The plot against America is just getting started

click to enlarge The revelations about Trump’s coup-plotting aren’t a scandal. They’re a five-alarm fire.  - Gallagher Photography /
Gallagher Photography /
The revelations about Trump’s coup-plotting aren’t a scandal. They’re a five-alarm fire. 

• “Declare National Security Emergency.”

• “Declare electronic voting in all states invalid.”

• “A Trusted Lead Counter will be appointed with authority from the POTUS to direct the actions of select federalized National Guard units and support from DOJ, DHS and other US government agencies as needed to complete a recount of the legal paper ballots for the federal elections in all 50 states.”

• “US Marshals will immediately secure all ballots and provide a protective perimeter around the locations in all 50 states.”

• “VP Pence seats Republican Electors over objections of Democrats in states where fraud occurred.”

The plot against America was more detailed than John Eastman’s memo urging Mike Pence to invent constitutional powers to declare Donald Trump president. While it was every bit as insane and hackish and premised on Newsmax-level conspiracy theories as you might expect from Trump’s crew, it also came closer to fruition than any of us should be comfortable with.

On Jan. 5, the day before the Capitol insurrection, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows received a 38-page PowerPoint presentation outlining how the administration could execute a bloodless coup. Featuring inscrutable flowcharts, the presentation alleged that “the Chinese systematically gained control over our election system constituting a national security emergency,” and there is an “ongoing globalist/socialist operation to subvert the will of United States Voters and install a China ally.”

That PowerPoint surfaced last week as part of the materials Meadows turned over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol before he stopped cooperating. His lawyer downplayed its significance, telling The New York Times that Meadows didn’t act on the presentation, circulated among Trump’s congressional allies by a former Army colonel. The former colonel, Paul Waldron, said he didn’t send Meadows the PowerPoint, but he told The Washington Post he spoke with the chief of staff “eight to 10 times” leading up to Jan. 6.

There’s a reason Trump and Meadows are suing to hide information about the insurrection from the committee: What it already knows is damning. The White House was ass-deep in an attempted coup.

Meadows was in contact with the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” organizers both leading up to and on the day of the rally that turned into a riot. He encouraged Republican officials and state legislators to send so-called alternate slates of electors to Congress and introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, the Department of Justice lackey who wanted Trump to appoint him acting attorney general so he could instruct states to subvert their election results. He was on the call when Trump pressured Georgia officials to “find” enough votes to put him over the top. He sent an email on Jan. 5 saying the National Guard would be on hand at the Capitol the next day to “protect pro-Trump people.” He emailed Pence’s staff a legal memo concocted by the Trump campaign’s legal team offering a rationale for overturning the election.

The last two are worth particular attention. The White House chief of staff said troops under the government’s control would protect those pressuring the vice president to reverse the election. He provided guidance from the president’s political campaign on how the vice president could, by himself, block election results based on a manufactured premise: “Six states currently have electoral delegates in disputes [they didn’t] and there is sufficient rational and legal basis to question whether the state law and Constitution was followed [there wasn’t].”

In a different era, these acts of sedition might have earned Meadows a blindfold and cigarette. Instead, he got a book deal.

Trump’s plans failed because Mike Pence didn’t want history to know him as the man who killed democracy. But for Trump, Jan. 6 became a dress rehearsal. He’s spent the last year putting the pieces in place to ensure that next time, he’ll win — whether he wins or not. He’s using his national network to target Republicans who didn’t support his Big Lie, supporting challengers to Republican secretaries of state in Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia, as well as opponents of Republicans who voted to impeach him.

In Georgia’s governor’s race, Trump is backing David Purdue in the Republican primary over Brian Kemp, whose cardinal sin was certifying the state’s election results because the law required him to do so. Purdue says he wouldn’t have let such trifles get in his way. He’s also supporting an election denier in Arizona’s gubernatorial primary.

Most importantly, he’s convinced the vast majority of Republicans that Joe Biden’s 7-million-vote victory was illegitimate; no amount of debunking or fact-checking will change that reality. More than 60% of potential GOP primary voters say Trump’s fraud claims are essential to being a Republican. And those obsessed with Trump’s conspiracies are much more enthusiastic about next year’s elections than Republicans who live in the real world.

Election fraud has become a foundation principle of what was once the Party of Lincoln. Soon, few Republicans who question Trump’s 2020 narrative will remain, and the path to subverting the next election will be clear. The playbook has already been written; it just needs a few more loyalists to carry it out. By 2024, they’ll be in place — for Trump, for Ron DeSantis, for whoever.

This isn’t a scandal. This is a five-alarm fire. Everyone — Democrats, Republicans who care about institutions, the mainstream media — needs to treat it that way. Trump officials need to be held accountable for Jan. 6. The media must stop normalizing election deniers. Congress needs to counter the voter-suppression initiatives that sprang from the Big Lie; if that means circumventing the filibuster, so be it. Voting rights — the fragility of our democracy — has to be the centerpiece of the next year’s election.

The plot against America isn’t over. It’s just getting started.

Get Informed Dissent delivered to your inbox:

Stay connected with Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.

Jeffrey C. Billman

North Carolina-based journalist, focusing on politics and policy analysis.
Scroll to read more Informed Dissent articles

Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.