GOP senators were briefed on Jan. 4 about plans to overturn election

The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has learned that GOP senators were briefed 2 days earlier on White House plans to overturn the election by declaring a national emergency, the Guardian reported on Saturday, December 11, 2021 (story here).

That information is in a PowerPoint among materials turned over by Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff at the time, in response to a subpoena.

The PowerPoint makes no reference to a violent takeover of Congress, which occurred 2 days later. But it shows Trump and those around him were discussing multiple schemes to override the election.

One of these involved briefing “Senators and members of Congress … foreign interference” as a prelude to Trump “declar[ing] a national emergency, declar[ing] all electronic voting invalid, and ask[ing] Congress to agree on a constitutionally acceptable remedy.” This actually got as far as conducting those briefings, which must have been conducted in secret and for Republican ears only, as neither the press nor Democrats were aware of such briefings until now.,

They also had worked out at least three ways for Pence to prevent the election from being certified. These were “seat Trump slates of electors over the objections of Democrats in key states, reject the Biden slates of electors, or delay the certification to allow for a ‘vetting’ and counting of only ‘legal paper ballots’.”

When Pence didn’t cooperate, “sometime between the late evening of 5 January and the early hours of 6 January, … Trump then pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place entirely,” the Guardian reports. Again, there was no reference to a violent insurrection, but this may be what gave rise to the now-infamous “Coup Memo” by lawyer John Eastman, a Trump ally and subversive affiliated with the Claremont Institute, a fascist think tank (see article here).

Plotting also was emanating from within Congress. The materials subpoenaed from Meadows include “his text messages with a member of Congress, who told Meadows about a ‘highly controversial’ plan to send slates of electors for Trump to the joint session of Congress,” to which “Meadows replied: ‘I love it.'”

These revelations detail scheming that stopped short of ham-handedly sweeping aside the Constitution, and don’t indicate there was conscious planning of a violent assault on Congress to prevent certifying the election, but do reveal efforts to game the system in a very extreme way.

Some fanatical Trump supporters, including disgraced ex-Army general Mike Flynn, a pardoned perjurer, and Mike Lindell, a reformed crack addict turned businessman, argued in Oval Office meetings for a military coup, but were shot down by Trump aides who quickly intervened to steer Trump away from such ideas.

Based on what’s now known, it appears Trump and his key advisers hesitated when pushed to simply toss aside the Constitution and seize power. While those advisers may have had some scruples, Trump has none, so this probably was because it wouldn’t have worked because key institutional safeguards still did work — notably, neither the military nor the courts were cooperating with the schemers.

Even though it didn’t succeed, all of this was extremely dangerous for our democracy. And some observers fear it was just a warmup for 2024 and might succeed then, as GOP legislatures across the country enact legislation that appears design to facilitate such schemes and make them more possible.

The Constitution was designed to have legislatures elect the president at a time when most Americans couldn’t vote. In those days, the electorate consisted of white male landowners who were widely dispersed, travel was by horseback or wagon, and phones and telegraphs didn’t exist. Elections by popular vote were far less practical then; it was much easier to bring together a group of elected representatives and have them take a vote on behalf of the state.

Our society has evolved tremendously since then. Legislatures haven’t appointed electors since the 1870s. Suffrage has expanded to women, Native Americans, blacks, and adults over age 18. Everyone has access to instantaneous news, and there’s no need or justification for an intermediary between citizens and election of leaders. The power of the presidency has grown, the federal government is much larger and more complex, and governing is vastly different from then.

The vestigial remnants of that obsolete electoral system, which originally played a role in preserving slavery, still allow losing candidates to win a majority of electoral votes by giving outsized voting power to small-population states (which, in the modern era, happen to lean strongly conservative). That system is still accepted as legitimate by nearly all Americans, even though a majority would favor direct election of the president by popular vote.

But that’s probably as far as the envelope can be pushed; and rampant gerrymandering of legislatures further challenge the legitimacy and public acceptance of that system. Gaming it by allowing wildly unrepresentative state legislatures to override their voters’ choice of electors — and ultimately of a president — is several bridges too far.

But the GOP’s attack on democracy might not even stop there. If Republicans win a House majority in 2024, they might by a simple (and narrow) majority vote along party lines refuse to acknowledge the popular and electoral vote results, and force a House vote to choose a president, in which each state gets one vote — a Constitutional procedure designed for electoral deadlock and never intended to be used to override an electoral vote majority. This is subversion taken beyond all bounds of legitimacy, but Republicans openly talk about it.

You could also anticipate that a Republican House majority might approve an endless train of impeachments against any Democrat who still manages to get into the White House, as an illegitimate tactic to harass the elected president and try to prevent him or her from governing. When various commentators write about Republicans burning our government down, they’re referring to something along these lines.

Recent events have demonstrated there is little, if anything, that Republicans aren’t capable of — and the more radical Republicans in Congress are exhibiting almost no self-restraint. Republicans’ enthusiastic embrace of gun-brandishing rightwing militias is also extremely disturbing. We’re now in a situation where the rest of have to think about how we’re going to defend ourselves against a mass cult movement led by a grotesque demagogue.

Until the GOP steps back from its march toward fascism, responsible citizens simply can’t vote for that party or its candidates.

Return to The-Ave.US Home Page

Comments are closed.