Trump’s coup d’état: A Framework of Inquiry

 Working Draft

America’s Lack of Defenses against Authoritarian attempts to seize power.

America is in many ways defenseless, because before Trump no one could imagine an authoritarian attempt to seize power.

Elements of a Successful Coup d’état

To succeed, you have to control or “dominate”:

1. Guns

a. Military

Interference in Military Chain of Command

1) Jon Bateman, “The Guardrails Are Off the U.S. Military; It’s no longer guaranteed that the Pentagon will resist unlawful orders from the president;And the rot is deeper than you think,” Politico, June 6, 2020 (07:00 AM EDT).

Jon Bateman is a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously was special assistant to then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

b. Police

1) Trump sends his “little green men” to police Layette Square and Washington, D.C.

c. Armed militia

1)  Michigan State House

2)  Armed men along March

3) armed men at demonstrations

2. Information

a.  Attacks on Press, Lies, and Propaganda

b.  Assumptions

1) The Leader can control news and flow of information.

2) Independent news media can be discredited or silenced.

3)  State propaganda or Trump propaganda) will dominate the media and other news sources.

aa. Fox News
bb. One America News

c. Social media.

1) Why Twitter is such a big deal.

2) Russian help

3.  Direct Control of Executive Branch

a.  Assumption: Justice Department and Intelligence agencies can be subordinated to the Leader’s will, both defensively and offensively.

1) E.g., Russian interference will not be reported.

b.  Attack on Post Office

1)  Can be used to block voting by mail during coronavirus pandemic

4.  Neutralization or Control of Congress

a.  Unconstitutional Defiance of Congressional Oversight Authority

b.  Political neutralization of Impeachment Power

c. Judicial review blocked or neutralized

5.  Control or Neutralization of the Judiciary

a.  Assumption:  The Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary will not block Trump’s federal government actions.

b.  Assumption: Supreme Court will uphold President and Executive if Challenged by State or Local officials, or private parties

6.  Subservience or Neutralization of State and Local Leaders

a.  Assumption:  State and local leaders can be coerced (bludgeoned) into subservience or acquiescence.

1) Use of budget

2)  Use of  Federal law, Executive decrees, and Supreme Court

7.  Big Business and Financial Sector Will Acquiesce, and Help

a.  Assumption: Big business and Wall Street will go along.

1) Benefits to companies

aa)  Benefits to companies (tax breaks, subsidies, bail-outs, regulatory changes)

bb)  Benefits to key business decision-makers (e.g., key officers)

“The Question Isn’t Whether Trump Will Go Full Authoritarian—It’s How We’ll Respond; We know that no one is coming to save us from Trump; So how will we save ourselves?” The Nation, June 2, 2020.

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.