Last week Jamie Raskin gave an illuminating talk at Georgetown University about the January 6 Committee’s work. One comment that struck me was, “This was not a coup directed at the president. It was a coup directed by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.” Not only has that not happened before in our history, it’s something that hasn’t happened in the history of the world, so far as I can ascertain.
Even Mad King George was suffering from severe health problems which led to him becoming mentally unhinged. He wasn’t simply an egomaniac like Donald Trump. In fact, King George had a keen intellect at one time. He is credited with possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all of the prominent families of England and their royal appointments. Trump never took an interest in squat beyond himself. The world has never seen a head of state like Trump, or a debacle like the one he caused when trying to stay in power.
John Stoehr at the Editorial Board watched Raskin’s entire talk and has edited it. The rings of sedition that Raskin describes are fascinating and are a blueprint for what could go wrong in the future.
The outermost ring was protesters.
The next ring was violent domestic terrorists.
The inner ring – “the scariest ring” – involved Mike Pence.
The plan was for Pence to reject the electoral count, sending the election to the House, where the GOP had a majority of state delegates needed to win a “contingent election,” per the 12th Amendment.
The plan, moreover, called for groups like the Proud Boys to:
- Pressure Pence, by way of violence, to play along and
- Clash with “Antifa.”
That would give the impression of extremists left and right going to war over the election, thus justifying Trump in declaring martial law.
Two problems, though.
Pence didn’t play along.
Antifa didn’t show up.
The buck stopped with Mike Pence. Trump was hoping that Pence would play along with the mad scheme. In the event he didn’t, there may have been a backup plan to kidnap or assassinate Pence. We may never know. I would love to know the identity of the driver of that limo that Pence was too afraid to get into.
Think of what happened on that day in terms of three circles of sedition.
There was a mass protest, called for “wild purposes,” as the president put it, of tens of thousands of people that turned into a mob riot.
That was the outside ring.
The middle ring was the ring of the insurrection:
Domestic violent extremist groups, like the Proud Boys, who Donald Trump had told to “stand back and stand by” in the first presidential debate; the Oathkeepers, the Three Percenters, who have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which means conspiracy to overthrow the government; the QAnon networks, militia groups, Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and white Christian nationalist groups.
The scariest ring was the [third] ring of the coup.
The Proud Boys were running around saying, ‘Antifa, where are you?’ They clearly were looking for somebody to fight to create visual images of this being a showdown between left and right. It would have been Donald Trump’s opportunity to come in and be the hero.”
Donald Trump was staging reality TV. That’s all that this was. You witnessed The Apprentice: Sedition Edition on January 6. The only problem is, the dead bodies were not actors pretending to be dead and who will rise and show up in another show. They’re gone. Trump couldn’t care less.
The idea was getting Pence to assert unilateral, extra-constitutional, unlawful powers to reject and repudiate Electoral College votes being sent in by the states, specifically, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
They would lower Biden’s total Electoral College votes] from 306 to below 270 … in order to activate the 12th Amendment, which says if nobody has a majority in the Electoral College, the contest shifts immediately to the House of Representatives for a so-called contingent election, where the House decides who will be president.
They understood under the 12th Amendment that it’s not voting one member, one vote. It’s one state, one vote. There were 27 state delegations for the GOP. There are 22 for the Democrats.
Even had they suffered the defection of [Liz Cheney], they would have had 26 votes in the bag to get the majority to seize the presidency.
[Because there would have been mass protests had the states decided who won], Trump likely would have invoked the Insurrection Act, as Trump’s disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was urging him to do. Donald Trump would have declared martial law.
There would have been mass protests, but also the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were running around saying, “Antifa, where are you?”
“It would have been his Reichstag moment. Donald Trump would return as the conquering hero, just ignoring the seven and a half million vote margin that Joe Biden had in his victory in the Electoral College.”
If this insidious plot had succeeded, Tucker Carlson would have done a special, “The Day President Trump Saved America” and we would be living in a one-party fascist state right now. As stupid as this plot was, the architect of it (Stephen Miller? John Eastman? Steve Bannon? All three) were convinced that it could succeed. And it might have. That is the terrifying part, it well might have.
Now what is both depressing and comical at the same time, is that Trump feels vindicated because he wasn’t convicted and barred from subsequent office.
There have only been four. [impeachments] Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, Trump 1 and Trump 2. It was a 57 to 43 vote, yet he feels somehow vindicated that only 57 of 100 senators found he was the first president in the history of the United States to try to overthrow his own government.)
I never thought I’d regard Mike Pence as any kind of a hero, but I’m starting to change my mind. My thought when all this went down is that Pence didn’t try to float the stolen election theory and install a new slate of electors, because the idea was so outlandish that he knew it couldn’t succeed. And I still think that that’s the case.
But I also think that there’s a thin chance that if Pence had played along — and God forbid Antifa had showed up — that this deranged plot might have worked.
Very sobering indeed. And I join with Jamie Raskin in saying that this is as close to authoritarianism as I ever want to see this country come.