A Coup in Three Tweets
An insurrection foretold
Of course Donald J. Trump lied. Of course he tried to overturn a free and fair election.
Of course he fomented a violent insurrection and sabotaged the peaceful transfer of power.
We know all of this, because he’s told us so and, as the January 6 Committee reminded us again Thursday, the evidence is overwhelming and damning. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board gets it: “The Jan. 6 committee probably won’t get Mr. Trump under oath,” the paper writes this morning, “but the evidence of his bad behavior is now so convincing that political accountability hardly requires it.”
The only question now is whether America actually cares.
(Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter’s excellent piece in today’s Bulwark: “The January 6th Committee Subpoenaed Trump. Now What?”)
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There’s no real mystery because there are the tweets, thousands of them. But the arc of the coup can be boiled down to just three — when he summoned the mob, egged on the attack, and celebrated it afterward.
“Be there, be wild.!” On December 19, 2020 Trump summoned the mob.
Extremists, including members of the Oath Keepers, were “ecstatic” when they heard the call.
“He wants us to make it WILD,” Kelly Meggs, an Oath Keepers leader from Dunnellon, Florida, wrote in a message to other group members. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!!”
Trump’s words appeared to energize Oath Keepers members. They used an encrypted messaging app to discuss their plans to be in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, when, after a Trump rally near the White House, a mob stormed the Capitol and disrupted Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over the Republican incumbent.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage”
As the violent mob surged into the Capitol, Trump put a target on his own vice president’s back. As he sat in the White House, watching television, Trump egged on the Insurrection.
The Secret Service immediately recognized the threat.
During her testimony in June, former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson described her reaction to Trump’s tweet about Pence:
LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, do you recall seeing this tweet in which the president said the vice president did not have the courage to do what needed to be done?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I do.
LIZ CHENEY: And, Ms. Hutchinson, what was your reaction when you saw this tweet?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: As a staffer that works to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed. And really, it felt personal. I was really sad.
As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie. And it was something that was really hard in that moment to digest knowing what I'd been hearing down the hall in the conversations that were happening, seeing that tweet come up and knowing what was happening on the Hill. And it's something that I-- I still struggle to work through, the emotions of that.
“These are the things… that happen”
On the night of January 6, after it was all over — after all the bloodshed, mayhem, and terror, Trump sent of a (now deleted) tweet justifying and celebrating the attack, writing: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."
"Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
“No, we won. Fuck you.”
Even before the election was held, TrumpWorld had a plan. Via Aaron Rupar:
The committee on Thursday displayed an October 31, 2020, email Judicial Watch president and frequent Fox News guest Tom Fitton sent to White House official Dan Scavino outlining that scheme, which basically amounted to Trump declaring victory on election night and daring someone to stop him.
“We had an election today — and I won,” Fitton wrote to Scavino, outlining the argument he apparently wanted Trump to make on election night. Fitton added: “The ballots counted by the Election Day deadline show the American people have bestowed upon me the great honor of reelection to President of the United States.”
Fitton was far from the only Trumpworld figure on that wavelength. An audio recording played by the committee shows that one day later, Steve Bannon held a meeting with Chinese associates and outlined basically the same plan.
"What Trump is gonna do is just declare victory,” Bannon said. “When you wake up Wednesday morning, it's gonna be a firestorm ... he's not going out easy. If Biden's winning, Trump is gonna do some crazy shit."
And, of course, Roger Stone, who is shown on tape discussing the pre-election strategy:
“I really do suspect that [the election result] will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine tenths of law. ‘No we won, fuck you. Sorry, you’re wrong, fuck you.’”
He knew. He lied.
Donald Trump knew he lost.
The likely final hearing of the Jan. 6 panel painted a portrait of an American president who, with the help from a cabal of right-wing allies, embarked on a premeditated plan to refuse to cede power regardless of the election results and who — despite privately acknowledging that he’d lost to Biden — ultimately executed that plan to deadly effect on Jan. 6, 2021.
Donald Trump also knew his lies were lies. But he kept repeating them. In a remarkably effective montage, the committee juxtaposed the testimony of Administration insiders with Trump’s continued false claims
ELAINE LURIA: In this video, you'll see that, even when top law enforcement officials told the president his election fraud claims were false, he still repeated the claims in the days and weeks that followed, sometimes even the very next day. [Begin videotape]
BILL BARR: I specifically raised the Dominion voting machines, which I found to be among the most disturbing allegations, disturbing in the sense that I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations. I told them that it was — that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that, and it was doing a grave — grave disservice to the country.
[The next day.]
DONALD TRUMP: We have a company that's very suspect. Its name is Dominion. With the turn of a dial or the change of a chip, you could press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden. What kind of a system is this?
RICHARD DONOGHUE: We definitely talked about Antrim County again. That was sort of done at that point because the hand recount had been done and all that. But we cited back to that to say, you know, this is an example of what people are telling you and what's being filed in some of these court filings that are just not supported by the evidence.
And this is the problem, the problem that people keep telling you these things and they turn out not to be true.
[But Trump repeats the lie.]
DONALD TRUMP: In addition, there is the highly troubling matter of Dominion voting systems. In one Michigan county alone, 6,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden, and the same systems are used in the majority of states in our country.
BILL BARR: I went into this and would, you know, tell him how crazy some of these allegations were and how ridiculous some of them were. And I'm talking about some of the ones like, you know, more votes — more absentee votes were cast in Pennsylvania than there were absentee ballots request — you know, stuff like that was just easy to blow up. There was never — there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.
DONALD TRUMP: There were more votes than there were voters. Think of that. You had more votes than you had voters. That's an easy one to figure, and it's by the thousands.
BILL BARR: Then he raised the — the big vote dump, as he called it, in Detroit. And that — you know, he said people saw boxes coming in to the counting station at all hours of the morning. And I said, Mr. President, there are 630 precincts in Detroit. And unlike elsewhere in the state, they centralized the counting process so they're not counted in each precinct.
They're moved to counting stations. And so, the normal process would involve boxes coming in at all different hours.
DONALD TRUMP: This is Michigan. At 6:31 in the morning, a vote dump of 149,772 votes came in unexpectedly.
RICHARD DONOGHUE: With regard to Georgia, we looked at the tape. We interviewed the witnesses. There is no suitcase. The president kept fixating on this suitcase that supposedly had fraudulent ballots and that the suitcase was rolled out from under the table. And I said, no, sir, there is no suitcase. You can watch that video over and over.
There is no suitcase. There is a wheeled bin where they carry the ballots, and that's just how they move ballots around that facility. There's nothing suspicious about that at all.
DONALD TRUMP: Election officials pulled boxes, Democrats, and suitcases of ballots out from under a table. You all saw it on television, totally fraudulent. [End videotape]
ELAINE LURIA: This happened over and over again, and our committee's report will document it, purposeful lies made in public directly at odds with what Donald Trump knew from unassailable sources, the Justice Department's own investigations and his own campaign. Donald Trump maliciously repeated this nonsense to a wide audience over and over again.
Steve Scalise and Jim Banks are full of sh*t
The Secret Service was warned
As early as Dec. 26, Secret Service officials were sharing one tipster’s warnings about extremist groups coming to the Capitol with murderous plans. “They think they will have a large enough group to march into DC armed and will outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped,” the tip read.
“Their plan is to literally kill people,” the tipster wrote. “Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”
Liz Cheney’s warning
This leads us to a key question: Why would Americans assume that our Constitution and our institutions in our Republic are invulnerable to another attack?
Why would we assume that those institutions will not falter next time?
A key lesson of this investigation is this: Our institutions only hold when men and women of good faith make them hold, regardless of the political cost.
We have no guarantee that these men and women will be in place next time. Any future president inclined to attempt what Donald Trump did in 2020 has now learned not to install people who could stand in the way.