by Richard Cook for VT
Lame Duck President Donald Trump appears to be in a state of psychotic meltdown.
Everyone in Washington suspects this, though none of the sycophants who surround the president is able to come out and say it. This includes Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican Senate leadership who might have been the last responsible party able to do something about a dire situation that gets worse by the hour.
The entire world has been witness to Trump’s madcap joyride through the courts, with Rudy Giuliani at the wheel acting like Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, without a chance in hell of overturning a presidential election that Joe Biden won fair and square by six million votes.
Just as egregious has been Trump’s refusal to activate any of the many mechanisms mandated and available to ensure a smooth transition to President-elect Biden’s administration.
But the worst may have been Trump’s behavior Saturday at the virtual G20 conference with world leaders, where he spent the first part of the meeting firing off partisan tweets before absenting himself from the remainder in order to go shoot golf.
There is also a very real possibility that Trump may be planning the unthinkable: conniving with foreign parties to concoct a false-flag attack on the American military in the Middle East in order to launch missiles against Iran, then declaring a national emergency with the cancellation of the presidential election as a consequence.
It has already been reported that a few days ago Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley talked Trump down from an unprovoked missile attack on Iran. But what if Iran, or someone pretending to be Iran, struck first?
Don’t think “it could happen here”?
Then you are dreaming.
It is irrelevant to speculate on how Trump has fallen so far so fast, though it is certainly worth considering that, like many other apparently-recovered Covid-19 victims, he too is suffering from medium- to long-term debilitating neurological effects. Of course, the irony of a president whose denial of the severity of the pandemic is a worldwide scandal now experiencing such effects cannot be entirely dismissed. This too would point to dereliction of duty.
And we know nothing of what mind-altering medications Trump may be taking in the wake of his illness. Is he still on steroids, for instance? How about anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs that can also provoke psychotic behavior?
The U.S. Constitution may be useless in these circumstances, and legal scholars have said so, as the 25th Amendment is simply incapable of effectively addressing a situation where a president has gone insane. The first option is for the president to declare himself incapacitated and unable to perform. This could happen, for instance, if he is going into the hospital for surgery.
But, also according to the 25th Amendment, if the president is unable to make such a declaration, the decision devolves upon the vice-president, along with either the cabinet or Congress. Of course, it’s ludicrous to imagine that Vice President Pence, Trump’s cabinet secretaries, or a Congress ruled by Mitch McConnell would go against Trump and his ire. But they could do it.
But there are also the armed “militias” Trump has told to “stand by” and who are now waiting in the wings, already engaged in making death threats against election officials who have done their jobs in counting the votes that have made Biden the winner. These groups are analogous to the Nazi Storm Troopers of the 1920s and 30s who took to the streets illegally to intimidate and kill Hitler’s opponents.
Who else could take action? General Milley has declared that under no circumstances would the U.S. military interfere with a contested presidential election. Insane or not, Trump is commander-in-chief, and Milley is bound to do his will. And if Trump should declare a national emergency due to an alleged attack from another nation, the military would act, and Congress could not stop it.
How about the courts?
It is conceivable that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi could file an emergency motion in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to interpret the 25th Amendment in a way that could set Trump aside. This filing would have to be based on the failure by Pence and the Trump cabinet to take action. But even if the District Court ruled favorably, the decision would immediately be appealed by the Trump Administration to the Supreme Court.
It is scarcely conceivable, though not impossible, that the Supreme Court, even with its current 6-3 Republican majority, would actually rule against Trump. But it already appears to be part of Trump’s own strategy to get a case before the Court that could induce them to overturn the entire presidential election.
So is the U.S. Constitution so weak that the nation cannot defend itself against a takeover by a criminally insane gangster? With such a madman, has the government of the U.S. so hamstrung itself that we really are at the bottom a totalitarian dictatorship, helpless in a real extremity to defend ourselves from subversion within?
Republican government is already a shadow of its former self after constant assaults by the imperial presidency over past decades, starting with Truman’s commitment of U.S. forces to a U.N. “police action” in Korea, through the Vietnam War and many other foreign interventions, including the covert ones, leading to the “endless wars” since 9/11.
Is Trump’s lawless regime where the Republic finally ends?
The outcome likely depends on us—on a sufficient number of honest and decent citizens willing to say “no,” regardless of political affiliation. This would include state officials and legislatures unwilling to overturn the will of the voters as expressed in the counting of lawful ballots, federal government officials unwilling to violate their oaths of office to the Constitution, and on members of the military unwilling to embark on 11th-hour madcap foreign escapades whatever the provocation.
Richard Cook is a retired federal government analyst.