More importantly: we have no reason to believe that Trump will stop there. Because if he has been consistent in anything these past four years, it is this: he has no respect for laws or norms, and he will always push boundaries, and he will do almost anything to stay on top.
Back in August, John Nagl and Paul Yingling—two very distinguished military intellectuals and retired U.S. Army officers—published an important piece entitled “’. . . All Enemies Foreign and Domestic’: An Open Letter to Gen Milley.” Their basic point was simple: “If Donald Trump refuses to leave office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order.” This piece generated incredible controversy. Many, Trump supporters but also people on the center and left, disparaged the piece as a call for direct military intervention in domestic politics, and almost as a call for a kind of coup. I believe this was a serious misreading of the piece, and I said so back then. But their specific argument notwithstanding, their piece was a brave and important identification of some very real scenarios: what if Trump refuses to leave on January 20, and what if he uses Homeland Security forces—the forces that were deployed on the streets of Portland—to overwhelm Secret Service officers seeking to escort him out? Or, what if he refuses to leave, and there are mass demonstrations in Washington, D.C, and he calls out federal forces, or even the U.S. military, to suppress the protests, perhaps invoking the Insurrection Act? What then? What happens then? Nagl and Yingling’s basic point is that all U.S. military forces and all federal agents have a duty to defend the Constitution, and this means that they should not follow illegal orders, and must be prepared—if it comes to this—to uphold the law. If it comes to this.
Joe Biden is the President-elect whose very status is the outcome of a contentious process that is not yet over. Donald Trump is the President. For many years he told us that he could not legitimately lose an election. Now he is telling us that he did not legitimately lose, and he in fact won, and he has no intention of giving up power. And he is methodically doing everything in his power to remain in power. He is a clear in present danger to democracy. And he is not gone yet.
It is not over until it’s over.
And it is definitely not over.