The Nation’s John Nichols: Trump’s Coup Nearly Succeeded. He Will Try Again in 2024

StoryOctober 14, 2021
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As the House committee probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol ramps up its investigation, new details continue to emerge about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to stay in the White House despite losing the 2020 election. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently revealed Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times for help overturning the election. One of Trump’s lawyers also wrote a memo detailing how Trump could stage a coup by getting electors from seven states thrown out, thus denying Biden’s victory. The House select committee may also file charges against top Trump adviser Steve Bannon if he refuses to testify and hand over documents. John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, says Trump’s continued grip on the Republican Party and his likely run for president in 2024 make the investigations vital to safeguarding democracy. “We really are looking at the prospect that Trump will seek to implement exactly the strategy that he was trying to implement before January 6 again in 2024,” says Nichols.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

The House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has subpoenaed former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, whom Donald Trump considered installing as attorney general in the final weeks of his presidency because he supported subverting the election. This comes as information continues to come out about Trump’s extraordinary efforts to stay in the White House after losing to Joe Biden. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently revealed Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times for help to overturn the election. The Senate report states, “Trump’s efforts to use DOJ as a means to overturn the election results was part of his interrelated efforts to retain the presidency by any means necessary,” unquote. One of Trump’s lawyers, John Eastman, also wrote a two-page memo detailing how Trump could essentially stage a coup by getting the electors from seven states thrown out, preventing Biden from winning enough electoral votes. On Wednesday, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified in private for eight hours before the House subcommittee investigating the January 6th insurrection. The committee is preparing to file criminal charges as soon as today, if former Trump adviser Steve Bannon misses a deadline to testify and hand over documents. Bannon has been pardoned by Donald Trump.

We’re joined now by John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, his latest article “Trump’s Coup Attempt Is Far From Finished.”

Explain why people should care right now, John Nichols, as, of course, President Trump is not president anymore.

JOHN NICHOLS: You’re right, he is not president anymore, although he certainly tried to remain as president. And we’re getting more and more evidence of that. People should care because there’s very little doubt at this point that Donald Trump is preparing to run for president in 2024. He was in Iowa over the weekend. And you couldn’t look at that rally, that event, with all of the state Republican leadership and senior member of the U.S. Senate Chuck Grassley present, and not know that this was preparation for a presidential run in the first caucus state in the country. So, that’s number one. We know that Trump is going to run for president again, or at least we can make that assumption.

Number two, he has taken full control of the Republican Party. It is absurd to suggest at this point that Donald Trump doesn’t have top-to-bottom control of the party at the national level and, frankly, in most of the states. And so, he will, if he runs, be the Republican nominee for president of the United States in 2024.

And then, finally, if he is the Republican nominee, even if he loses, we know from his past behavior that on election night or the next morning, he will declare that he won and the only thing that stood in his way was fraud. And because of this increasing control over the Republican Party, because of this increasing acceptance within the Republican Party at the state level of this big lie approach, we really are looking at the prospect that Trump will seek to implement exactly the strategy that he was trying to implement before January 6th again in 2024.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Nichols, you have argued that, of course, Trump was impeached, but he should have been convicted. If he had been convicted, of course, he would have been prevented from running for another term. But could he have been convicted?

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, this is the very interesting question, because as all of this new information comes out, Nermeen, what we’re starting to see is that the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate did not have all of the evidence about Donald Trump’s wrongdoing. What we now know is that he abused his position in ways that are jaw-dropping. The pressure that he put on the Department of Justice, the clear strategy that he had developed to get the Department of Justice to say that it was investigating fraud, and then to use that statement to get state legislatures under Republican control to send alternative slates of electors, was clearly part of an overall plan to upend the election results and to retain the presidency. That might — I say “might” — have had an impact on at least some Republican senators and might have led to a conviction. But you didn’t get the conviction. What you got instead was 57 senators, the largest number in history, voting to convict a president who had — or former president at that point, who had committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Now the question is: Can we do anything going forward?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Donald Trump speaking on the John Solomon Reports podcast earlier this month.

DONALD TRUMP: The insurrection took place on November 3rd. That was the insurrection, when they rigged the election. The big insurrection, the real insurrection, really the crime of the century, that took place on November 3rd and not on January 6th.

AMY GOODMAN: The real insurrection was Election Day. John Nichols, the significance of this, and the point that the voting rights attorney Marc Elias makes, that there are so many voter suppression laws that are passing around the country right now to make it extremely difficult, particularly for Black, Latinx populations, to vote, that it will make it more possible that there will be charges of fraud when someone makes a mistake because they vote in the same way they voted for years and suddenly they’re wrong?

JOHN NICHOLS: There is simply no question, Amy. That’s exactly what’s going on. Donald Trump is promoting a big lie. And there’s a lot of folks who are saying, “Well, yeah, he’s the former president. He’s been called out as a liar. We know that. We know that.” But the fact is, he’s succeeding. In state after state after state, Republican officials, many of whom in the past stood up to him, or at least didn’t go along with him on everything, are falling into line. They are supporting these bogus audits. And, as you point out, they are supporting election and voter suppression strategies, that, if implemented, will make it dramatically easier for the Republicans to upend election results or to impact election results in 2024.

This is a big deal. And people have to refocus on the whole of this story, refocus on Donald Trump’s clear sedition, his efforts to overturn an election result, and refocus on how to, A, avert the voter suppression strategies — and that’s something that Congress can do by endorsing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — but also to hold Trump to account. It is absurd to suggest, as we learn more and more about Donald Trump’s personal engagement in dramatic abuses of office, that Congress does not revisit these issues, and, frankly, that state officials do not revisit these issues, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. The John Eastman memo, the significance of it?

JOHN NICHOLS: It lays out the strategy that was being examined in 2020, and it tells us what will be done in 2024 if action is not taken to hold Donald Trump to account and to avert voter suppression.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, John Nichols. There’s much more to talk about with you. We’ll have you back on, The Nation's national affairs correspondent, and we'll link to your piece at democracynow.org.

And we end today’s show — we send condolences to our producer John Hamilton on the death of his father, William “Billy” Selden Hamilton, a professor of Slavic languages and linguistics, spent nearly three decades as assistant dean of the college at Wake Forest University, also a longtime bluegrass musician, was affectionately known as “Banjo.”

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for two positions: a director of finance and administration and a human resources manager. Learn more and apply at democracynow.org.

Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Adriano Contreras. Our general manager is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Miriam Barnard. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Save lives.

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