Friday, December 25, 2020

What If: The Thing That Would Not Leave 2020 Edition

So trump has been making some noises that in spite of all the legal evidence he lost, he is refusing to leave the Oval Office... not just figuratively but literally.

Prompting many a joke about how "Sweet Jesus, make this Pay-Per-View so millions can watch him get dragged out of the building like a whiny bitch."

But it does beg the question: How would you actually DO it? We've never had a One-Term President Loser of the Popular Vote throw a conniption and barricade himself inside the White House before. (True story: I once did a college comic strip for the University of South Florida during the 1992 Election cycle, "Young Moderate Republicans" a very poor Doonesbury ripoff, and I drew half-jokingly that one-termer Bush the Elder grabbing a pillar of the White House portico crying "But I worked so HARD for this!" while Secret Service agents were dragging him out. It was meant in jest, and Bush the Elder did not act that way in Real Life, he attended Clinton's Inauguration as tradition warranted with the graceful exit the nation expected of him.) 

Digby did some digging to find out a few things (which she pulled up from The Daily Beast, but it's behind a paywall so bleh):

If there are any checklists or plans, procedures, or guidelines for the Secret Service to follow in the event of an autogolpe—a crisis in which a sitting president refuses to transfer power—a half-dozen former officials privy to the government’s most sensitive contingency plans aren’t aware of them.

None would speak for the record, owing to both the secrecy of the plans and to the sensitivity of the moment: They don’t want to encourage President Donald Trump to cross a line that authorities haven’t conceived of...

One is: Will there be a question about who the president really is? The other: What happens if, in a fit of pique, the former president simply will not vacate the seat of American government?...

The first question is easy to answer. After the certification of the Electoral College on Jan. 6, the White House Military Office will prepare a briefing for President-elect Joe Biden on the contents of the president’s emergency satchel, often known as “the football,” with a secure satellite phone and laminated nuclear-war option guide inside. They will accept, from the National Security Agency, a set of presidential authentication cards, known as biscuits, that will be active the moment Biden is sworn in...

This is pretty much the game there. Control of the nuclear arsenal is the power of the modern Presidency, and the military has in place procedures to ensure a smooth transition from one administration to the next. There may be a chance trump will try to order the DoD/Pentagon officials to delay that January 6th briefing and transfer of power, so it's a moment to stay alert, but it's unlikely the military will bend to trump's will here (The Joint Chiefs will know when an order from a sitting President is illegal enough to ignore, and trump's interference would be illegal as hell).

trump hasn't been able to prove a single argument by himself or his lackeys about the election being "stolen" from him. Every vote count has been certified by officials with the authority to do so, every certification accepted by the state legislatures, every Electoral College vote done by the letter of the law. Biden won: Only an outright refusal by a Republican-held Senate would disrupt the January 6 acceptance of the EC, but they don't have enough Senators willing to disrupt it (unless trump succeeds in bullying enough of them to do his bidding).

No matter what trump has done to break the federal system of government, much of that system remains intact and able to perform the tasks needed doing. The agencies - even the ones corrupted by trump's fellow crooks - will update their chains of command to reflect Biden being in charge and his advisors/Cabinet nominees as the people to report to. trump can barricade himself in the Oval Office on Inauguration Day January 20 2021 and pretend he has control, but the bureaucracy will no longer answer to him. That won't be the problem.

The problem will be Question Two from the Daily Beast: How do you fucking get the Toddler-In-Chief out of the building itself? Back to Digby's referral:

Former senior government agency heads and Secret Service detail leaders pushed to think through this scenario offered several plausible solutions. “I think I’d have a conversation with the chief of staff, and then the family, Ivanka and the other kids and say, ‘It’s going to be your job to make sure he’s gone,’” a former senior Secret Service official said.

Another possibility: “When the staff leaves on January 19, don’t let them back into the complex the next day. He can’t do anything without his staff.”

An isolated president, in other words, would be more susceptible to just throwing in the towel...

This is kind of correct. trump cannot survive without an audience around himself. The minute he can't bark at an underling to run an errand, he will flee from the scene and make his way to somewhere he can bark at underlings.

There are some possibilities that by January 6, when Congress accepts the Electoral College results, that trump will simply flee DC altogether, and make his way to Mar-A-Lago in Florida where he could rule in absentia doling out more corrupt pardons and issue more norms-breaking Executive Orders to complicate Biden's opening 100 days as President.

But trump is all about presentation and image. The White House and Oval Office are stages of power on the global stage. he may not want to leave it, flee from it as though he was admitting he lost. Letting Biden move in would be an incredible humiliation after all of trump's accusations and denials of reality. In the end, trump may think in terms of pro wrestling: the Heels must put on acts of public indecency to keep their fanbase appeased.

So one thing I'd worry about is this: Does trump still have a private bodyguard service protecting him alongside the official Secret Service?

I recall reading before that he did not want to give up his private retinue of bodyguards - after all, a lot of them know too much of the crap he's pulled over the years - so if there's still a handful of them working within the White House itself, this may be a means for how trump tries to seize the building...

  • For starters, January 18 is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday two days before Inauguration Day (January 20, by law). trump could schedule a series of events that day to bring in religious leaders to mark the occasion.
  • At the last minute, the guests get switched out for 40-50 armed Proud Boys while trump's private bodyguard seize control of the Secret Service command center. During the confusion, the white supremacists bus in another 100 more armed agitators to help secure the outside barricades that trump had been adding all 2020 against the Black Lives Matter protests.
  • trump declares a national emergency from the Oval Office, with "proof" that China corrupted the "Deep State" into faking millions of ballots to steal the election for Biden. trump declares martial law, the suspension of Habeas Corpus (what Lincoln did at the start of the Civil War, but which got overturned by the Supreme Court as Congress has that power) and the Constitution itself, and orders the military to seize control of the five state capitals that "stole the election" (PA, MI, GA, AZ, WI). he calls on "All true Americans who love me and love what I've done for America" to overthrow any Democratically-held state office so that "new honest elections" can be held for Republicans to win.
  • The White House turns into seized territory by trump's personal army. Anyone caught inside who's not in on the plot are made into human shields.
  • Meanwhile at the Pentagon, trump's appointed lackeys - some of them put into offices after the November elections - begin disrupting the chain of command in the Defense Department, ordering lower-ranking officers to ignore or even arrest the Joint Chiefs that would openly oppose trump's orders (which would violate laws regulating the use of military force inside the states). They will attempt to get the US Armed Forces to side with trump even though it would violate their Oaths to the Constitution (loyalty is to America, not the Man). A certain number of officers who are politically biased may attempt to do so, but will likely get arrested as most of the military will stand down against trump's "extraconstitutional" violations.
  • Outside of the barricades, the rest of the government's response would most likely extend the safety barricades around the White House to ensure no further incursions, also to keep any anti-trump protesters out of range of the extremists' weapons. Everything in a five-block radius is going to turn into an armed battleground.
  • The media will play along with the drama, as usual, with the Beltway Media underplaying the dangers of trump's coup and the Far Right media egging it on to the point of encouraging armed protests by other Far Right groups in the contested battleground states. Gunfights and attempted building seizures may happen, but most of them will end badly for the outgunned or underplanned wingnuts. The worst that will happen is a lot of innocent civilians will die the crossfire.
  • However, none of that is going to change the handover of the Presidency to Biden, who goes through with his Inauguration ceremony - most likely inside the Capitol dome for security reasons - and who cancels any celebrations afterward because of security needs in the DC metro.
  • The whole thing turns into a waiting game, with trump typing out more insane Tweets every hour while Biden gets his administration in order. Any disruptions from Republican Congresscritters will try to paint Biden as illegitimate or an usurper, but little of that will change things in the real world. All that would matter would be the safety of the hostages, and the mental state of some of the Proud Boys gun-toters in trump's employ who are going to turn angry at the realization the game isn't playing the way they thought it would. In-fighting may kick in, probably within five days or more, especially if any of the gun-nuts or even some of the hostages show signs of COVID symptoms.
  • trump's display of bravado will end up doing nothing for him. Control of the military will resume to the Joint Chiefs, who will answer to President Biden - most likely working from Camp David during this standoff - and who will clean out the trumpian coup plotters in short order. trump will barter with the FBI and local officials to allow him and his immediate family to leave the White House under their own security for the nearest business airport where they would fly unmolested to Mar-a-Lago and await further lawsuits (or likely flee the country altogether). Some of the Proud Boys may dig in and try to burn down or blow up the White House, and kill some of the hostages doing so, but odds are most of them will surrender to the cops and take their chances with all-white juries acquitting them for being violent jerks.

It might provide a few weeks of international drama, which is what trump would want... but it's not going to change anything.

trump is getting dragged out of the White House. And no matter how many corrupt pardons he's flinging out there, he's still facing state charges of fraud and other criminal misdeeds.

You're better off running, donald. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!


dinthebeast said...

Two words: tranquilizer dart.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Paul said...

Doug, with all the drugs he's reportedly consumed, he might be immune to that shit now.

The New York Crank said...

If I could have my druthers, I'd like to see Trump taken out of the White House in a straitjacket. But please announce when it's going to happen so I can make a big bowl of popcorn.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Green Eagle said...

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago imagining a similar scenario. I believe, first of all, that if Trump goes down this road it will be with a lot more than a couple hundred right wing maniacs; he could undoubtedly get a few thousand heavily armed traitors to occupy the White House grounds, with many of them using their weapons rather than surrender. The other thing that concerns me is the threat to lock the hostages inside the White House and then burn it down. This would be such a perfect climax to Trump's idiotic Gotterdammerung that he could hardly resist- the greatest TV ratings of all time.

dinthebeast said...

A quick Google search turned up the names of the drugs they use in those darts, one of which is fentanyl, and I know he's not immune to that.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Paul said...

You got a link, Green Eagle?