Memo proves real Trump coup was underway Jan. 6

Thanks to the work of the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6 and journalists connected with the Washington Post and other outlets, we now know that an actual coup was underway before and on Jan. 6 when the Capitol came under siege from right-wing mobs. The conspiracy went far deeper than just the thugs and gangs that laid siege to Washington, D.C., that day, however.

We also know now that the organizers of that coup have not given up after their failure to seize power on Jan. 6 and that they are continuing, on numerous fronts, to lay plans for another coup. They have radically changed U.S. politics in many profound ways, thrusting the country into an historic constitutional crisis.

The plot by Trump to maintain himself in the White House against the will of the majority is now clearer than ever. The eventual success of the people in almost having to fumigate him out of there does not, however, end the plot. As the full picture of Jan. 6 sharpens almost daily, it’s clear that plans for a right-wing putsch continue.

Almost immediately, even before the insurrection date, we knew that Trump wanted Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept the votes of the Electoral College. We did not realize until Jan. 6, however, that the plan included use of a dangerous mob of right-wing fanatics storming the Capitol as the instrument that was supposed to ultimately force Pence to comply with this plan.

Also, we know about Trump’s threats to Mike Pence as to what would happen to him if he did not comply with his boss. As reported in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other media, Trump told Pence: “You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

As columnists and television talking heads have pointed out, most of us thought this was a desperate president wanting to see if pressuring his vice president this way could result in his being kept in office.

With the surfacing of what’s being called the “Eastman memo” last week, however, we now know that this was part of an actual attempted coup mapped out for the White House and close allies by John Eastman, a right-wing lawyer who helped Trump challenge the election results.

You may remember Eastman appearing on national television on Jan. 6, standing next to Trump and speaking to the mob that was sent to march on the Capitol.

Eastman’s plan included a barrage of claims coming from the White House that the results of the election were fraudulent. Those claims have been put forward constantly—from the day of the election right up to now. In light of all this alleged fraud, what Eastman said to the mob at the rally made perfect sense.

“All we are demanding of Vice President Pence,” he declared “is this afternoon at 1 o’clock, he let the legislatures of the states look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not!”

What we did not know at the time of that speech is that Eastman’s remarks were part of a plan laid out in a memo he wrote for the White House describing the actual steps Pence should take to throw out the results of the election and have Trump stay in the White House.

The first step was to take advantage of the constitutional role of the vice president as the person in charge of the required joint session of Congress that is supposed to certify the election.

The instruction to Pence was that when he reached Arizona early in the count, he would announce that there was a problem and that there were opposing slates of electors from that state. He was to announce that as a result, he would hold those votes until after all the others were counted.

Then he would find the same “problem,” competing slates of electors in other states (Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin).

He would then declare that due to disputes and possible fraud, “There are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed.”

The Eastman memo said that then the move would be to go for option number one: Since Trump would have a majority of the electors remaining, the 12th Amendment would have to be followed. That amendment says “the person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such a number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed.”

If that plan flopped, the Eastman memo said, everything would still be fine because Pence could then say that no candidate had won a majority and therefore the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state has a single vote. This would mean a Republican win of 26 to 24.

If plan number two also failed—because of Democratic Party objection—both houses of Congress would split into their separate chambers to hammer out a solution. Republicans could block that process in the Senate, creating a stalemate. Such a stalemate would allow Republican-controlled state legislative bodies to actually vote to accept the alternate Trump groups of electors.

The Eastman memo argued that the plan was foolproof because not even the Supreme Court could step in to solve the situation since it is, constitutionally, the vice president who is the ultimate decider. The memo said that if the Democrats wanted to challenge that, they could take the matter to court themselves.

There are plenty of arguments, moral and legal, that could challenge the thinking of Eastman in his memo. If Pence were to seize control of the counting process, for instance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would presumably have suspended the joint session, which relies on the consent of both chambers of Congress. If the stall continued until Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, Pelosi would become president, Pence would lose his authority, and the joint session could resume, giving the victory to Biden where it belonged.

None of this, however, would have avoided a likely breakdown of national order that itself could threaten democracy. The 83 million voters disenfranchised by the Eastman plan Trump adopted would have risen up in protest, giving excuses for armed militias and right-wingers to attack them. To what extent would that be an excuse to call in the military to restore “order”? It is all too horrible to comprehend.

The facts around the memo will continue to be investigated. Who else and to what extent they were involved in the coup hopefully will come out. But what we already know is shocking enough.

A lawyer who clerked for the Supreme Court of the United States, under right-wing Justice Clarence Thomas, laid out a plan for a coup together with the president of the United States. It is clear that allies in the Republican Party, lawmakers among them, were involved along the way. The vice president of the United States, we know, gave serious consideration to being part of the ghastly scheme.

Who else was involved in the plan to overthrow both the election and U.S. democracy itself? The investigations will undoubtedly uncover more, explaining why Republican lawmakers are so fearful of the probes.

As the full picture of Jan. 6 sharpens almost daily, it’s clear that plans for a right-wing putsch continue. Even though they failed to keep Trump in power, the GOP has already succeeded in taking our electoral process and destroying it in key states across the country. No matter how much we increase the availability of the vote to masses of people, we see that the powers that be in many states can now simply toss their votes in the garbage pail. It is the law now in numerous states that if a ruling Republican legislature does not like how the people of their state voted, they can invalidate those votes. The laws are more brazen than what right-wing dictatorships around the world are willing to admit to.

Declared GOP candidates for secretary of state in swing states around the country claim the elections were stolen from Trump and they will do what it takes to change that, meaning they will do what it takes to steal the elections from the voters. The right wing and the Trumpites now have another means by which they will attempt to wrest power away from the American voters. Having failed at their coup, these people have nevertheless done pretty well in preparing for next time.

Can you imagine what can happen if Trump is again a candidate for president? The certification of election results by the joint meeting of both houses of Congress could be quite a different event than any seen been before. It could put the nation on a path we would never want to take.

The Eastman memo makes it clear that the biggest security threat the nation faces now is not foreign terrorists, it’s not a fanatic wearing bull horns as he prances around the Capitol, or even the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a significant section of the so-called mainstream of America, including and especially the Republican Party itself.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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