America has not yet internalized what the last Republican administration did, during the last months of Donald Trump’s term of office. The country seems rather insistent on not letting the full scope of it drift into their heads, and every new detail seems to be presented with enough context stripped out to keep it vague.
The new release of Justice Department notes documenting conversations between Trump and his acting attorney general put things in very plain terms. From late December to the violent culmination of events on January 6, the Trump White House engaged in a multi-pronged effort to topple the United States government.
It was intentional. It was supported by top White House aides. It had the explicit goal of nullifying a U.S. presidential election so that the Trump White House could, acting in plain defiance of the rules set out in the Constitution, maintain power. That Trump and his top allies had spent the previous twelve months combing through government to remove those seen as insufficiently “loyal” to the White House’s increasingly law-bending edicts may or may not have been precursor, but there’s not even a little question about what happened in the last days of December and early days of January.
According to notes taken by deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, Trump asked acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to “just say that the election was corrupt,” then “leave the rest” to the White House and to Republicans in Congress. (Specifically mentioned by Trump in that call was, among others, Rep. Jim Jordan, who is now scurrying to evade questions about his communications with Trump on the day of the January 6 insurrection.) It was not once or twice: the Trump White House is said to have contacted Rosen and other officials “nearly every day” to pressure the agency to publicly cast doubts on the election.
Trump and others within the White House, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, also began calling Republican election officials in at least Arizona and Georgia to similarly pressure them to alter their vote totals in Trump’s favor.
In conjunction with both those efforts, Trump was encouraging members of his base to show up for a “march” on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, scheduled to exactly coincide with the formal congressional acknowledgement of the electoral totals. Trump and his allies sought to assemble as large a crowd as possible, for the specifically cited purpose of pressuring the assembled Congress to overturn the election’s outcome.
When the crowd turned violent, Trump did nothing. When Republican lawmakers called him personally to ask him for aid, he belittled and refused them.
The justification for each act was a propaganda campaign by Republican allies that fraudulently claimed non-Republicans had “stolen” the election from the party. Many of those claims were invented out of conspiratorial nothing (from Italian satellite links to ballots with “bamboo” in the paper); others were spiraled out from panicked claims about a somebody who saw a somebody with a something. Each of the propaganda claims were so brazenly false that courtroom judges drop-kicked them out out of evidence near-immediately.
There is nothing that needs teasing out, here. The Trump White House plan was in full view. Donald Trump and his top allies engaged in a multi-pronged, extended, pre-plotted campaign to overthrow the next constitutionally appointed U.S. presidency by falsely claiming the election was invalid; by pressuring the Department of Justice to issue statements further casting doubt on the election’s integrity; by calling key election officials and asking them to change reported vote totals on Trump’s behalf; by using conspiratorial claims to gather a mob of enraged would-be “patriots” convinced that direct action was needed to “stop the steal” from happening; by asking that crowd to march the Capitol; by rebuffing efforts, during the mob’s attack, to call off the now-violent mob.
It was an act of plain sedition, pre-planned and premeditated and orchestrated from inside Trump’s own inner circle. It was backed by a majority of House Republicans, multiple of which were in communication with Trump and dozens of whom were allied with the effort to falsely dispute the election’s results.
Donald Trump and his top aides engaged in a multipart plan to overthrow the United States government so as to retain power. Put that in your head and let it stew there, because there’s simply no denying that it’s true.
The new notes from the Department of Justice represent, by themselves, an act of official corruption easily besting Nixon’s worst. Asking the Department of Justice to falsely cast doubts on the integrity of a U.S. election that booted you from power is by itself an act that would demand impeachment, if Senate Republicans were not themselves so corrupt as to have allied with the idea. Calling a Georgia election official to ask that official to “find” new votes is a demand that should yet land Trump in prison for a decade or longer. Pointedly ignoring lawmakers asking for assistance as his enraged allies broke through windows and sought out his enemies is the stuff of terrorism, not mere corruption.
It is the three-pronged plan that elevates Trump and his top Republican allies from merely corrupt to outright seditionists. It was a plan intended to erase a U.S. presidential election. It sought out allies in the Department of Justice who would publicly discredit the election, allies in state governments who would change the vote totals, and a public mob that would disrupt the vote count and intimidate public officials into approving a Trump return to power.
It was all one plan, not three. Discredit the election using false claims; use the same false claims to stoke a public anger deep enough to justify tossing out the rule of law, in the name of restoring “order.”
It was an attempted fascist takeover, and many of its top orchestrators are still featured prominently on the Sunday news shows. Parts of it came very close to succeeding; had different Republican officials been in different offices, it seems quite possible now that Trump’s White House could have found state or county allies willing to alter votes in the manner they were requested. Parts of it were seemingly asinine, inventions of deranged and desperate minds; one has a hard time believing that a congressional declaration that Trump was “somehow” still president would be treated as legitimate by the press, the military, or the public at large, if the declaration had come from lawmakers being literally held hostage by a mob demanding they do so.
It was still an attempt, though. Trump and others within the White House engaged in weeks of effort in attempts to enlist both accomplices within government and a paramilitary force outside it. Trump is a traitor to his country. Any outcome that does not see him rotting in prison for his acts will itself be an affront to our would-be democracy.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.