Emergency responses to a Trump military coup

Warning signs regarding a potential military coup

Unfortunately, it now appears plausible that President Donald Trump is considering attempting a military coup d’état on January 6, 2021, or in the following days leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration at noon on January 20, 2021.

There is no other way to read the Op-Ed by 10 former Secretaries of Defense in the Washington Post on January 3, 2021.  Signers included Mike Esper, Trump’s Secretary of Defense until he was fired on November 9, 2020. It must be assumed that Esper has some sense of what has been going on in the military.

In addition, the lack of cooperation between Trump Defense officials and Biden transition officials is a separate but related cause of concern.


1) Dan Lemothe, “The time to question election results has passed, all living former defense secretaries say,” Washington Post, January 3, 2021 (6:44 p.m. EST).

“The time to question election results has passed, and there is no role for the military in changing them, all 10 of the living former defense secretaries said in an extraordinary rebuke to President Trump and other Republicans who are backing unfounded claims of widespread fraud at the ballot box.”

All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory.”

2) Op-ed, All 10 living former defense secretaries*: “Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory,” Washington Post, January 3, 2021 (5:h00 p.m. EST).

*Opinion by

Ashton Carter,
Dick Cheney,
William Cohen,
Mark Esper,
Robert Gates,
Chuck Hagel,
James Mattis,
Leon Panetta,
William Perry, and
Donald Rumsfeld

3) Bryan Bender and David Cohen, “Ex-Defense secretaries say military must stay out of election battles; The 10 who signed on to an opinion column include two who served under President Donald Trump,” Politico, January 3, 2021 (6:13 p.m. EST, updated 7:57 p.m. EST).

Mark Espers served as Trump’s Secretary of Defense from July 2019 to November 9, 2020. James Mattis served as Trump’s Secretary of Defense from January 2017 to January 2019.

Emergency responses

Pro-democratic forces and the incoming Biden administration need to urgently mobilize in order to meet and defeat any actions by Trump and his administration and Republican legislative leaders to carry out a military coup d’état.

Needed Steps

1. Cancellation of demonstration permits Incoming officials of the Biden administration should request the immediate cancellation by D.C. and Park Service officials of all permits for demonstrations in the Wahington area on January 6.

These permits were secured by subterfuge (e.g., requested by women’s organizations in lieu of the Proud Boys). The demonstrations represent a clear physical danger to others, as revealed by prior behavior when gangs roved through the streets looking for individuals to attack, and stabbed a number.

The President’s tweets calling for all his supporters to come to the demonstrations and promising “It will be wild” amount to an incitement to violence. The permits should be rescinded, and if they aren’t Democratic lawyers should go to court to ensure that they are.

2. Refusal to obey illegal orders Military and any public order forces should refuse to obey any commands that appear to be illegal or unconstitutional.

3. Emergency Legal Advice Center An Emergency Legal Advice Center should be set up by the incoming Biden Administration, where current military officials or soldiers can call in for authoritative legal guidance on how to proceed in the event that they receive an illegal order.

4. Spell out potential criminal charges and consequences Incoming officials of the Biden administration should spell out publicly, and loudly, the specific criminal charges that might be brought against individuals who support a military coup or actions to overthrow the Constitution, and the corresponding punishments.

The serious nature of such actions and their consequences should be brought home to all Trump supporters.  Impunity for the commission of crimes must end on January 20, 2021.

5. Contingency plans to impeach Trump   The House should quietly make contingency plans to impeach Trump on or after January 6 if he attempts a coup.

6. Contingency plans to arrest Trump   Contingency plans should be made to arrest Donald Trump if he attempts a coup.

If Trump and his supporters are acting outside the Constitution, there is no reason raw power should not be met with raw power until the Constitutional order can be re-established.  The legal justification for arresting Trump could be to protect Congress’ Constitutional power and ability to impeach and remove a president, and to bring “high crimes and misdemeanors” to a halt pending immediate impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate.

6. Urgent Legal Actions Democratic Lawyers should be ready to bring urgent legal actions to stay any illegal or unconstitutional actions Trump or his supporters may be undertaking.

Some of the above steps should not be taken, at least publicly, until after the polls close in the Georgia run-off elections on January 5.

By early on the morning of January 6, the contingency plans to impeach Trump should be made public. That could very well get him to back off from any crazy actions he may be contemplating. It is interesting to note that when one or more legislators called for his immediate impeachment if he did’t sign the stimulus bill, he signed the bill.

Biden Address to the Nation If Trump does move to carry out a military coup, Joe Biden should be prepared to address the nation immediately.

Secret and Classified Emergency Powers
Because Trump, acting under color of his secret and classified Emergency Powers, could act to seize communications networks, and even shut down the Internet, special contingency plans should be  made to ensure effective communications should such a development occur.

Putin and Russia  We should bear in mind that Vladimir Putin and Russia have just carried out a devastating cyber attack, which may have compromised thousands of networks and computer systems, and that Russia could assist Trump in any attempted military coup d’état by interfering with our communications or shutting down news sites.

Delay in Congressional approval of electoral college vote   A potential military coup could be carried out in conjunction with, or at least in parallel with, attempts by Republican Senators and Congressmen to block approval by the Congress on January 6, 2021 of the Electoral College vote (on December 14) for Joe Biden.

Challenging Biden’s electoral slates in five or six states could greatly drag out Congressional approval of the electoral college vote. Challenge by a Congressman and a Senator to any state’s electoral slate will give rise to a two-hour debate in each House where the issue will be decided. This could easily lead to a delay of four hours per state slate challenged, or a total of 20-24 hours.  Both houses must approve the challenge in order for it to succeed.

Democratic Senators and Congressmen should bring plenty of food and water with them on January 6, and be prepared to work through the night and the following day to bring the formal election of Joe Biden to a successful conclusion.

If the demonstrations lead to violence and Trump sends troops or other federal forces in to restore law and order, perhaps invoking the Insurrection Act, who knows what could happen amid the ensuing chaos?

If Trump reports there is a “terrorist threat” to e.g., blow up the Capitol, or undertakes military action against Iran, a military coup could well be underway.

Trump is desperate and unhinged, surrounded by lunatic advisers who have been talking about imposing martial law for weeks.

Democrats and everyone else should take the threat of a Trump attempted military coup seriously.

Trump might not attempt a military coup.  If he did, he probably would not succeed.  But he is desperate enough and crazy enough to try.

The steps outlined above should be adopted, on an urgent basis.

The Trenchant Observer