In case it’s not yet obvious that Trump tried everything in his power to overthrow a free and fair election, here is what we know, or can reasonably surmise, about his plan to stay in office despite an overwhelming defeat at the polls:
1. Before the election, Trump began to sow doubt in the electoral process by claiming that the election would be rigged if he didn’t win. (He did the same in 2015.)
2. In anticipation of a large mail-in vote caused by Covid, Trump named a lackey (Louis DeJoy) as Postmaster General to delay and disrupt the mail, particularly in cities with large Democratic majorities.
3. On the night of the election, Trump claimed victory long before all of the ballots were counted. This was designed to support his claims of a stolen election should Biden ultimately be named the winner.
4. As mail-in and absentee ballots continued to be counted, Trump claimed the ballots were fraudulent and encouraged armed supporters to go to ballot-counting stations to disrupt the counting and intimidate election workers.
5. When it was clear that Biden had won, Trump and his personal lawyers claimed foreign interference in the election, saying that China dumped millions of ballots in the mailboxes. That Venezuela and Italy hacked Dominion voting machines to change votes to Biden.
6. Trump and his lawyers filed more than 60 lawsuits claiming voter fraud. All but one was thrown out for lack of evidence.
7. Trump and his closest supporters created a “war room” in the Willard Hotel where sycophants made plans to overturn the election results.
8. As cabinet members announced their resignations, Trump began replacing them with more compliant loyalists, including acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller who tried to investigate a voter fraud conspiracy involving Italian satellites that the DOJ called “pure insanity.”
9. Trump pressured Department of Justice officials to declare the election fraudulent and to order a new election. When they refused, he threatened to fire acting Attorney General Rosen and replace him with Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark.
10. Trump, his personal attorneys, and other supporters called Secretaries of State in Georgia and other critical swing states asking them to “find” the precise number of votes to change the outcome of the election.
11. As other plans for Trump to stay in power failed, he and his inner circle encouraged Republican-led state legislatures to select “alternative” slates of electors to replace the legitimate slates.
12. As Biden’s inauguration neared, Trump demanded that Vice-President Pence refuse to certify the official electoral votes on January 6 by declaring them invalid and sending the election to state legislatures where Republican legislators would declare Trump the winner.
13. Trump sycophants, including the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice arranged for a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC the day Congress was set to certify the vote. Trump tweeted supporters to “Be there. It will be wild.” In the days leading up to the rally, the recently pardoned felons, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, met with leaders of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to plan the coup. As part of the plan, these insurgent militias organized weapons depots outside the District of Columbia in anticipation of a civil war.
14. On January 5, at least one congressional representative provided an apparent reconnaissance tour of the Capitol for constituents who participated in the January 6 insurrection.
15. In the early morning hours of January 6, pipe bombs were placed in front of the offices of Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee as an obvious attempt to create a distraction for law enforcement prior to the insurrection.
16. On the morning of January 6, Trump placed a phone call to the Vice-President in a last-ditch attempt to convince Pence to refuse certification of the electoral votes. When he refused, Trump angrily called him a pussy before hanging up. He then tweeted that the Vice-President “didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.” In essence, this was the equivalent of a crime boss ordering a hit.
17. At the “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump extremists and conspiracy theorists made a series of fiery speeches telling the crowd to “fight like hell” or they wouldn’t have their country anymore.
18. When many of Trump’s armed supporters refused to enter the rally grounds for fear of having their weapons confiscated as they passed through security screenings, Trump became upset by the optics of a small crowd. He then demanded that the Secret Service take down the magnetometers. When told that many in the crowd were armed, Trump said he didn’t care, they weren’t there to harm him.
19. In his own speech at the rally, Trump asked his supporters to “march to the Capitol,” saying he would join them. He became furious when the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol to lead the insurgency.
20. As the electoral certification got underway, 147 of Trump’s congressional supporters – Biggs, Brooks, Boebert, Cawthorn, Cruz, Gohmert, Gaetz, Gosar, Hawley, Loudermilk, Taylor-Greene, Tuberville, et al began to challenge electoral votes.
21. Meanwhile, even before the rally ended, Trump’s insurgent militias began to break through police lines and encouraged others to follow.
22. As the siege of the Capitol began, gallows were constructed on Capitol grounds with the apparent intent to threaten VP Pence and Democratic leaders. After Trump issued a tweet saying Pence didn’t have the courage to do what’s right, the crowd became even more inflamed and clearly intended to murder the Vice-President, coming within a few feet of Pence and members of Congress.
23. Following Pence’s narrow escape, it appears the next step in the plan was for Trump loyalists in the Secret Service to spirit Pence away from the Capitol so that Chuck Grassley, as president pro tempore of the Senate, could take Pence’s place and send the election back to the state legislatures.
24. As a last-ditch effort, it appears Trump planned to use the violence as an excise to declare martial law. In doing so, he could order the military to seize voting machines and call for a new Putin-style “election” that he would be guaranteed to “win.”
25. Trump would then declare himself president for life as he had previously suggested when China’s Xi Jinping was given that title.
If not for the courage of the Capitol police, along with Mike Pence and a few other individuals, we would no longer be living in a constitutional democracy. But we must all realize that Trump’s attempted coup is far from over. Not only does he plan to run again in 2024. His hateful and heavily armed followers are standing by waiting for his orders. In addition, he has successfully created suspicion about election security resulting in threats of violence against election officials and their subsequent resignations. Many of those have been replaced by MAGAts who will do his bidding. And throughout the country he is promoting candidates for governor, Congress, and Secretaries of State who are attuned to his ideology.
Even if Trump is eventually charged with seditious conspiracy, manslaughter and various other crimes, he still has a compliant majority on the Supreme Court. He still has a well-established propaganda network (Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and talk radio). He still benefits from a shocking amount of disinformation on social media platforms. He still has the support of the Republican Party and “Christian” evangelicals. And there are still nearly 74 million Americans who voted for his brand of hateful and vengeful politics – many of them heavily armed and waiting for the opportunity to act.