President Trump has reportedly yelled at his loyalists for betraying him, and suggested taking extra-legal action to reverse the election in a meeting at the White House on Friday.
The meeting, first mentioned in the New York Times, included lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, convicted felon Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani.
One plan floated at the meeting was for Trump to name Powell as a "special counsel" to oversee claims of electoral fraud. Powell's electoral fraud allegations are so fantastic that even other far-right legal conspiracy theorists have ridiculed her. Andrew McCarthy, a former birther and author of a book entitled How Obama Supports Islam's Sharia Agenda and another calling for his prosecution on numerous counts, characterised Powell's vote-fraud allegations as "loopy."
Trump has reportedly put forward Flynn's plan, where he said to enforce martial law and order the army to hold a new election. "At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea," the Times reported.
Political scientists have discussed whether or not it is fair to describe Trump's attempts to reverse the election as a "coup," an "autogolpe," or neither. Trump's interest in deploying the military to cancel the election that he obviously lost certainly seems to settle the dispute, at least in terms of his intent reports Intelligencer.
There is no reason to assume that Trump has the ability to actually execute any of these crazy ideas. Trump's best hope of stealing the election was to have a decisive voting margin in the Electoral College calculated by counting the mail-in ballots that had been mailed before but arrived after election day. This would have allowed either the Republican-controlled Supreme Court to invalidate those decisive ballots, or the Republican-controlled state legislature to ignore the voting results of their state and nominate pro-Trump electors to represent their state.
But the election was not close enough for him to follow any strategy, no matter what chance he had for some sort of Bush vs Gore replay. The steps now being discussed fall beyond the usual structure for the settlement of electoral disputes and would entail, at a minimum, almost uniform levels of GOP support.
Trump does not have that. Indeed the striking thing is that he is veering to positions so extreme and self-defeating that even his loyalists have blanched. Perhaps the most alarming fact about the Friday meeting is that Giuliani, who has spent months spreading fantastical claims of imagined voter fraud, became a quasi-voice of reason. Giuliani has proposed using the Department of Homeland Security to seize and examine voting machines — a move the Department has resisted — but even Giuliani opposes appointing a nutter like Powell.
One theme running through Trump World reporting in recent weeks is that the president has increasingly tuned out any advisers or friends who try to reason him toward accepting defeat. Friday's meeting devolved into a loyalty contest, with "yelling and screaming," and competing lawyers "often accusing each other of failing to sufficiently support the president's efforts," reports Politico.
Reporters are emphasizing that it isn't just the usual Republicans who have always privately worried about Trump who express concern. Advisers fret that Trump "is spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists," reports Jonathan Swan. The "too much time" line captures the extremely relative nature of the schism. It's apparently well and good for Trump to spend some time with crackpots and conspiracy theorists — just not too much time. Even Trump's hardened loyalists sound genuinely worried:
In all likelihood, their concern is not some scenario where tanks roll down the streets or Trump blockades himself in the Oval Office on January 20 like Al Pacino in the last scene of Scarface. It's that Trump will spin so completely out of control that he discredits them, or puts the Georgia special election at risk. The crazies are turning on the crazier.