There is some circumstantial evidence that Trump’s attempted coup may have been originally far deeper than can be imagined. What is also clear is that the constitutional order at the very top of the executive branch has completely broken down.
Fiona Hill, who is presumably still somewhat wired into the national security apparatus, put out a statement that seems to indicate that Trump’s incitement for his supporters to attack the Capitol was actually the Plan B for his coup. She intimates that using the military, presumably to somehow prevent Congress from certifying Biden, was his initial plan. Says Hill, “The President was trying to stage a coup. There was little chance of it happening, but there was enough chance that the former defense secretaries put out that letter, which was the final nail through that effort. They prevented the military from being involved in any coup attempt. But instead, Trump tried to incite it himself”.
It seems that foreign intelligence officials have similar thoughts to Hill’s. A French security officer indicated that it appeared that the minimal deployment of federal law enforcement to defend the Capitol was an intentional effort from inside the Trump administration, saying, “it’s obvious that large parts of any successful plan were just ignored”. One NATO official describes it, “The defeated president gives a speech to a group of supporters where he tells them he was robbed of the election, denounces his own administration’s members and party as traitors, and tells his supporters to storm the building where the voting is being held. The supporters, many dressed in military attire and waving revolutionary-style flags, then storm the building where the federal law-enforcement agencies controlled by the current president do not establish a security cordon, and the protesters quickly overwhelm the last line of police. The president then makes a public statement to the supporters attacking the Capitol that he loves them but doesn’t really tell them to stop. Today I am briefing my government that we believe with a reasonable level of certainty that Donald Trump attempted a coup that failed when the system did not buckle”.
Among the insurrectionists were people with clear intent to try and take hostages. Kevlar-protected insurgents with large backpacks were seen entering the Capitol and others were photographed with zip-ties, presumably to be used to tie up hostages. A number of insurrectionists were overheard trying to find Vice President Pence so that they could hang him outside the Capitol. Other insurgents managed to get just a few feet away from members of Congress, which resulted in the shooting death of one of the insurrectionists. In addition, it is also reported that the armed insurrectionists were in contact with at least one close Trump advisor, possibly within the White House itself, during the occupation of the Capitol. Again, there is circumstantial evidence of complicity with the Capitol Police force. There is video evidence of Capitol Police directing the insurrectionists. It is also unclear how some of the insurrectionists knew how to reach congressional leaders’ offices which are hard to find for even some who work in the building. As James Clyburn noted, “They went where you won’t find my name, but they found where I was supposed to be. So something else was going on untoward here”. In addition, they also had a map of the tunnels that they knew members of Congress would use to be evacuated. It seems quite probable that if any member had been take hostage, there would have been an attempt to trade their lives for a continuation of the Trump presidency or they simply would have been executed. It is also probable that Trump would have used the occasion to declare martial law.
The idea that the Capitol had been intentionally left poorly defended is buttressed by the fact that it took around four hours for the Trump administration to actually deploy the National Guard to support the Capitol Police. Importantly, Trump had installed two of his political cronies, Kash Patel and Michael Ellis, at the Department of Defense shortly after the election. It was unclear whether Patel or Trump refused to deploy the National Guard as the Capitol was overrun. Trump was reportedly pleased by the initial success of the armed insurrection. In any case, it does seem clear that it was VP Mike Pence, not Trump, that finally gave that authorization. That alone indicates that the command structure of the executive branch, the key element of our constitutional order, had totally broken down, which is not surprising when you send armed thugs to execute your own Vice President.
Finally, Nancy Pelosi has apparently discussed with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, the “available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes or ordering a nuclear strike”. But this is also an unconstitutional maneuver, as Defense Department officials point out. As the New York Times reports, “Mr. Trump, they noted, is still the commander in chief, and unless he is removed, the military is bound to follow his lawful orders. While military officials can refuse to carry out orders they view as illegal, they cannot proactively remove the president from the chain of command. That would be a military coup, these officials said”.
The constitutional order has completely broken down. The President is launching a coup that appears to have some support from within the government itself. The Vice President is activating military forces either without the consent or in outright defiance of the President. And the military is being asked to potentially violate the Constitution by ignoring the President in the chain of command. We can be sure our enemies are watching very closely. And we should not be surprised that what has already happened and what may still be planned by Trump and his coup supporters is far scarier that we ever imagined. That certainly seems to be the opinion of some congressional leaders.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on January 9, 2021.