trump’s attempted coup – Day 2
(January 4 – The Georgia Telephone Call)
No sooner had I posted the first installment of this series of columns when events overran its contents. Yesterday the Washington Post released the audio recording of a sixty-plus minute telephone conversation Donald Trump had the day before with the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger, a Republican, and Trump have been at odds for weeks. Trump insisting that he won the vote in Georgia but was the victim of massive vote fraud and Raffensperger, noting that he supported and voted for Trump, certifying that Biden was the victor by a margin of 11,779 votes.
Please, listen to the audio and read the transcript and make up your own mind.
When I heard it, my thoughts immediately turned to the first time I heard Richard Nixon’s voice on a recording discussing the Watergate break-in. He was considering having the CIA block the FBI from investigating the connection between the burglars of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Nixon reelection committee.
In this recording we hear Trump pressuring Georgia officials, who counted, recounted, and audited their election before certifying the results. Their tally survived numerous legal challenges in state and federal courts. Trump wanted them to find just one more vote than what would be needed to reverse the state’s election:
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state. And flipping the state is a great testament to our country because, you know, this is — it’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake or whatever you want to call it.
If it was a mistake, I don’t know. A lot of people think it wasn’t a mistake. It was much more criminal than that. But it’s a big problem in Georgia, and it’s not a problem that’s going away. I mean, you know, it’s not a problem that’s going away.”
Trump’s subsequent reference to criminality is chilling. Remember, Trump is still the head of government. The Department of Justice, the FBI, and all the U.S. Attorneys report to him. And Trump clearly threatened Raffensperger and other Georgia officials:
“I think you’re going to find that they are shredding ballots because they have to get rid of the ballots because the ballots are unsigned. The ballots are corrupt, and they’re brand new, and they don’t have seals, and there’s a whole thing with the ballots. But the ballots are corrupt.
And you are going to find that they are — which is totally illegal — it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk.”
Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame calls this the “smoking gun,” worse than Watergate and an attempt at a coup.
And so it is. It is a crime which violates federal and state laws. It is an impeachable offense. And, with the countdown to January 20th and the end of Trump’s term fast approaching, it is grounds for criminal prosecution after Trump leaves office. It is appalling that Republican senators and congressmen continue to support the charade of a fraudulent election and plan to challenge the results when Congress meets on Wednesday.
And another shocking development. Again in the Washington Post, all ten living former defense secretaries yesterday published an op-ed warning that involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory. Republican and Democrat alike, the former civilian heads of America’s armed forces spoke with one voice:
Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.
What scares me about this little ditty is what I don’t know. What was being discussed in the White House and the Pentagon which triggered this op-ed? We’ve heard Trump refer to “his” military and “his” generals repeatedly over the years. And we had that disturbing image of General Mark A. Milley, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marching along with Trump on that ill-advised stroll into Lafayette Square on June 1st, 2020. That’s when the park was cleared of protestors through the use of chemical weapons. Milley later apologized saying he shouldn’t have been there.
Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, the guy who pled guilty to lying to investigators but was later pardoned by Trump, has been openly calling for military intervention to overturn the election results. Was Trump considering that treasonous step?
And finally this strange story about the U.S. Secret Service agents who guard the President. The service is reportedly reassigning agents as the transition to a Joe Biden administration moves forward. The plan is to bring agents who guarded Biden when he was Vice-President onto the presidential detail. In and of itself that would not seem out of line.
But there is indication that this will be done to an unusual extent because of concerns agents who have been guarding Trump are unusually attached to the soon-to-be former chief executive. We already have good reason to question the loyalty of many Trump appointees to what should be apolitical government positions. A house cleaning throughout government seems necessary. But do we really have compromised agents in the Secret Service such that we cannot trust them to guard President Biden? That is a frightening thought.