A timeline of the martial law order Trump didn't want to turn over to the Jan. 6 committee
Comments Michael Flynn made on Newsmax hit different now.
We were one signature away from the possible end of democracy in the country.
We learned this last Friday, when Politico published an unsigned executive order dated December 16, 2020, that would’ve empowered the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze” voting machines. The scheme outlined in the document provided a pretext for Trump to stay in office past the constitutional January 20 inauguration day while an “assessment” was taking place by the director of national intelligence, and it also would have appointed a special counsel to oversee the operation. You can read it here.
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Politico reported that Trump lawyers tried to shield the document from the congressional committee that’s investigating the January 6 attack on members of Congress who were in the process of certifying his election loss. During a Sunday appearance on Face the Nation, January 6 committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) confirmed that the document is now in the committee’s possession.
“We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false,” Thompson said. “So if you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it’s a discussion, the public needs to know. We’ve never had that before.”
Thompson hinted at more revelations to come.
“We do know that a potential person was identified to become the attorney general of the United States who would communicate with certain states that the election on their situation had been fraudulent and not to produce certified documents,” he said.
As news of the document circulated over the weekend, I recalled comments Michael Flynn made on Newsmax on December 17, 2020, that seem even more ominous in light of what we now know.
Flynn, who had been pardoned by Trump for lying to the FBI just weeks before, floated the idea of Trump declaring martial law in a manner consistent with the plan outlined by the unsigned EO.
“He could order, within the swing states — if he wanted to — he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states,” Flynn said. “People out there talk about martial law like it's something that we've never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times."
Two days after Flynn made those remarks, the New York Times reported he was in the room during a White House meeting where the idea of naming Sidney Powell special counsel was discussed. Powell, a lawyer for Trump’s campaign, was at that time playing a leading role in spreading debunked conspiracy theories about voting machines changing votes — lies over which Dominion Voting Systems sued her for more than a billion dollars in damages. (The suit is ongoing.)
"We are fixing to overturn the results of the election in multiple states,” Powell said in one November 2020 Fox News appearance.
And the same day as that White House meeting — December 19 — Trump posted a tweet inviting his followers to come to the “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” adding, “By there, will be wild!”
There are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the unsigned EO. We don’t yet know who wrote it. Most of Trump’s advisers opposed the plan, according to the aforementioned New York Times report about the White House meeting in which Powell’s appointment as special counsel was discussed. But we don’t know for sure why he never signed the document. And we don’t yet know what Flynn and Powell will tell the January 6 committee, which is currently working to obtain additional information from each of them.
And, of course, even had Trump signed it, we’ll never know whether the effort to use the powers of the federal government to reinstall himself as president would’ve been successful. But the document indicates how terrifyingly close we came to finding out.
As more revelations trickle out thanks to the work of the January 6 committee, it’s important to keep the big picture in view. Whether we’re talking about one scheme to seize voting machines or another to pressure Pence into throwing out the electoral results on January 6 (which I’ve written about in this newsletter), Trump was clearly interested in hanging on to power by any means necessary. And instead of slinking away from his involvement in this authoritarian plotting, Trump is all but certain to run for president again on the same lies embodied in the unsigned EO — that power was stolen from him and he was therefore right to try to overturn the election results.
In other words, we may no longer be one signature from the brink, but we’re still just one election away. And, as Rep. Mike McCaul’s (R-TX) comments on Face the Nation indicated, even so-called “moderate” Republicans remain firmly behind Trump.
"These are allegations. I don't think the executive order was ever followed through with,” he said.
I would argue, however, it’s still worth being concerned about the intent to murder democracy, even if Trump was ultimately unsuccessful.
Republicans struggle to defend their policy positions
Two other elected Republicans who went on the Sunday shows struggled to defend the party line on abortion and new voting restrictions.
On the heels of Friday’s March for Life, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota went on Fox News Sunday and was asked if Fox News polling showing voters support preserving Roe v. Wade by a two-to-one margin (63 percent to 31 percent who support overturning it) means her support of banning almost all abortions is out of step with the public. But instead of making a case that the polling is somehow flawed, Noem immediately changed the topic.
“71 percent of Americans believe there should be some reasonable restrictions on abortion,” Noem pointed out, even though “reasonable restrictions on abortion” is completely consistent with Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Joni Ernst from the neighboring state of Iowa similarly changed the topic when she was challenged to explain how the new Iowa voting restriction law will make elections more secure.
“The emphasis seems to be on red states … let’s turn on attention to [blue] states and make sure that those voters have the access necessary,” she ultimately said, dodging the question.
Blinken doesn’t rule out US troops getting involved in Ukraine
One final notable note from the Sunday shows was Secretary of State Antony Blinken not ruling out that US troops could get involved if Russia re-invades Ukraine, as is widely expected.
President Biden last month said “the idea the United States will unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now.” But economic sanctions are clearly on the table, and Blinken noted that NATO is building up its “defensive capabilities.”
That’s it for today
I’ll be back with more tomorrow.