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Allan Nairn: Trump and Republicans Use Legal & Physical Means in Attempted Coup Against Democracy

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As President Trump is doubling down on unsubstantiated claims of election rigging as election workers continue counting ballots in several states, concern is growing that some Trump supporters may use violence to disrupt the process. Trump’s supporters have protested at ballot-counting locations in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, where police arrested two men after receiving a tip that men armed with AR-15s were driving from Virginia to attack the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes are still being counted. Meanwhile, Trump’s former campaign manager Steve Bannon called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Trump and the extremist Republicans, who constitute a minority of the population and have a minority of the votes, are trying to consolidate their minority rule,” says investigative journalist Allan Nairn. “Things wouldn’t even be close now if you just based the presidency, like most countries do, on who gets the most votes.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re starting with our top news. As President Trump doubles down on unsubstantiated claims of election rigging, concern is growing Trump’s supporters may begin using violence to disrupt the electoral process. Trump addressed the nation Thursday night from the White House, falsely claiming victory and accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election. He offered no evidence to back up his claims.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We think there’s going to be a lot of litigation, because we have so much evidence, so much proof. And it’s going to end up perhaps at the highest court in the land. We’ll see. But we think there will be a lot of litigation, because we can’t have an election stolen like this.

AMY GOODMAN: ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC all stopped airing Trump’s speech live because it was filled with lies about the election and the vote-counting process.

On Thursday, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., called for, quote, “total war over this election,” unquote. Trump supporters have protested at ballot-counting locations in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, where police have arrested two men after receiving a tip that the men were armed with AR-15s and were driving a Hummer up from Virginia to attack the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the ballots are being counted. Police stopped the vehicle just north of the convention center. The Hummer had several stickers connected to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.

Election officials say they’re worried about the safety of their staff due to a spike in threats. This is Joe Gloria, the registrar in Clark County, Nevada, where votes are still being counted.

JOE GLORIA: I can tell you that my wife and my mother are very concerned for me. But we have security here. We have law enforcement who are protecting us. I am concerned for the safety of my staff. We’re putting measures into place to make sure that we have the security that’s necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka used his show on Salem Radio Network to protest how votes are being counted. Gorka left the White House in 2017 after reports emerged of his ties to a Nazi-allied group and racist paramilitary group when he served as a Hungarian politician. This is what Gorka said Thursday.

SEBASTIAN GORKA: We need the judges to enforce the rule of law. And if the local bureaucrats prevent us from seeing the evidence, from seeing the legitimate votes, we need the U.S. Marshals to deploy, and they need to break down the doors of those polling stations and stop the crimes being committed. It is that simple.

AMY GOODMAN: Also on Thursday, Twitter moved to permanently ban President Trump’s now-indicted former campaign manager Steve Bannon from the platform, after Bannon called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Bannon made the comment on his podcast War Room: Pandemic.

STEVE BANNON: I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put the heads on pikes. Right? I’d put them at the two corners of the White House, as a warning to federal bureaucrats: You either get with the program, or you’re gone.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Bannon is currently out on bail after being indicted for alleged fundraising fraud.

All of this comes as the Trump campaign has faced multiple setbacks in the courtroom. And a legal adviser told Fox Business they hope new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett will help Trump win the presidency if a case makes it to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service is reportedly sending reinforcements to Wilmington, Delaware, to protect Joe Biden, who could give a victory speech as early as today.

For more, we’re joined by independent journalist Allan Nairn.

Allan, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you summarize what has happened at this point, what you think is taking place and what will happen?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Trump and the extremist Republicans, who constitute a minority of the population and have a minority of the votes, are trying to consolidate their minority rule. They’re aided in that by the U.S. Constitution and the structure of the U.S. system, which is against, fundamentally, in a certain sense, has many barriers to, majority rule. It’s fundamentally anti-democratic. Things wouldn’t even be close now if you just based the presidency, like most countries do, on who gets the most votes. Biden is way ahead in the popular vote. And both parties expected that from the very beginning.

They have a whole series of things they’re trying to leverage. Starting from the deep level, they’re in the midst of trying to sabotage the census to exclude as many nonwhites as they can, and therefore make it easier for the Republican state legislatures to further gerrymander and give their minority of supporters even more dominant representation in the U.S. Congress. And in fact, the election results so far indicate that the Democratic establishment, led by Schumer and Pelosi and others and the campaign committee, did not turn out enough Democrats to take control of enough state legislatures to turn the tide of this gerrymandering and redistricting. So the structure of system, even after this relatively high-turnout election, is likely to get even worse.

On COVID, where Trump has committed, in essence, criminally negligent homicide and has a stack of approaching a quarter of a million bodies, a quarter of a million victims, he’s cynically leveraging that to attempted political advantage. He told his followers, “Don’t worry about COVID. Go to the polling place. Vote. It’s not going to hurt you.” And he observed that the Democrats told their followers, “No, COVID can kill you.” They simply stated the medical fact. Trump saw this and said, “Great. The Democrats are going to vote by mail. I’ll just sabotage the post office.” And he did. There are undoubtedly significant numbers of votes, which Democrats mailed, which will not arrive in time.

Then, as the second step, Trump is now saying, “OK, those mailed-in votes that did arrive, invalidate them. Don’t count them.” Then the Republican lawyers will go to the courts hoping to eventually reach a tame federal judge that they have, or reach the now tame U.S. Supreme Court, and get them to say, “Yeah, these votes should be invalidated.” And if that doesn’t work, they’re ready, as Lindsey Graham alluded to, to try to call on some Republican state legislatures to simply ignore the popular vote in their states and send pro-Trump electors, even if Trump lost the popular vote in their state.

Then, on the street level, aside from this indoor game of politics, which they’re playing very ruthlessly, they have their armed tough guys who Trump has been cultivating from the start — the militias, the civilians who carry guns, the racist police unions who Trump appeals to. And they first called on them to show up at the polling places. And by the way, another aspect of the structural rigging was that over the years Republican legislatures and governors had been systematically reducing the number of polling places for voting in areas that tend to vote against Trump — what courts have called surgical, race-based targeting. But they were calling, in the election, for their armed tough guys to show up at the polling places that did remain in enemy territory to try to intimidate people away from the polls. Now, as the vote counting is in process, people like Don Jr. and Bannon and Gorka and Trump himself, though not yet as explicitly as them, are essentially raising the prospect of staging physical assaults on vote-counting facilities, because, as President Trump put it, any vote that is part of a tally that is not coming out in his favor should not be considered a legal vote.

However, I think, from having seen over many years and worked against U.S. operations overseas led by — operations led by American Special Forces and the CIA, where they systematically try to disrupt or thwart elections, and sometimes back coups, the most recent big one being in Bolivia in 2019, that you have to be very — you have to get the timing right in the use of your street forces. And I think, on election night, in the crucial hours after late election night, when Trump went into his tent and started sulking like a bully who had been thwarted, I think he may have missed his moment, because that was the key moment to call his people onto the streets and start stopping and trashing the votes, and he failed to do that. They’re now playing catch-up. At this moment, the political atmosphere, I think, is not quite sufficiently favorable to them to give them a favorable chance of getting the vote count stopped that they want stopped.

A lot of this turns on political atmosphere, especially in the courts. For example, the only reason that Obamacare still exists now, even in its weakened form, is that when it came to the Supreme Court several years ago, Justice Roberts decided to reject the Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare because he feared the public reaction. He feared the public backlash. Now even the most militant radical-rightist Republican judges, they have their ears up. They have their fingers to the wind. They’re looking at the mood on the streets and in the country. And they’re looking at what they can get away with. They will do with whatever they think they can get away with. But if they think they can’t get away with something, they won’t do it.

This leads to the issue of the Senate. The Senate, if Biden becomes president and somehow manages to actually take the White House because he had the majority of the electoral votes — Senate control becomes absolutely crucial. If the Democrats fail to control the Senate, McConnell will try to act as, in essence, co-president. And the radical-rightist Supreme Court, now with a 6-to-3 majority with Barrett, will feel emboldened, licensed to do anything, because they won’t be facing the constraint of possible legislation, which you could have with a Democratic Senate, that might expand the number of justices or might implement term limits for justices, as Representative Ro Khanna and others have proposed, and they won’t be facing the prospect of any new Biden replacement judges, in case someone leaves, who might be oppositional, or McConnell could even decide to block Biden from putting in any federal judges whatsoever. So, this could let the Republican Supreme Court completely off the leash, and they could go about invalidating basic tenets of civil rights, voting rights, democracy that still exists in the United States.

So, we’re at a point of epic struggle right now and of great plasticity. Things could move radically in one direction or radically in the other direction. And I think people have to be very alert and also very self-disciplined, because one of the tools they already used over the summer in the racial justice demonstrations and the demonstrations against police brutality is deliberate provocation by the extreme right to try to create scenes of looting and senseless violence, that can then be used as an argument for even stricter authoritarianism and racism and nullification of democracy. And we can’t allow that to happen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Allan, I just wanted to ask you briefly — you were talking about the issue of the popular vote and the structural inequities built into the system. The actual margin for Joe Biden is likely to be much greater in the popular vote than it is right now, because most people are focusing on Arizona, obviously, and Pennsylvania and Georgia, but these states are actually much more advanced in their count than are a lot of the blue states. Like, California, New York, New Jersey have millions of votes that they have not yet counted. No one’s paying attention, obviously, because those states have already turned blue. But when the final vote total comes in, it’s very likely that Joe Biden may have about an 8 to 10 million margin in the popular vote, which I think will bring more into relief the problems, the structural problems right now, that the majority of the American people are not deciding these presidential elections. And yet, as you’re saying, the possibility for structural change will be even less now, given the fact that Republicans control the Senate. So, how do you see progressives moving forward to effect these structural changes in the future?

ALLAN NAIRN: Yes, the structural aspects could get even worse with the result of this election. You know, in most countries around the world, even those that have democracies that are not very strong, a direct popular presidential vote is the way it’s done. The U.S. Electoral College system is rather unique. And the Founders engineered it that way because they didn’t trust the majority, which made sense for them, because at the time of the founding, the majority was either disenfranchised and/or enslaved. But we’re still burdened with that system today.

But as bad as the Electoral College system is, as undemocratic as that is, the Senate structure is even more undemocratic, because it gives two senators to each state regardless of population. So, again, while people are nail biting over who wins the Electoral College, and they’re now nail biting over who’s going to control the Senate, if the Senate were allocated on some kind of basis of popular vote, again it wouldn’t be close. It would be an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate, reflecting the will of the clear majority of the United States residents and voters. But it’s engineered in the opposite directions, partly tracing back to the Founders and partly tracing back to the structural changes that Republicans have made, especially since around 1980, at the time of the rise of Reagan and at the time of the rise in Washington of the radical Republican lobby, funded by various industries, and then, in later years, by figures like the Koch brothers where they systematically set about trying to reengineer state legislatures and state voting rules around the country.

I think activists were on exactly the right track in setting out an agenda, a possible agenda for the coming year, if the Democrats got the presidency and the Senate, to push for all sorts of structural changes. But now that could be blocked if the Republicans, by their fingertips, hold on to the Senate. And I think it’s not clear yet exactly what tactics will be most effective in changing that reality. One of the tactics, I think, will have to be within the Democratic Party, to try to move out of power the corporate Democrats, who spent about a billion dollars on this campaign in things like Senate races that they could have won, that the polls said they were going to win easily, and that they actually lost, thereby opening the door to a McConnell, in effect, co-presidency. You know, those Democrats, those corporate Democrats, ended up making lots of political —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

ALLAN NAIRN: — consultants extremely rich, but they didn’t flip the votes sufficiently.

AMY GOODMAN: Allan, we want to thank you for being with us. Allan Nairn, independent journalist.

Next, union organizer Jane McAlevey on her firsthand experience with what went wrong in the 2000 Florida recount and what she says needs to happen now to stop what she calls an electoral coup. Stay with us.

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