalk, “are shocked that the using-the-military-to-interfere-in-democratic-processes, things we used to collect on and analyze regarding other countries, are reportedly being discussed by the U.S. president about the US political process!”

Former CIA chief of staff Larry Pfeiffer called the coup talk “very disturbing.” He virtually cringed at the thought of foreign embassies in Washington filing reports on the possibility of martial law in the United States.
Veteran intelligence officers told SpyTalk they were appalled at the coup talk.
A member of Congress who said he had been talking with career intelligence agency employees said they are “horrified. But they believe Trump lacks the competency to carry out a coup.”

“We are so lucky they are idiots,” tweeted former senior CIA executive John Sipher.

But Polymeropoulos, who served as a CIA station chief battling terrorist insurgents and Russians alike during his 28-year career, worries that “our adversaries going to take advantage” of the apparent chaos at the top of the government. He calls it “white knuckle” time.
Jonathan Swan on Axios:

A senior administration official said that when Trump is "retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."

  • "People who are concerned and nervous aren’t the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe," the official added. "These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history."
Jonathan Swan on Twitter:
What is different is these are NOT the Never Trumper types. These are people who have fully thrown their lot in with Trump but are legitimately worried about his receptivity to Flynn and Powell’s ideas and conspiracy theories. One month seems like an eternity in this context.
Marcy Wheeler
But the NYT, having invested to have Maggie there to report out the rising levels of insanity in the Oval Office, decided to bury the news that the President and the General he just recently pardoned for lying about undermining US sanctions on Russia and his secret work for a foreign country were entertaining a military coup, however feckless. The dead tree NYT doesn’t have the story anywhere on the front page.
She still seems convinced that Biden will be president a month from now. I'm not so sure. Those (like Jonathan Turley) who keep assuring us that Trump can't get away with it rely on one big counter-argument: But it wouldn't be legal! 

My counter-counterargument: This is martial law we're talking about. Conventional legality is beside the point. The only thing that matters is the exercise of raw power.
What stops Trump? I'm not talking about laws. I'm talking about power. What stops Trump?
Please don’t dismiss this as harmless lunacy. These zombies are dead serious. They could be deadly.

We absolutely must be on alert.

Better to breathe a sigh of relief later than to wish we’d acted sooner to stop this insanity.
Those who suggest all is well because Trump is too inept to carry out his coup plans are part of the problem. His attempts, GOP support for them, the belief in the need for them by his supporters, the impunity w/which he proceeds are all corrosive & set dangerous precedents.
Trump does not have to successfully destroy our system to dangerously weaken it.  Consider how the world now sees us.  Consider how his successors will view the precedent he set and arguments he made.  Consider how he or our system will be seen by his supporters.
Go ahead and call me an alarmist. I hope you're right. A month from now, I hope that I will be offering you apologies, and not the other way around.


OTE admin said...

How would there be martial law if the military refuses to back Trump? It's not happening. Trump most likely will take a Christmas trip to Mar-a-Lago and not return as has been widely speculated.

The person who scares me the most is the deranged Michael Flynn. He belongs in Florence ADX, not out walking around a free man.

fred said...

I'm fairly certain I read somewhere that the joint Chiefs of Staff and the DoD have issued brief statements saying that the US military has no role in US elections. That being said, Joseph, I love your paranoia. It's always fact-filled and arguable. So no apology is ever needed regardless of outcome. I think the Proud Boys might make a noise in the streets but Homeland Security has refused to interfere. So that's a plus. Have a Happy Xmas, Joseph.

Anonymous said...

As a friend said a few months ago, “You know you’re living in a banana republic when you start wondering which side the military will back.”

Trump, being Trump has lost nearly all visible support.

But it is worrisome that we don’t know how many nut cases there are, and where they may be in the government, the military and the many varieties of cops.

Anonymous said...

Joe - I appreciate the Mea Culpa on the theories. Keep them coming though. Coming up with a hypothesis to explain what the F$@$ is actually going on in this country does mean you end up wrong fairly often. On Barr’s departure I do think we can read a little something into it. I don’t think it is martial law though. His background is much richer than many of the folks Trump picked to serve him. You could even read his career as a deep state type.Barr, I believe, isn’t willing to be too creative of an Attorney General because he is looking to do some other things after leaving office. So, he needed to depart so that a less conflicted person can serve as Acting AG, and rubber stamp some actions like maybe the declassification of all sorts of Russia-gate documents or maybe a number of marginally legal pardons. It will be an interesting few weeks after Barr leaves office. We will just have to see.

Tom said...

I felt a real chill when I read that the Pentagon cancelled all transition meetings with the Biden team for at least the remainder of the year... And then the Trumper newly installed at the Pentagon tried to say it was an "agreed schedule.". Sure.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Barr was quit-fired because Trump's discussed his plan for "military coup" with him & it was a bridge too far. Barr wants to have clean hands if Trump tries to pull it off.
Which, if true, is very scary And a perfect example of the disgusting cowardice of those who surround Trump - they know he is dangerous, but they neither stop him nor speak out against him as every righteous principle, upon which this country was founded, is violated.