Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The continuing case for a coup: Scary new details about Barr's replacement

I don't want to play the role of the Prophet of Doom. But there are plenty of indicators that Trump really will try to stay in power. Even his threats to veto the stim bill could be interpreted as part of a coup plot. He's sending his followers a message: "Help me stay in office and you get the money."
Violence is in the air. If you can't smell it, you must have an extremely tight clothespin on your nose. 
A group of white supremacists raised alarm bells with the FBI by discussing ways to attack the country’s power grid in the event President Trump were to lose re-election, according to a mistakenly unsealed search warrant affidavit obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
A couple months after the group allegedly began discussing their “Lights Out” plans, other people were reportedly recruited on online messaging boards, where the rhetoric veered off into the extreme: “Martyrdom is the path to Valhalla,” one of the men under FBI scrutiny allegedly wrote.
I can hear what you're thinking: A handful of whack-jobs. So what? Here's what: Those whack-jobs have many brothers.
The Q qontingent is ready and willing to cross the Rubicon with Trump. Seriously. They are using that exact term. They believe that ending the Roman republic was a good thing, and that ending the American republic will be a better thing. (Between the Julio-Claudians and the Trumps, who would win the "World's Craziest Dynasty" contest?)
As Trump meets with QAnon influencers, the conspiracy's adherents beg for dictatorship

With Trump's days in office dwindling, QAnon influencers have become increasingly restless and militant, urging the president to "#crosstherubicon.”
The "Rubicon" hashtag wasn't new to QAnon followers, who have repeatedly tweeted the phrase in the last week. But the hashtag had minimal success last week until Ron Watkins, who previously ran the message board and QAnon hub 8kun, posted a series of viral tweets Thursday and Friday about Caesar and crossing the Rubicon.

"Will@realDonaldTrump #CrossTheRubicon? Spread the hashtag and show POTUS how you feel about it," Watkins wrote. The tweet got more than 27,000 retweets.
Mike Rothschild, the author of a coming book about QAnon's origins and real-world harms, said the "Rubicon" phrase and sentiment "really took off" after Watkins' tweet, helping the hashtag reach a QAnon ecosystem that includes people close to Trump.
The following would be funny if times were not so dangerous...

A series of fake news articles, YouTube videos and tweets that went viral among QAnon acolytes last week led followers to believe Trump was conducting clandestine military operations on U.S. soil.

The rumors, which started on the website of the conspiracy theorist radio host Hal Turner, claimed that China was quietly sending tanks into Maine through Canada. After a small earthquake shook Maine in early December, the rumor evolved to say the earthquakes were the result of an aerial assault by the Trump administration.

A little over a decade ago, there were persuasive reports that Hal Turner was working for the FBI. He denied this assertion, which I discussed here and here
That "tanks in Maine" claim reminds me of a direct precedent. Before the 1996 election -- and well after the fall of the USSR -- far-right networks spread the rumor that "Soviet" troops were massed at the U.S./Mexico border, awaiting orders from Commie Central (i.e., the Clinton White House) to come a-chargin' into the United States. Millions of people actually believed this absurd notion. Sheer repetition gave it credibility. 
It was the '90s. The Conspiracy Theory Decade.

Over time, I formulated a conspiracy theory about that season of conspiracy theories.
The "paranoia chic" of the 1990s created a template for our current Q madness. I suspect -- and at least half-believe -- that some of the people who spread weird stories back then were secretly conducting a sociological experiment. The purpose was to demonstrate how easy it is to make large numbers of people accept evidence-free claims.

The experimenters collected lots of data, learning which techniques work and which do not. That data is now being put to use.
Not too many years ago, it would have been unthinkable for me to say the words I'm about to say. But: You should pay attention to Bill Kristol. He is in a position to know what he claims to know, and the things that he says he has learned are terrifying. I've taken the liberty of translating his Twitterese into more conventional prose. The words below the asterisks are his.

*  *  *

This thread is based on recent conversations with people whose information and judgment I trust, who in turn have spoken candidly with Trump appointees still on the inside.

Here's a question: Why did Trump and Barr, when they negotiated Barr's departure, settle on Dec. 23?

It could, obviously, be kind of random--a date picked last week to allow Barr to get things in order, an accommodation of Barr's family schedule, etc. But it could also be that Barr very much wanted to get out before Dec. 24, and/or that Trump wanted him out by then.

One obvious possibility discussed in the White House: Trump has spoken about a bunch of pardons on Christmas Eve. Some of the names may have been too much for Barr--so they agreed on his departure on Dec. 23. (Or the pardons will be a few days later, but the principle holds -- Barr wanted out, or Trump wanted him out, first.)

But it could be more than pardons. 
Yesterday Barr suggested there were several things he wouldn't do that Trump wanted him to do as AG, ranging from appointing special counsels for Hunter Biden or election fraud, to giving a legal ok for seizing voting machines or for various types of Insurrection Act-type moves by the president. Can one be confident Barr's successor as AG, Jeffrey Rosen, will also say no?

I'm told not. I'm told the very ambitious Rosen has pushed on earlier occasions for carrying out Trump's will only to be stopped by Barr. And people who've worked with Rosen say they wouldn't be surprised to see him, as AG, hasten to try to do Trump's will.

In the past, Rosen has been allied with some in the White House counsel's office and others elsewhere in the White House who've been for going whole hog for Trump, as a friend put it. They've run up against resistance from Barr but also from WH Counsel Pat Cipollone.

The departure of Cipollone would be a signal, as one person put it, that "all bets are off."

I'm also reliably told senior military officials in the Pentagon are more, not less, alarmed than they were a few weeks ago when Mark Esper was fired. The new crew of Trump loyalists in the most senior civilian positions don't seem there only to burnish their resumes, as one person put it. They're trying to figure out, in coordination with people in the White House, "how to make things happen."

The senior military obviously retain considerable clout, to say the least. But the discussions they're having among themselves are unprecedented, more sober and weighty than those of 1974 in the weeks before Nixon's resignation. And the difference is that Jim Schlesinger was then Secretary of Defense, committed to checking an unstable and desperate president, not to helping one.

All of these alarms, one hopes and trusts, will come to nothing, or at least to not too much. And the coup, in the end, will fail. But that something more than we've seen so far won't be tried--of that people aren't so confident.

The first thing to look for is what, if anything, happens on Dec. 24. 

* * *

Added note from Michael Beschloss:
Keep an eye out for what Department of Justice is willing to do after Barr’s departure today.
This is serious, folks.


Casbott said...

The Trump loyalists placed in the Pentagon are to help further Trump's grifts, by helping smooth the passage of various arms sales to not nice regimes around the world (The UAE sale). There are no doubt hidden kickbacks for Trump, and maybe even the promise of a bolt hole in comfort.
They are civilian and have absolutely no authority over US military, so any attempt to exercise power in a coup will get them detained by the local security guards, they have that little military authority.

Any attempt to stage a coup would be pathetic in its traction - the military hate Trump (even if they loved him, they still take the constitution to heart) and IMHO would promptly arrest him and his inner circle for treason ASAP (I would not be suprised if there is a contingency plan already in place, which may or may not include immediate execution of Trump).

As for the Rubicon crowd, they would be rounded up fast - they would all have extensive files on them, the various three letter agencies would be keeping a close watch… they organise over the internet !!

And any actual attacks would be met with overwhelming firepower, worse case scenerio some police join in with their mil surplus gear… versus the actual US military.

As soon as the "Rubicon" was called, they would be crushed. The serious impediment to dealing with armed sedition types in the recent past has been the restraint on use of force by the authorities.
In a actual call for a coup, there will be no such restraint - basically the Bundys stand off would be ended with a attack helicopter, or just a couple of APC's.
There would be random terrorist actions, that would be tragic, but in the big picture they would be no real threat.

Now the interesting possiblity exist that the Rubicon nutters could go after "Trump's traitors" - the GOP Establishment that have decided not to go all in. That is something that should be encouraged, if Trumps cultist decide to go after the GOP and FOX, that will deescalate the problem in the long term.
As those who have helped fan the flames and created this ready gold mine of rubes will try to damp down on the monsters they helped create.

fred said...

Politico reporter Jake Sherman has pointed out that the combined defense funding and COVID-19 stimulus bill might never pass into law. It gets to the WH on Dec 23 and if Trump exercises a pocket veto then that applies until Jan 4, one day after the current Congressional session closes. The bill must then be passed by the new Congress. So Trump can obstruct government funding.