This Perilous Week

The Georgia runoff elections are tomorrow, although we may not know who won right away. I am making no predictions about winners. I will predict that if Republicans lose the Senate, the Republican establishment will blame Trump and his insane phone call to Brad Raffensperger for it.

It’s Wednesday that worries me. The good news is that as of this writing 20 Senate Republicans have made a firm commitment to certifying the Electoral College votes. There is no way there will be a majority vote in either house to not certify. And now that Trump’s stupid stunt of a phone call is public, I’d be a little surprised if any more GOP senators join the Dirty Dozen in voting to overturn the election.

But that doesn’t put us out of danger. For one thing, I fear all the right-wing crazies in America are going to show up in DC Wednesday, armed and looking for fights. The Proud Boys have announced that instead of their signature black and yellow garb they will wear all black clothes to mimic antifa. So that violence will be blamed on antifa? The Washington Post has reported “Threats of violence, ploys to smuggle guns into the District and calls to set up an ‘armed encampment’ on the Mall.” As I’ve said previously, it would be better if leftie protesters just stayed away. Let the thugs be thugs. It’ll be on teevee. The world will be watching.

A few days ago David Ignatius wrote that he was hearing from Washington officials who were worried that Trump would use the street violence he is actively inciting as an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military. And this takes us to the next area of concern.

At Washington Monthly, David Atkins wonders what other phone calls Trump has been making that we don’t know about. And have any of those phone calls gone to generals?

Barely noticed in the hubbub surrounding the impeachable offense over Georgia’s election was this extraordinary letter from all ten living former defense secretaries, urging against involving the military in domestic election disputes….

… These statements should be shockingly self-obvious. So why did they need to be made? What is happening between Trump and the Pentagon that this would be necessary?

What, indeed?

Given Trump’s desperation to remain in power by any means necessary, his authoritarian instincts, his pretenses at military support, and his general assumption that all branches of the government work for him directly rather than the Constitution, it would be shocking if Trump were not attempting to force Pentagon officials into overthrowing democracy.

And indeed, if he weren’t doing so, why was the letter written? Why did every living former defense secretary sign it? Why did it mention explicitly the duties of the officials involved to respect and facilitate the transition of power?

It wasn’t long after the November election that Trump replaced senior administration officials at the Petagon with his own toadies. As recently as December 30, the Biden transition team was still complaining about being stonewalled by the Department of Defense and OMB. What are the toadies hiding?

I do not believe the heads of the armed services will touch this. But as we saw this summer in Portland and elsewhere, Trump is able to call up military-type “agents” from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protection Service, and elsewhere to conduct “police” actions that would have made Augusto Pinochet proud. And violence in the streets of the District of Columbia would give him an excuse to do so.

Yet there’s more. See Greg Sargent, A leading historian of U.S. democracy issues an urgent warning. Right now, since Democrats control the House, even if a majority of Senators were to vote to overturn the election, the effort would fail. But, Sargent asks, what might happen in a future election if Republicans hold a majority in both houses? A leading scholar of election history is warning that Republicans have shown they are willing to go down this path.

Even if Republicans pursuing this tactic don’t believe it will overturn the election this time, Keyssar told me, they “are establishing its legitimacy.”

“A norm is being broken,” Keysser said, one in which Congress does not “monkey with a presidential election unless there is ample evidence and cause.”

So, it’s not just Trump we have to worry about. And while Trump will be gone soon, all those Republicans willing to throw the Constitution under the bus will still be in office.

Tom Nichols writes in The Atlantic,

This is sedition, plain and simple. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat.

This is not some handful of firebrands making a stand for the television cameras. In 2005, one Democrat in the House and one in the Senate filed an objection to counting Ohio’s electoral votes, while insisting that they were not contesting the outcome of the presidential election itself. In 2017, a handful of Democratic members of the House objected to the electoral count. Because they lacked support in the Senate, then–Vice President Biden ruled the representatives out of order and declared, “It is over.” In both cases, the Democratic candidate had already conceded.

So, the “Democrats did it first” argument is bogus.

Instead of threatening to gavel these objections into irrelevance, as Biden did four years ago, Vice President Mike Pence “welcomes” these challenges. Pence’s career is finished, but he could have stood for the Constitution he claims to love and which he swore to defend. However, cowardice is contagious, and no mask was thick enough to protect Pence from the pathogen of fear.

It would be a relief, Nichols continues, to think that these officials all sincerely believe that Trump was robbed of an election.

But we are, in the main, dealing with people who are far worse than true believers. The Republican Party is infested with craven opportunists, the kind of people who will try to tell us later that they were “just asking questions,” that they were “defending the process,” and of course, that they were merely representing “the will of the people.” Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are not idiots. These are men who understand perfectly well what they are doing. Senator Mitt Romney sees it clearly, noting that his GOP colleagues are engaged in “an egregious ploy” to “enhance political ambition.”

And for this reason, there must be a reckoning. I still hear people say that once Trump is gone we should just “move on” for the “good of the nation.” Is that really what the nation needs? I say the nation needs to know the entire truth, and that those who protected Trump from the consequences of his corruption should be named and shamed, at the very least. Of course die-hard Trump supporters will go to their graves loving Dear Leader, but this is for posterity.

Whether Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon was the right thing to do is still debatable. But this is not Watergate. Carl Bernstein tells us that this GOP coup attempt is much worse. Those of us old enough to remember Nixon’s impeachment hearings should know this. “The heroes of Watergate were Republicans who would not tolerate Richard Nixon’s conduct,” Bernstein says. That’s hardly the case now.

Trump should be prosecuted for his attempt to overturn a lawful election, and every Republican in Congress supporting him now should also be called to answer for sedition. And let us have a moment of silence for Bill Barr, who must know the whole plot and chose to bail out of his role in it before the plot’s execution. You’ve got a lot of questions to answer, Bill.

We cannot just let this slide. Or it will keep happening.

See also:

Jennier Rubin, The Senate’s coup-staging ‘Dirty Dozen’ shouldn’t be allowed to hold office.

David Frum, Trump Crosses a Bright-Red Line

Richard Hasen, Donald Trump Should Be Prosecuted for His Shakedown of Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger

Marc Caputo, The backstory of Trump’s Georgia call