Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks organized 67 legal scholars, retired military officers, former senior government officials and political strategists —let’s call them the Transition Integrity Project— to act out every imaginable post-election scenario, how exactly would Trump pull off this supposed coup?
Well, months before the election, someone actually did this and wrote a report (pdf) about ways Trump could conceivably steal the election that he’s totally not doing. But what would Trump hypothetically do?
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.”
Calling for recounts in all states in which victory was not already apparent.
Launching coordinated investigations at the state and federal levels into alleged “voting irregularities” in an effort to undermine public confidence in results that did not go Trump’s way and/or alter the results.
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.).
Relying on both FOX News and right-wing social media to echo and amplify pro-Trump messages and facilitate the harassment and bullying of election officials, to cause chaos and delay and/or to intimidate officials into taking actions that benefited Team Trump
Using federal agencies to justify or support Trump campaign tactics. 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.
While these may sound like this TIP team can see into the future, none of their predictions are shocking. It’s when they get to the military coup part that I started worrying.
Read it for yourself.
The one area of genuine uncertainty related to whether Team Trump could convince the military to deploy active duty troops domestically. In the scenario, the military refused to support Team Trump, but there was concern that this reflected “recency bias” given that the exercises were run shortly after participants observed the military’s cautiousness in the wake of the June 1, 2020 events in Lafayette Square...
Of particular concern are the President’s ability to federalize the national guard; to deploy the military domestically; to launch investigations into opponents and to freeze their assets; and even to control communication in the name of national security. The politicization of the Department of Justice adds an additional worrying dimension, including whether and how the agency could provide legal cover for the President’s actions.
The team eventually concluded that the military leaders would almost certainly refuse to carry out his unconstitutional orders. But what if the military leaders weren’t military leaders?
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 MAGAficionado, in charge of the National Security Agency’s legal team. Then he ousted the person in charge of defeating ISIS.
And, while it is doubtful if the new guys have the power to kick out the country’s actual military commanders, perhaps they won’t need to. As soon as Chris Miller was installed as defense secretary, one of his first moves was to take the special forces from the military leadership and put them under his civilian command, Politico reports.
Of course, there’s the fact that Trump is also pressuring state legislators to overturn the will of the voters. Then there are his convicted felon friends asking him to declare martial law and suspend the Constitution. Also, have I mentioned the GOP’s plans to challenge the Electoral College?