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Tales of the McCabe: Will the Military Roll With a Trump Win?

The 2020 presidential election was a full-spectrum conflict with Democrats leveraging lawfare, new voting rules, and leftwing nonprofit organizations staffing election offices and, through those offices, targeting Democratic districts for get-out-the-vote drives.

Also, for the first time in American political history, there was the specter of military intervention—and in 2024, it may be more than a whisper campaign.

Journalist Matthew Taibbi just posted a blockbuster report on his Substack post “Is the Electoral Fix Already In?” laying out the challenge facing former president Donald Trump in the event he overcomes the lawfare arrayed against him, wins the 2024 election and begins a second administration.

Taibbi, who was part of Elon Musk’s team exposing how the federal government ran a censorship operation through its partnership with Twitter, makes his jumping-off point an article curiously placed with NBC News. 

The article, “Fears grow that Trump will use the military in ‘dictatorial ways’ if he returns to the White House,” is a coming out announcement for the various characters, many of whom were part of the Transition Integrity Project, and they are committed to keeping President Joe Biden, in office. 

The TIP, funded by grants from George Soros through the Protect Democracy Project and its sister organization, United to Protect Democracy, also funded by Soros,  was an effort to game out responses to four possible 2020 presidential election outcomes: an ambiguous result, a clear Biden win, a clear Trump win and a narrow Biden win. 

My RedState colleague Nick Arama covered TIP in detail in 2020.

The project was founded by Ian Bassin and Justin Florence, both attorney veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration, and its final report was released Aug. 3, 2020.

A central player in TIP was Norm Eisen, the former attorney in Obama’s White House; he served as a counsel for the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings.

My RedState colleague Jennifer Oliver O’Connell reported on Eisen’s role in efforts to defeat Trump in 2020

As Taibbi underlines, Eisen is also a leading expert on so-called Color Revolutions, which toppled elected and not-elected governments in Libya, Georgia and Ukraine. Obama’s law school classmate also co-wrote the 2019 how-to book using these revolutions to overthrow governments for the Washington-based Brookings Institute, “The Democracy Playbook.”

Taibbi wrote that he was picking up signals that TIP was back in business—this time to block Trump: “The fix is in. To “protect democracy,” democracy is already being canceled. We just haven’t admitted the implications of this to ourselves yet.”

He described the triggering article thus: 

On Sunday, January 14th, NBC News ran an eye-catching story: “Fears grow that Trump will use the military in ‘dictatorial ways’ if he returns to the White House.” It described “a loose-knit network of public interest groups and lawmakers” that is “quietly” making plans to “foil any efforts to expand presidential power” on the part of Donald Trump.

While Taibbi is exhaustive in discussing the lawfare plays and players, but he only touches upon how the military might block Trump in 2024. 

Before Trump, there was never much talk about the military having a role in the transfer of power beyond its participation in the Inaugural Parade, let alone how it would be a tool of the left to stave off a conservative administration.

A central figure in the left’s manipulation of the military and a Transition Integrity Project co-founder is Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor, Foreign Policy columnist, and former senior Pentagon official under Obama.

Brooks, a Georgetown Law colleague of John Podesta, was not always an out-and-out Trump critic.

In her April 12, 2016, FP column, “Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Realist Foreign Policy,” Brooks confessed that Trump raised serious questions about Washington’s convention foreign policy wisdom. With prescience, she cautioned her readers that dismissing or insulting the New York City developer was not an option.

Trump’s vision of the world — and his conception of statecraft — isn’t one I much like, but it reflects a fairly coherent theory of international relations. It’s realist, transactional, and Machiavellian — and it demands a serious, thoughtful, and nondefensive response.

Less than a year later, Brooks was a long way from urging people to keep an open mind. In her Jan. 30, 2017, FP column “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020,” she broached the possibility of a military coup after dismissing the options of impeachment and the 25th Amendment.

It’s impossible to say, of course. The prospect of American military leaders responding to a presidential order with open defiance is frightening — but so, too, is the prospect of military obedience to an insane order. After all, military officers swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president. For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: “No, sir. We’re not doing that,” to thunderous applause from The New York Times editorial board.

This became the constant mantra of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, which he voiced one last time at his Sept. 29 retirement ceremony. 

We don’t take an oath to a country. We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or tyrant, or a dictator, and we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.

Of course, this was all after Trump made Milley the chairman. 

When Milley was the Army’s chief of staff, vying for the job, he would tell the president: “Mr. President, our Army is here to serve you. Because you’re the Commander-in-Chief.

The Constitution loyalty construct sounds great, but what it actually means in practice is the end of civilian control of the military. Strip away Milley’s strawmen dictators, kings and queens, and what you have is uniformed personnel free and independent to interpret the Constitution for themselves.

It is not up to some general to decide if his commander-in-chief is a dictator. We have a Congress for that. Until Congress acts, the generals and admirals are supposed to rely on how their commander-in-chief interprets the Constitution. 

The military’s loyalty to Trump, rather than the Constitution, was a significant consideration of TIP’s roleplaying exercises through the summer of 2020. In the exercises, Trump was played in different scenarios by Max BootBill Kristol, and David Frum, which, if anything, speaks to the irresistible impulse for stunt casting. 

Leading the military facet of the TIP roleplaying were retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and Colin Powell’s former senior staffer retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

These two men were the only ones formally named, but Wilkerson told Bill Maher they were not alone in congratulating Milley for rebuking Trump’s attempt to invoke the Insurrection Act against the George Floyd rioters.

“I also happen to know that about 300 flag officers — that’s generals and admirals — weighed in, active duty and retired, afterward to let Mark Milley know that he’d done the right thing,” he said. 

What the TIP projecteers were really after was how to dislodge a recalcitrant Trump barricading himself in the Executive Mansion. 

Although they were not named as TIP members, retired Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, an associate professor of warfighting studies at U.S. Army War College, and retired Army Col. Paul Yingling, channeled TIP’s concerns in their Aug. 11, 2020, open letter to Milley, “If the commander in chief attempts to ignore the election’s results, you will face a choice,” warning him that he will be called upon to remove Trump.

Due to a dangerous confluence of circumstances, the once-unthinkable scenario of authoritarian rule in the United States is now a very real possibility. First, as Mr. Trump faces near-certain electoral defeat, he is vigorously undermining public confidence in our elections. Second, Mr. Trump’s defeat would result in his facing not merely political ignominy but also criminal charges. Third, Mr. Trump is assembling a private army capable of thwarting not only the will of the electorate but also the capacities of ordinary law enforcement. When these forces collide on January 20, 2021, the U.S. military will be the only institution capable of upholding our Constitutional order.

Nagl and Yingling never define the “private army,” so it is pure conjecture that they meant the District of Columbia National Guard, which responded to the George Floyd riots in Washington without flinching. 

Brooks, whose 2012 marriage to retired Special Forces Lt. Col. Joseph Mouer was covered by The New York Times, signaled the concern over the D.C. National Guard in her Sept. 3, 2020, op-ed, “What’s the worst that could happen?” in The Washington Post.

The federal response to this summer’s protests in D.C.’s Lafayette Square and Portland, Ore., suggests that this is not purely speculative. To avoid becoming unwitting pawns in a partisan battle, military and law enforcement leaders can issue clear advance statements about what they will and won’t do.

In the same piece, Brooks highlights a scenario from the TIP’s roleplaying as if it had a validity beyond the collective imagination of the project gamers: “In one exercise, for instance, Team Trump’s repeated allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots led National Guard troop to destroy thousands of ballots in Democratic-leaning ZIP codes, to applause on social media from Trump supporters.”

The actual passage from the TIP final report captured the group’s fevered elan: 

Trump can rely on surrogates to embed operatives inside protests to encourage violent action, and he can mobilize a range of law enforcement actors (including National Guard troops, whether federalized or under the control of GOP governors) who might, without proper training or if led by politicized actors, escalate matters. In some scenarios examined by TIP, Team Trump succeeded in invoking the Insurrection Act and sending active-duty military troops into US cities to “restore order,” “protect” voting places, or confiscate “fraudulent” ballots.

This obsession with a military loyal to Trump fed the paranoia of Army leaders, combined with the concerns about the optics of Guardsmen at the Capitol expressed as J6 raged by Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, the director of the Army staff, and Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the chief of Army operations, effectively deplatformed the National Guard for three hours as the protesters clashed with Capitol Police officers Jan. 6, 2021.

This comports quite well with the final TIP report, which created a fictional guard loyal to Trump and was authored by its leaders like Brooks, who, as a former Pentagon senior official, surely knows the de-platformers well. 

Were the TIPsters in their ears?

Not to be outdone, as my RedState colleague Jeff Charles reported, Milley was telling his staff he feared Trump claimed the 2020 election was rigged in order to set up what the Princeton hockey standout called a “Reichstag moment.” It was a staggering reference to the 1933 torching of the German parliament building exploited by Chancellor Adolph Hitler to suspend civil liberties and secure power. 

Milley, who by law had no command authority or presence in the chain of command, drove the point by referring to Trump’s speeches as “the Gospel of the Furher.”

Army Col. Earl J. Matthews, a former Trump national security staffer, who Jan. 6, 2021, was the senior legal advisor to the District of Columbia National Guard’s commanding officer, told RedState Milley had direct influence over Piatt and Flynn through his personal patronage of their careers.

Indeed, the generals had to know the leader of Biden’s Pentagon transition team, and the future Army secretary, Christine Wormuth, was sitting in Milley’s office as the J6 events unfolded

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss?

Suppose Taibbi is correct, and the Transition Integrity Project cadre is getting the band back together again. In that case, it is critical to look beyond the lawfare and discern what role the military will play in the 2024 presidential election and, more importantly, the vote-counting and election certification.

The lawfare the left is waging against Trump is relentless and includes two federal criminal trials, state criminal trials in Manhattan and Fulton County, Georgia, along with defamation lawsuits and Trump taken off the ballot in Colorado and Maine. 

In the 2020 cycle, TIP envisioned the military cracking down on voting stations and destroying fraudulent ballots, but then the problem was not the military engaging—it was the military engaging on behalf of Trump.

There was no qualms about the military acting against Trump, even if it meant sending the 82nd Airborne to dislodge him from the White House.

Given his state of mind, it is not fair or even appropriate to guess Biden’s take on any of this. However, we have clues to where the sympathies of his handlers lie, none more emphatic than Biden’s Sept. 1, 2022, Philadelphia speech.

That night, the president read a speech denouncing extremism with two Marines in dress uniforms bathed in red accent lights behind him. 

Achtung, baby.

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