Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the state of the parties. The state of the GOP is not good. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie. And we now know how close he came to subverting the Constitution.
Bottom Line: Using the Cline Center’s Coup D’état Project definitions, the storming of the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 was an attempted coup d’état: an organized, illegal attempt to intervene in the presidential transition by displacing the power of the Congress to certify the election. Specifically, at the time of this writing, we classify it as an attempted dissident coup.
The Cline Center’s Coup D’état Project is the world’s largest global registry of failed and successful coups. The Cline Center defines a coup as an “organized effort to effect sudden and irregular (e.g., illegal or extra-legal) removal of the incumbent executive authority of a national government, or to displace the authority of the highest levels of one or more branches of government.” To be categorized as a coup, an event must meet the following criteria (which are detailed at greater length in the Coup D’état Project codebook):
- There must be some person or persons who initiated the coup.
- The target of the coup must have meaningful control over national policy.
- There must be a credible threat to the leaders' hold on power.
- Illegal or irregular means must be used to seize, remove, or render powerless the target of the coup.
- It must be an organized effort.
Fiona Hill at Politico:
Technically, what Trump attempted is what’s known as a “self-coup” and Trump isn’t the first leader to try it. Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of the first Napoleon) pulled one off in France in December 1851 to stay in power beyond his term. Then he declared himself Emperor, Napoleon III. More recently, Nicolas Maduro perpetrated a self-coup in Venezuela after losing the 2017 elections.
The homicidal clown show at the Capitol was one prong of a multi-pronged attack, part of a failed coup d’état that proceeded on several fronts and that — this part matters — proceeds still on several fronts, prominent among them the effort to purge responsible and patriotic Republican officials from state election-oversight positions in order to replace them with Trump sycophants and conspiracy cultists for the purpose of nullifying or sabotaging future elections that produce uncongenial results irrespective of whether Donald Trump ever again appears on a ballot. The most important part of the coup d’état wasn’t the guy with the bison horns shaking his spear at the rotunda — it was the effort to come up with some pretext for formally nullifying the elections and to recruit a sufficient number of coconspirators to act on the pretext. The coup d’état failed because that more insidious project failed, not because the sideshow at the Capitol faded out. There is no great reason to be confident that the democratic firewall will hold again next time.
Trump pressured state election officials, as well as his own attorney general. Parallel to these efforts was the scheme outlined by John Eastman, in a now infamous memo: On January 6, Vice President Mike Pence could throw out electors from several key states if these states had proposed alternate electors, kicking the election to Trump.
As January 6 approached, however, Trump’s ability to carry out this plot became more tenuous. Why? Many Republicans in the states in question were willing to comply, but they needed more time.
At this point in time, there is no public evidence that Trump and his allies were coordinating with the insurrectionists with the explicit goal to stage an attack. We have not seen, for example, text messages where a Trump ally has said, “We want you to storm the Capitol.”
We do, however, have plenty of other evidence that paints a chilling portrait of possible, if not likely, coordination.
The insurrectionist groups mingled with Trump’s team in the days before January 6. For example, members of the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Stop the Steal were gathered at the Willard Hotel on the night of January 5. The Oath Keepers also served as personal security to Trump’s ally Roger Stone on January 5 and 6. At least one of the Proud Boys has admitted their plot was to stop the transfer of power.