An autocratic realignment: What if Trump’s conspiracy plot went well beyond what the public knows?
There was, it increasingly appears, a conspiracy involving some in the most senior levels of the Trump administration to end American representative democracy and replace it with a strongman oligarchy along the lines of Putin’s Russia or Orbán’s Hungary.
This would be followed, after the January 20th swearing-in of Trump for a second term, by a complete realignment of US foreign policy away from NATO and the EU and toward oligarchic, autocratic nations like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary.
As the possibility of this traitorous plan becomes increasingly visible, the GOP, after a frantic two weeks of not knowing what to say or do, has finally settled on a response to Trump’s theft of classified information: “Hillary did the same thing, and she didn’t go to jail!” I heard the comparison made at least a half-dozen times this weekend on various political shows.
For the record, Hillary did nothing whatsoever even remotely close to Trump’s theft of classified materials. Among the 50,000+ personal emails on her server, Republicans found three that had markings indicating they were at one time classified, none had to do with espionage or compromised national security in any way, and all three were clearly there because she had replied to somebody using the wrong account in error. But we can expect this to be the distraction line coming from Trump and the GOP.
So, what did Trump do, and why did he do it? And who helped him and why?
There’s little dispute that on January 6th, 2020, an armed mob incited by Donald Trump and led by members of several white supremacist militias tried to murder the Vice President and Speaker of the House to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s 7-million-vote victory in the November 2020 election.
Evidence is growing, however, that the leadership of this conspiracy to end our form of government and replace it with a Putin-style strongman oligarchy wasn’t limited to Trump, Stone, Giuliani, and a few dozen militia members.
While, at this moment, most of the evidence is circumstantial, collectively it paints a damning picture for which it’s hard to find any other possible explanation.
This article’s opening sentence describes the worst-case scenario that the media seems to be going out of its way not to even get close to mentioning. Again, this is, at this moment, still speculation, in large part because the alleged conspirators have been so successful at destroying much of the evidence that might have implicated (or cleared) them.
If Trump was truly planning not just to hang onto the presidency but to concurrently seize every lever of power in Washington — the way coups conducted from “inside of government” (like Putin and Orbán did) typically happen — he would need some help, particularly from the military and the senior levels of federal law enforcement. So let’s start there.
Over at the Department of Defense then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and his Chief of Staff Kash Patel (formely of Devin Nunes’ staff) were running the place.
They controlled the Pentagon and our armed forces but, more importantly, they controlled the National Guard, whose troops had previously surrounded buildings in the Capitol area three-deep during the peaceful BLM protests in the summer of 2020.
The prospect that violence was heading toward the Capitol on January 6th wasn’t a secret to anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account: the nation was awash with threats and planning for violence, much of it in the open.
This apparently so alarmed Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy that, on January 4th, he reached out to his boss, Trump’s recently-appointed Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, to get permission to send the National Guard to the Capitol building on January 6th to prevent the violence they were seeing being planned all over social media.
Acting Defense Secretary Miller, in the effective role of commander of our entire military just one step below Commander-in-Chief Trump (on whose behalf he acted), then issued a memo (attached at the end of this article) on January 4th specifically directing McCarthy and the National Guard that they were:
- Not authorized to be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.
- Not to interact physically with protestors, except when necessary in self-defense or defense of others.
- Not to employ any riot control agents.
- Not to share equipment with law enforcement agencies.
- Not authorized to use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities in assistance to Capitol Police.
- Not allowed to employ helicopters or any other air assets.
- Not to conduct searches, seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law enforcement activity.
- Not authorized to seek support from any non-DC National Guard units.
If this isn’t bad enough, on January 6th itself — as armed traitors were attacking police and searching to “hang Mike Pence” — Chris Miller oversaw a mid-afternoon, mid-riot conference call in which Army Secretary McCarthy was again asking for authority to immediately bring in the National Guard.
Then-Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations General Charles Flynn, the brother of convicted/pardoned foreign agent General Michael Flynn (who had been pushing Trump to declare martial law and seize voting machines nationwide) was on the call; both the Pentagon and the Army, it has been reported, lied to the press, Congress, and, apparently, to the Biden administration about his presence on that call for almost a year.
It wasn’t until December that it was widely reported that the National Security Council’s Colonel Earl Matthews (who was also on the call) wrote a memo calling both Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen Walter Piatt, the Director of Army Staff, “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their testimony to Congress in which they both denied they’d argued to withhold the National Guard on January 6th.
Most recently — just in the past few weeks — we discover that the phones and text messages of most of the group, including Chris Miller, Walter Piatt, Kash Patel and Ryan McCarthy, were all wiped of all conversations they had on January 6th.
ICE, whose plainclothes agents were sent by Trump to Portland to beat up and kidnap protesters off the street and used, essentially, as his private militia was also instructed by the Trump Administration to wipe all their phones after January 6th.
If they were involved in a plan to help Trump take over and run the government — as usually happens when coups involve senior levels of the military — it’s going to take a lot of digging to find out, since this coverup of their activities and conversations on January 6th was apparently in place for almost a full year before it was discovered.
Similarly, if Trump was planning to install himself in power in a way that echoed and aligned him with Putin, he’d need the active help and support of his palace guard, the Secret Service.
Here, again, we discover that the evidence is not only missing but that Trump appointees — still in government — knew about it for over a year and concealed that information from the January 6th Committee, Congress, and the media.
This was at the same time that Trump was maintaining possession of documents for which foreign governments would be willing to spend billions. In fact, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and others have spent billions of dollars on acquiring secrets and documents of that sort, via their annual intelligence budgets.
Trump would also have needed the support of several foreign governments if he was planning to end American democracy and re-align our nation with oligarchies run along the lines he and Putin were possibly envisioning.
Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia would logically be at the top of that list because of their military, oil, and financial power, followed by Turkey, Hungary, and Egypt because of their strategic locations.
And lest you think that even Trump wouldn’t be so audacious as to solicit help from a foreign government to hold power, please remember that he was impeached for exactly that: his attempted extortion of Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to smear Joe Biden.
A couple of events from last year might highlight the echoes of those plans to end American democracy and re-align our government with Russia/China/Saudi Arabia. If Trump was coordinating with foreign governments, suddenly a lot of seemingly disparate and inchoate events make sense.
First, throughout 2020 and in January of 2021, Trump removed from the White House to Mar-a-Lago hundreds of Top Secret (and above) documents that, according to multiple news reports, contained information that could reveal the identities and locations of America’s spies and agents.
Trump and Kushner already had a history of illegally sharing Top Secret “human intelligence” information with Saudi dictator Mohammed Bin Salman dating back to when MBS staged his own coup/takeover of the Saudi government.
As The Jerusalem Post reported on March 23, 2018:
“Kushner, who is the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and the crown prince had a late October meeting in Riyadh.
“A week later, Mohammed began what he called an ‘anti-corruption crackdown.’ The Saudi government arrested and jailed dozens of members of the Saudi royal family in a Riyadh hotel – among them Saudi figures named in a daily classified brief read by the president and his closest advisers that Kushner read avidly….
“According to the report, Mohammed told confidants that he and Kushner discussed Saudis identified in the classified brief as disloyal to Mohammed.”
The day before, CBS and The Intercept quoted MBS as gloating that Kushner was “in his pocket.”
The Washington Post noted that:
“Recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy and might make naive mistakes, according to people familiar with their reactions.
“… [National Security Advisor] McMaster was concerned there were no official records kept of what was said on the calls.
“Tillerson was even more aggrieved, they said, once remarking to staff: ‘Who is secretary of state here?’”
Meanwhile, throughout his presidency, Donald Trump was having secret phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin (over 20 have been identified, including one just days before the 2020 election).
The Moscow Project from the American Progress Action Fund documents more than 270 known contacts between Russia-linked operatives and members of the Trump Campaign and transition team, as well as at least 38 known meetings just leading up to the 2016 election.
The manager of his 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, who previously worked on behalf of Vladimir Putin, has recently admitted that he was regularly feeding inside campaign information to Russian intelligence. There is no known parallel to this behavior by any president in American history.
The Washington Post reported that Trump had a habit of carrying top-secret information that could damage our national security, intentionally leaving it in hotel rooms in hostile nations:
“Boxes of documents even came with Trump on foreign travel, following him to hotel rooms around the world — including countries considered foreign adversaries of the United States.”
The Mueller Report identifies ten specific instances of Trump trying to obstruct the investigation, including offering the bribe of a pardon to Paul Manafort, asking FBI Director Comey to “go easy” on General Flynn, and directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s ability to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia.
As the Mueller Report noted:
“The President launched public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who would could possess evidence adverse to the President, while in private the President engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation.
“For instance, the President attempted to remove the Attorney General; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions un-recuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the government.”
It adds, detailing Trump’s specific obstruction of justice crimes:
“These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.
“Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance. For example, the President’s direction to McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed was followed almost immediately by his direction to Lewandowski to tell the Attorney General to limit the scope of the Russia investigation to prospective election-interference only — a temporal connection that suggests that both acts were taken with a related purpose with respect to the investigation.”
There are, after all, credible assertions that when Trump was elected, members of Russian intelligence and Putin’s inner circle were literally partying in Moscow, explicitly celebrating a victory they truly believed they helped make happen.
In his first months in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador, resulting in MOSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy. That, in turn, prompted the CIA to worry that a longtime US spy buried deep in the Kremlin was similarly vulnerable to Trump handing him over to Putin.
As CNN noted when the story leaked two years later:
“The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
“According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.”
The CIA concluded that the risk Trump had burned the spy was so great that, at massive loss to US intelligence abilities that may have helped forestall the invasion of Ukraine, we pulled the spy out of Russia in 2017.
Similarly, when they met in Helsinki, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is also fluent in English and German) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large room in which they met.
Things were picking up in 2019, as Putin was planning his invasion of Ukraine while Trump was preparing for the 2020 election.
- On July 31, Trump had another private conversation with Putin. The White House told Congress and the press that they discussed “wildfires” and “trade between the nations.” No droids in this car…
- The following week, on August 2nd, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reported that Trump had just asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a list of all its employees (including all our “spies”) who had worked there more than 90 days, and the request had intelligence officials experiencing “disquiet.”
- Within a year, The New York Times ran a story with the headline: Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants. The CIA then alerted spies around the world that their identities had probably been compromised, apparently by Donald Trump himself.
Also in 2019, when the international press verified that Putin was paying the Taliban a bounty to kill American service members in Afghanistan (and 4 had died as a result), Trump refused to demand the practice stop, a possible sign that Putin ran him, not the other way around.
As The New York Times noted at the time:
“Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence… But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.”
Instead of stopping Putin, Trump shut down every US airbase in Afghanistan except one (there were about a dozen), crippling incoming President Biden’s ability to extract US assets from the country in an orderly fashion.
In July 2019, Trump had conversations with five foreign leaders during and just before a visit to Mar-a-Lago; they included Putin and the Emir of Qatar.
In one of those conversations, according to a high-level US Intelligence source, Trump made “promises” to a “world leader” that were so alarming it provoked a national security scramble across multiple agencies.
As The Washington Post noted in an article titled Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress:
“Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint [against Trump] was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.”
Along his journey toward converting America into a full-blown oligarchy – as I detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class, Trump has picked up quite a few democracy-skeptical allies.
As early as 2018, for example, Senator Rand Paul made a solo trip to Moscow to personally hand-deliver a private note from Trump to Putin. Its contents are still unknown.
Senator Paul has also consistently taken Trump’s side with regard to the 2020 election and, when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago this month, responded with a call for the repeal of the Espionage Act. Perhaps he had ambitious plans for a role in the Trump administration after the planned end of American democracy?
With that backstory, consider more contemporary events to see if they fit together. In January of last year Trump stole and moved to Florida information that, multiple sources assert, would reveal the identities of many of our spies, as well as our nuclear plans and capabilities.
Three months later, in March of 2021, Jared Kushner filed papers showing that his brand new investment company — against the advice of the Saudi government but at MBS’s order — had received over $2 billion from the Kingdom.
It is still unknown if or how much money the Kingdom gave to Trump himself, presumably through the dark offshore accounts common among billionaires like Trump.
This was not the first time Kushner had apparently altered US foreign policy or shared valuable US secrets with Middle East players in exchange for large quantities of cash that flowed directly to him or other members of the Trump family.
As investigative reporter Vicky Ward notes in the most recent post on Vicky Ward Investigates on Substack:
Kushner was struggling with the “ticking time bomb of a $1.8 billion mortgage on 666 Fifth Avenue that would come due in February of 2019—a debt no domestic buyer was interested in. Not even the Chinese or Qataris wanted it. … Kushner desperately needed a bail-out for his troubled building … and the clock was ticking.
“Then, in the spring of 2018, two things happened within weeks. First, the U.S. withdrew their support of the blockade of Qatar, leading the Saudis and Emiratis to lift it.
“Then, Brookfield, a Canadian real estate investment trust whose largest outside shareholder is the Qatari government, bailed out the Kushners in a deal that has real estate moguls rolling their eyes to this day: A 99-year lease paid upfront on a building that was bleeding money.”
Which brings us back, again, to last year, just after Trump’s failed January 6th attempt to overthrow the US government.
About six months after the Saudis gave Kushner that second batch of billions, we learned that for several months “dozens” of American spies and agents had been “captured or killed” around the world. As The Washington Post reported on October 5, 2021:
“Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.”
Is it possible that all these different data points are part of one whole?
- That Trump had a plan, worked out with Putin, MBS, a few dozen high administration officials, and a large handful of Republicans in the House and Senate, to overthrow our government and establish an oligarchic system like what is currently in place in Russia and that Fox “News” showcased in Hungary?
- That once that overthrow was completed under the gimmick of six Republican-controlled states “discovering voter fraud” and changing their Electoral College votes, the plan was that Trump and his GOP allies (including the 11 Republican senators who, this May, voted against aid to Ukraine) would quickly move to re-align America away from NATO/EU and toward Russia/Saudi Arabia?
- That, as soon as he was sworn in for a second term, he’d invoke his October 21, 2020 Executive Order 13957 that would instantly fire 50,000 senior Civil Service employees encompassing the management of every federal agency including the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DHS, and allow Trump to replace all of them with nakedly political loyalist appointees?
- That as soon as that transformation of America and our alliances was complete, Trump would use a national state of emergency to suppress dissent and seize control of voting systems across the nation to insure he and the Republicans loyal to him would continue in power for the long run?
- And that the deaths of our spies, the Saudi-driven explosion in oil prices when Biden came into office, Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, and even Xi’s cranking up his aggression against Taiwan were all just the echoes of Trump’s failed plan?
After all, it is not like we have never had a coup attempt before in this country: wealthy industrialists tried to kidnap or kill President Franklin Roosevelt 91 years ago and turn America into an Italian/German-style fascist state “friendly to capitalism.” Not a single one of those conspirators were ever arrested or tried; why not try again?
While, as noted, some of this is just speculation right now, every day we get more information that seems to validate it. After all, if you’re going to try to overthrow your nation’s government and anoint yourself dictator for life, wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to guarantee your success? Why just do half-measures?
The only “innocent” explanation I can come up with for Trump stealing spy-level documents and squirreling them away in Florida is what I noted in my Saturday Report last weekend:
“Trump is simply mentally ill with a condition common among billionaires: hoarding syndrome. If he hadn’t been born rich, he’d be living in an apartment filled with newspapers and old tin cans from floor to ceiling; instead, he hoards money and anything else he thinks has value that gets close enough to grab.
“This is ‘normal’ among kleptocrats like Idi Amin or Baby Doc Duvalier: they think that they are the state, so everything the state owns is their property. Supporting this premise are over 3,000 former contractors and employees (including attorneys) who’ve sued Trump because he’s refused to pay them over the years.”
Even if that is the extent of it — which I believe is extremely unlikely — we appear to have dodged a huge bullet here.
Was there a high-level conspiracy in the Trump administration, done in concert with one or more foreign countries, to end democracy in America?
Did they intend to seize control of our government on January 6 and never let go? Was their next plan to realign us with autocratic nations like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary?
Given how effectively it appears much of the evidence including emails, phone calls, and text messages – that could exonerate as well as convict – has been destroyed, much of that destruction apparently done by Trump himself while in office and, more recently, by Trump appointees still in our government, we may never know.
But even the possibility — that the question can be credibly raised given the evidence laid out here which only scratches the surface — should give every American pause.
The challenge going forward is now to repair the damage — both foreign and domestic — that this traitor and his colleagues in the GOP did to our nation, and then to make sure no Trump wannabee can ever repeat his attempt.
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as What if Trump’s Conspiracy was Way Bigger than We Know?
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