Trump’s Next Coup

As in January, Trump is encouraging his followers to expect an outcome no constitutional process can deliver.

The Trumpist underground has been discussing another coup attempt for some while, but that prospect didn’t draw the attention of the larger public until Memorial Day weekend. General Mike Flynn, a convicted felon who is out of jail thanks to a Trump pardon, was a headline speaker at the “For God and Country Patriot Roundup”, a convention of QAnon cultists in Dallas.

when he was asked why can’t a Myanmar-style coup happen here to get Trump back in the White House. Flynn replied, “It should happen here.”

Flynn later tried to walk back that treasonous statement.

There is NO reason whatsoever for any coup in America, and I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort. Any reporting of any other belief by me is a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting at a lively panel at a conference of Patriotic Americans who love this country, just as I do.
I am no stranger to media manipulating my words and therefore let me repeat my response to a question asked at the conference: There is no reason it (a coup) should happen here (in America).

However, his denial falls under the heading of “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” There is video, after all. We know what he said.

Something else you can notice in the video: When the questioner asks about a Myanmar-style coup happening in the US, the crowd cheers. They know what he is talking about and why he would suggest it: The plotters in Myanmar ran the same play Trump tried (and failed) to pull off here: They made phony claims of election fraud to justify overthrowing their elected leaders.

Myanmar-as-model has been a popular trope for some while among the QAnoners and other Trump cultists, who (like a millennial sect repeatedly predicting the Day of Judgment) have been telling each other since November that President Biden’s election would soon be overturned. At first, Republican election officials were going to undo Biden’s victory. Then the courts were. Then Congress. After the January 6 insurrection failed, Trump was supposed to declare martial law and initiate “the Storm” in time to avoid Biden’s inauguration on January 20. After that prediction also came to nothing, one widespread narrative picked March 4 as the day for Trump’s restoration, because that had been Inauguration Day prior to the 20th Amendment, which the conspiracy theory says is invalid for some reason.

And now it’s supposed to happen in August.

At the same Dallas conference, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell said Trump could just be “reinstated“.

A new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in. I’m sure there’s not going to be credit for time lost, unfortunately, because the Constitution itself sets the date for inauguration, but he should definitely get the remainder of his term and make the best of it.

No provision in the Constitution allows for such a scenario. Even if Trump’s fanciful claims about a “stolen election” turned out to be true, the only remedy the Constitution offers is impeachment. And even after Biden and Harris were removed from office, the presidency would pass to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, not a private citizen like Trump.

Powell — who is a lawyer, after all — must realize that. So she could only be assuming some outside-the-Constitution means for changing leaders, i.e., a coup. It wouldn’t be the first time Flynn and Powell have proposed political violence: Last December, they tried to convince Trump to declare martial law in order to “rerun” the election under military supervision — another path disconnected from the Constitution.

You might be imagining that Flynn, Powell, and the other QAnon celebrities are just hucksters exploiting crazy people, and maybe they are. But this talk is dangerous because Trump is playing along. Tuesday, the NYT’s Maggie Haberman responded to reports of Flynn’s coup suggestion with this report:

Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August (no that isn’t how it works but simply sharing the information).

If you don’t trust a New York Times reporter’s account, National Review’s Charles W. Cooke has corroborated it:

Haberman’s reporting was correct. I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” to office this summer, after audits of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed.

I can attest that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fund-raising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.

The media and the general public have gotten used to applying different standards to Trump than to anyone else, so it’s usually worth taking a moment to back up and ask how any other public figure would be expected to respond to such reports. Imagine, for example, that it’s 2017, and various people loosely associated with Hillary Clinton are predicting that she will somehow take power, possibly by violence. (After all, she did win the popular vote by 2.9 million in 2016, rather than getting stomped by more than 7 million, as Trump did in 2020. There would have been a lot more justification for a 2017 Clinton coup than a 2021 Trump coup.)

The answer’s obvious, right? There would be a national outcry for her to make a definitive statement: “Are you encouraging your followers to overthrow the government or not?”

Seth Abramson elaborates in a tweetstorm:

As anyone who has ever read a book or watched a movie or taken a history course knows, the most important element of a coup is the agreement of the individual who’ll be installed as a nation’s new president to participate in the installation. Without that there can be no coup. …

By confirming his willingness to participate in a coup, Trump allows the coup plotters to continue in their activities—but it’s much more than that. If/when the plotters reach out to individuals in the military, any soldier’s first question will be, “Is Donald Trump on board?” … No one plotting to participate in the first attempted U.S. coup since the Civil War is going to accept Powell’s word on what Trump is willing to do. Or Lindell’s. Or perhaps even Flynn’s. People in a position to aid the coup are *going to need to hear from Trump themselves*.

It’s in this context—having already achieved a meeting of the minds with the coup plotters—that Trump picks up a phone and makes a phone call to DC people who are well-connected and tells them that he’s willing to accept the U.S. presidency again if it can be secured for him.

If you find this confusing, as clearly Haberman does, consider an alternative scenario: Trump learns that his top advisers are planning and advocating for a coup and he immediately goes to his blog and declares that he’ll under no circumstances accept the presidency pre-2025. If Trump does that—I literally mean if he types about 10 words on his blog, which he could do in the next 5 minutes—the coup plot is officially dead. Over. Impossible. Irrelevant. A non-starter. There’s literally no longer a fear of a coup in the United States in that moment.

Instead, Trump is allowed to equivocate: He’s not actually saying the word “coup”, but how else does he get “reinstated”?

Compare to his January 6 speech that incited the takeover of the Capitol and delayed the counting of electoral votes. He never explicitly instructed his followers to do anything illegal. But he also clearly expected them to “stop the steal”, which they had no legal power to do.

As we know from Michael Cohen, this is how Trump operates. “He doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in a code.” Like a Mafia Don, that’s how he avoids conspiracy charges.

We saw in January how this code works when it comes to violent insurrection: He doesn’t tell people what to do, he just raises their expectations about what will happen. Then, at some point along the line, his followers come to understand that it’s not up to him to make his predictions come true, it’s up to them. It’s up to Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for Trump to win Georgia. It’s up to the Cyber Ninjas to invent a reason to believe he really won Arizona. It’s up to Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to set up a similarly biased “audit” in their state. And then, after he has “audited” enough states to flip the Electoral College (which has already voted for 2020 and gone out of existence until 2024), somebody has to restore him to office.

Who? The people that he’s sold the dream to. If you’re counting on Trump being president again soon, nobody but you is going to make that happen.

He’s not telling you to upend the Constitution. But he’s also not giving you any other way to do it.
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  • Amy Houts  On June 7, 2021 at 11:21 am

    This is so scary!

    • Eileen Prefontaine  On June 7, 2021 at 11:24 am

      It sure is.

  • Thomas Contolini  On June 7, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    Regarding Sidney Powell and her comments about Trump being reinstated, well let’s put it this way: ““no reasonable person” would think what she is saying was factual. 😂

  • Meg LeSchack  On June 7, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    Yes, that is exactly Trump’s technique. He never orders: He insinuates, hypothesizes, speaks in vague generalities, casts insults, expresses wishes – and the acolytes under his spell jump to make those statements real. That’s his Teflon coating: “I never told anyone to do that.” For ex, saying about the US diplomat in Ukraine “She’s going to go through some things.” before Giuliani et al harassed, threatened, and betrayed her.

  • ADeweyan  On June 7, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    I find Abramson’s comments naive at best. Let’s assume for a moment that Trump made a comment about not wanting the office before 2025. First off, it’s most likely that his comment would be ambiguous at best, and likely something more along the lines of “sand back and stand by,” which was an incitement camouflaged as a gaffe.

    But say he does come out and make a clear, unambiguous statement that he would not serve even if his followers somehow won him the White House in 2021, his supporters would only understand that as him saying what he has to say in the immediate political moment. Trump and the republican party of the last 20 years has taught them that political speech is disingenuous speech — the product only of the needs of a moment. When the moment looked more favorably, Trump would say the opposite and whatever consequences the initial denial had are swept away. He’d just be sticking it to the libtards, which is the most they ever want or expect from him.

  • George Washington, Jr.  On June 8, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Mounting a coup requires more than just threats. Trump or his followers would need to set up communications, logistics, a chain of command, along with specific plans both for carrying out the coup and what would happen afterwards. It should be obvious that it would be impossible to keep an operation of this magnitude secret, and once it became apparent that planning was underway, the perpetrators would be arrested and charged with sedition.

    On the other hand, if Trump is planning to encourage a spontaneous, disorganized riot like the one on January 6, this time the rioters will be facing a competent and adequate security apparatus. January 6 would have turned out very differently if Hillary Clinton had been president instead of Trump.

    I suspect that this is nothing more than another ploy to squeeze more money out of the cult. And when August rolls around and nothing happens, Trump can pivot to the one-year anniversary of the election, or the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration, and by then he may be under indictment and will be able to fund-raise based on that.

    • pauljbradford  On June 8, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      An armed insurrection will not succeed in the USA. In the 2024 presidential election, if the House and the Senate are controlled by Republicans, they may vote to reject electoral votes from states won by Democrats I think this could definitely happen, and it might technically be “legal” but the end result is that elections no longer determine winners.

  • charlesroth2016  On June 9, 2021 at 9:29 am

    At the risk of trivializing an important matter, this parody from a friend:

    (Sung): “It’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to
    Lie if I want to, lie if I want to
    You would lie too if it happened to you!”,168999

  • Captain Danger  On June 13, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Biden did not win. I do not say this as a Trump fan. I say this as someone with common sense. I was never a Trump fan but Biden himself foreshadowed ‘I don’t need the votes’. He did not campaign and got more votes than Obama yet only one in 10 people I ask profess to having voted for Biden. This going unchallenged is a travesty and the Supreme Court blocking the introduction of evidence to support voting irregularities indicates our entire political system is compromised. We must march on Washington and end this fraud before everyone is force vaccinated and basically under the control of the criminal elite. Time is up.

    • weeklysift  On June 13, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      If I estimated the vote from the people I’ve talked to, Biden would have gotten about 98%. Trump’s “evidence” hasn’t convinced even Republican election officials. Trump told us he was going to claim fraud if he lost, and he did.


  • By Voting for Change | The Weekly Sift on June 7, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    […] week’s featured posts are “Trump’s Next Coup” and “Manchin Deserts the Fight for […]

  • By Laws and Limits | The Weekly Sift on June 14, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    […] Last week I quoted Seth Abramson’s point that Trump could stop talk of a coup with a short statement saying that he would not cooperate with an effort to reinstate him as president by force. Well, this week Reuters outlined the death threats Trump supporters have been making against election officials who refused to let Trump intimidate them into overturning a legal election. This is something else Trump could probably easily stop, but doesn’t. He’s complicit. […]

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