For a moment there it looked like the Confederacy had “Risen Again!” and stood on the brink of overthrowing the American Government as it marched its flag through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. The British news agency Reuters described it best: “The chaos in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday unfolded after President Donald Trump spent weeks whipping up his supporters with false allegations of fraud in the Nov. 3 election, culminating in a call to march to the building that represents U.S. democracy.”
Strangely unprepared for a coup attempt by a 10,000 strong mob, despite weeks of intelligence warnings, the Capitol Police line disintegrated at the first charge and the mob was soon inside the Capitol building hunting down Senators and Representatives. Equally inexplicably, the Defense Department stiffed frantic requests for the National Guard to come to the rescue. Only the intervention of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington DC’s Finest, saved America’s legislators from being hunted down by rabid Trump partisans. The cavalry finally arrived and the mob dispersed and fled back to the rat holes from which it had emerged. The forces of law and order have begun to hunt them down. They should not be difficult to find. Many hundreds in the mob, displaying a level of stupidity even lower than average Trumpist standards, had proudly posted selfies committing various acts of sedition on social media. The founder of modern Germany, Otto von Bismarck reportedly once said: “God looks after drunks, little children, and the United States of America.” Thank God (pun intended) the Almighty was on duty last week.
Two coup attempts failed that fateful January 6, a Wednesday that will long live in Infamy. Trump unleashed his mob when it became clear that Mike Pence had found his long-lost courage and refused the President’s demand that he ignore the Constitution and overturn the November 3, 2020 elections. But far too many Trumpist Senators and Representatives eager to curry favor with their Leader – and position themselves for future elections – persisted in the charade of trying to undo the will of 81 million American voters even as they denounced the violence incited by Trump and which almost got them all killed.
Were Trump a reader of history, one would be tempted to believe that he had learned how Hitler set fire to the Reichstag (Germany’s Parliament), blamed it on communists, and browbeat Germany’s 86-year old President, Paul von Hindenburg into granting him emergency powers. With that ‘legal’ authority, Hitler arrested communist and other opposition legislators, giving him a majority in the Reichstag sufficient to vote himself dictator.
Is it implausible to suggest that while Trump may be ignorant of history, he has advisors sufficiently well read who might have recommended a similar course of action modified to exploit the American system? The sequence is there. Trump demanded his political allies contest the Electoral College results while inciting a mob to attack the Capitol. Almost unhindered, the mob overwhelmed the Capitol police and broke into the building. Photos show some rioters armed with police style zip tie restraints, climbing over seats in the Senate. Others head straight for the offices of the key Democratic leaders, including the secret unmarked office of the Democratic Whip, Representative Jim Clyburn (D-GA).
Please bear with me as my description of the drama continues. What if they had succeeded in capturing key legislators (or even killing a few, given the nature of uncontrolled mobs)? As we have already seen, the Trumpist propaganda machine set in motion, even before the assault began, a ‘black flag’ campaign blaming ‘antifa’ and Black Lives Matter for ‘infiltrating the patriotic’ protest. Would we then have been surprised to see Trump invoke the Insurrection Act which allows the President, on his own, to decide that rebellion is underway and use the armed forces to suppress the ‘antifa’ and ‘BLM’ insurrection? Does it stretch credulity to see his loyalists in the Senate and House then voting to declare that he won the elections, with the rebellious members of Congress detained (or worse)?
If you find this scenario implausible, may I suggest you review the accounts published in many newspapers about a call by Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, DC Mayor Muriel Browser, the chief of the MPD, and other DC Government officials to the Pentagon. On the Sunday before the coup attempt, the top Congressional security officials turned down a worried Chief Sund’s request for permission to ask that the DC National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup. On Wednesday, with the mob breaching Capitol police lines, Sund called Lieutenant General Walter E. Piatt, director of Army Staff, to make a “very, very urgent request for National Guard assistance.” The Pentagon turned him down. Piatt’s response, “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” left his DC listeners flabbergasted. Ultimately, the National Guard did show, but only hours after the DC cops and other local police forces had cleared the mob out of the Capitol. Now, the same dark-side social media chatter that unleashed the mob last week is calling for another coup attempt.
Who knows the truth? But, this demands an investigation at a Watergate level. Perhaps investigators should also ask why the Defense Department stopped transition meetings with the Biden team a few days earlier? Most importantly, however, we hope the Acting Secretary of Defense and other senior officials focus on their oaths to the Constitution rather than “the visual” and ensure that Joe Biden is safely sworn in as President on January 20.