Editorial: Trump Denies Talking Martial Law, But The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

As absurd and unhinged as Donald Trump’s rejection of the 2020 presidential election results has been, the suggestion of using martial law to overturn the results transcends absurdity. The idea that Trump could possibly entertain invoking martial law to force an American election to turn out in his favor has alarmed even some Trump officials who normally don’t have a problem with Donald Trump’s authoritarian behavior.

Some Trump loyalists have recently called on Trump to invoke martial law to overthrow the 2020 election, which they (and Trump) have baselessly insisted was rife with voter fraud. Trump aides who were present at a December 18 Oval Office meeting have said that Trump discussed the idea of invoking martial law during the meeting.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump recently pardoned for criminal charges relating to the Russia investigation, tweeted that Trump should “temporarily suspend the Constitution” and declare martial law. And just days before the December 18 Oval Office meeting, Flynn, on conservative station Newsmax, suggested that Trump send the U.S. military to swing states where Biden won, to make them “rerun the election.” 

“He could order within the swing states… if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states, and basically re-run an election in each of those states,” said Flynn.

Republican Virginia state senator Amanda F. Chase, a contender for Virginia governor, has also taken up the “martial law” flag. Shortly after the electoral college confirmed Joe Biden as president-elect, Chase took to Facebook. 

“Not my President and never will be,” wrote Chase, referring to Joe Biden. “The American people aren’t fools. We know you cheated to win and we’ll never accept these results. Fair elections we can accept but cheating to win; never. It’s not over yet. So thankful President Trump has a backbone and refuses to concede. President Trump should declare martial law as recommended by General Flynn.”

Trump has dismissed the reports that he has discussed invoking martial law.

“Martial Law = Fake News,” tweeted Trump on December 18. “Just more knowingly bad reporting!”

It doesn’t matter much whether Trump is telling the truth about that conversation. He’s sounded yet another dog whistle for his base. As with Trump’s references to QAnon, the Proud Boys, and other fringe groups and activities, his mere mention of martial law is enough for many Trump supporters to take it as a signal of support from their leader. Those who have been waiting for the opportunity to use their weapons to play Army (and who don’t fully understand the concept of “martial law”) could be incited to violence in the name of “patriotism.” 

Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security under president Trump, told CNN’s Reliable Sources, ”In the conspiratorial conservative base of supporting Trump, there are calls for using the Insurrection Act to declare martial law.

“When they hear that the president is actually considering this, there are violent extremist groups that look at this as a dog whistle, an excuse to go out and create … violence,” said Neumann. 

She refers to it as acceleration. These groups try to overthrow the U.S. government…”through a civil war and look to accelerate the chaos, accelerate the coming of the civil war.

“So when they hear that the president is open to this idea of martial law, we may see certain groups mobilizing to commit acts that, in their minds, a justification for the use of the Insurrection Act,” Neumann said.

But aren’t these Trump-supporting extremist groups misreading what the Insurrection Act of 1807 really is? This federal law empowers a U.S. president to deploy U.S. military and National Guard troops in the United States to suppress insurrection and rebellion. In the fantasy world of violent extremist Trump supporters, they apparently see themselves as the heroes who will, right alongside real military troops, vanquish the evil Biden voters, or force them at gunpoint to vote for Donald Trump. 

Various notable members of the U.S. military, however, have spoken out to affirm that the military has no role in the outcome of an American election.

Retired 11th Commander of US SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) Tony Thomas, for example, tweeted on December 18, “Mike (Flynn), stop. Just stop. You are a former soldier. You know that leveraging the military to “rerun elections” is a totally inappropriate role for the profession. You are also undercutting the extraordinary trust and confidence America has in their military. Stop!”

As for those Trump supporters who aren’t part of violent extremist groups, or those who aren’t living in the middle of a conspiracy theory, how do they reconcile “land of the free” with instituting martial law to overthrow a U.S. election? How do they apply “home of the brave” to any of the GOP lawmakers they’ve elected and re-elected, who can’t muster the courage to stand up against Donald Trump’s continued attempts to take down democracy? 

INSANE: Trump Actually Considering MARTIAL LAW | 
The David Pakman Show [2020-12-21]

Oval Office Meeting w/ Sidney “Kraken” Powell, Mike “Martial Law” Flynn & “Dangerous” Donald Trump | Glenn Kirschner [2020-12-20]

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