Fifth Avenue Pedestrians:
 Wear Your Body Armor

Wednesday evening we completed the latest Rant, in which we accuse the President of sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service in order to steal the election. Pretty routine stuff; just another fortnight at the Nation’s Oldest Newspaper.™

Thursday morning, in a telephone interview, he told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that’s exactly what he’s doing:

“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want 3.5 trillion…billion dollars for the mail-in votes, OK, universal mail-in ballots, 3.5 trillion. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

That was…unexpected.

To be clear, the specific methods to which the President confessed—choking off the funds necessary to process mailed-in ballots—are not exactly those of which we accused him. His intent, however, was perfectly clear—which is no mean feat, considering his limited vocabulary, garbled syntax, and readily-apparent neurological symptoms.

The good news is that Trump’s confession has helped clarify the situation. The Postal Service is suddenly big news.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [D-NY] tweeted, quite correctly, “It’s not just Trump that’s destroying the U.S. Post Office. It’s the entire Republican Party. Senate & House GOP could easily override a Trump veto of postal funding and help oversight. Republicans are working with Trump to destroy the U.S.P.S. and sabotage the delivery of ballots.”

Postmaster General DeJoy’s stock portfolio is also coming under increased scrutiny. As we noted in the Rant, he’s got a whopping lot of money invested in competitors to the Postal Service, which a layman might misconstrue as a conflict of interest. The Postal Service’s ethics watchdogs gave DeJoy a pass, though. As a multi-millionaire he can, of course, afford top-shelf legal advice; our advice would be, don’t try this at home.

A story CNN reported Wednesday suggests that the watchdogs might be giving DeJoy another sniff. Citing ethics experts, and referring to “newly obtained financial disclosures,” Marshall Cohen wrote that DeJoy “continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a United States Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict of interest.”

According to Cohen, DeJoy and the U.S.P.S. have both said he is in compliance with the relevant regulations. It’s not clear, though, if that OK covers the new information:

“Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price, according to the disclosures.”

Not to worry, though. Senator Susan Collins is on the case. She wrote to DeJoy on Thursday, saying that “While I support efforts to improve the U.S.P.S.’s financial condition, I am concerned that the reported changes will have the opposite effect, &c., &c.”

For the record, it was Senator Collins, in 2005, who introduced the bill which begat the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and brought the Postal Service to the brink of ruin.

We Have Been Warned

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power. And this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

– Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Donald Trump, before the House Oversight Committee, Wednesday, February 27, 2019.

There ought to be a law against what Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is up to. For the sake of argument, let’s say there is. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the Attorney General.

Maybe we’re too cynical, but we suspect the only question Attorney General William Barr has for Louis DeJoy is “When do we tee off?”

Maybe we’re too paranoid. During the lame duck phase of George W.[MD] Bush’s administration, we confessed to apprehension about some sudden national security concern “making it necessary” to postpone his regularly-scheduled departure.

Well, this time it’s not just us.

On Tuesday,, a well-established and deeply serious website that “delivers news, breaking analysis, and ideas” for “national security professionals, stakeholders and citizens …from senior leaders in Washington to commanders abroad and next-generation thinkers far from the political scrum,” published a piece under the headline, “‘…All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic’: An Open Letter to Gen. Milley.”

By two former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonels, it considers the same situation we pondered 12 years ago. John Nagl and Paul Yingling began,

“Dear General Milley:

“As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you are well aware of your duties in ordinary times: to serve as principal military advisor to the president of the United States, and to transmit the lawful orders of the president and Secretary of Defense to combatant commanders. In ordinary times, these duties are entirely consistent with your oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

“We do not live in ordinary times. The President of the United States is actively subverting our electoral system, threatening to remain in office in defiance of our Constitution. In a few months’ time, you may have to choose between defying a lawless president or betraying your Constitutional oath. We write to assist you in thinking clearly about that choice. If Donald Trump refuses to leave office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order.

“Due to a dangerous confluence of circumstances, the once-unthinkable scenario of authoritarian rule in the United States is now a very real possibility….”

Merely stating the obvious, they write that Trump is “vigorously undermining public confidence in our elections,” and that his “defeat would result in his facing not merely political ignominy, but also criminal charges.”

Citing an estimate from The Economist, judging that his “chances of losing the election stand at 91 percent,” Nagl and Yingling write that if he loses, Trump may refuse to leave on January 20th.

“He would likely offer as a fig leaf of legitimacy the shopworn lies about election fraud. Mr. Trump’s acolytes in right-wing media will certainly rush to repeat and amplify these lies, manufacturing sufficient evidence to provide a pretext of plausibility. America’s greatest Constitutional crisis since the Civil War will come about by a president who simply refuses to leave office.

“America’s political and legal institutions have so atrophied that they are ill-prepared for this moment. Senate Republicans, already reduced to supplicant status, will remain silent and inert, as much to obscure their complicity as to retain their majority. The Democrat-led [sic] House of Representatives will certify the Electoral College results, which Mr. Trump will dismiss as fake news. The courts, flooded with cases from both Democrats and Mr. Trump’s legal team, will take months working through the docket, producing reasoned rulings that Trump will alternately appeal and ignore.”

To briefly recap, a serious online journal widely read by FOGOs—Flag Officers and General Officers, aka the top brass—has now broached a topic formerly restricted to…well, the likes of us: what happens if our clearly unhinged Brainless Leader decides, “Oh, to hell with it. No more Mr. Nice Guy.”?

This is the point at which Messrs. Nagl and Yingling proceed to freak their readers right out of their scrambled eggs and gongs.*

“At this moment of Constitutional crisis, only two options remain. Under the first, U.S. military forces escort the former President from the White House grounds. Trump’s little green men, so intimidating to lightly armed federal law enforcement agents, step aside and fade away, realizing they would not constitute a good morning’s work for a brigade of the 82nd Airborne. Under the second, the U.S. military remains inert while the Constitution dies. The succession of government is determined by extralegal violence between Trump’s private army and street protesters; Black Lives Matter Plaza becomes Tahrir Square.

“As the senior military officer of the United States, the choice between these two options lies with you. In the Constitutional crisis described above, your duty is to give unambiguous orders directing U.S. military forces to support the Constitutional transfer of power. Should you remain silent, you will be complicit in a coup d’état. You were rightly criticized for your prior active complicity in the president’s use of force against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square. Your passive complicity in an extralegal seizure of political power would be far worse.”

As Zippie the Pinhead might say, “Yow!”

Paraphrasing here, if the Cheeto Bandito won’t pack his bags voluntarily, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should muster whatever troops he can and roust him. This would also, of course, be the opportune time to stack his tacky belongings on the White House lawn. At this point, one assumes, the U.S. Attorney for the Sovereign District of New York would arrive to slap the cuffs on America’s Least Wanted.

Even without the gratuitously snide gloss we are apparently compelled to slather over everything, the article rattled a lot of its readers. DefenseOne published a strongly-worded rebuttal the next day. Kori Schake and Jim Golby—an American Enterprise Resident Scholar and a senior fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin, respectively; our economy seems able to provide an infinite number of such jobs—wrote, “The Military Won’t Save Us—and You Shouldn’t Want Them To,” tag-lined, “It’s deeply irresponsible, not to mention organizationally nonsensical, to suggest that Gen. Milley should evict an election-losing Trump from the White House.”

One must admit that the prospect is troubling. It is also troubling, though, that a person showing signs of dementia has the power, at his sole discretion, to at any moment launch a nuclear attack on Venezuela.

For some perspective on this matter, we turned to W.D. “Bill” Ehrhart. His work has graced these pages many times; his latest item is on page five. A poet, a writer, and a Marine veteran, he recently retired from teaching English at the Haverford School—where he worked under John Nagl.

“When John Nagl first became headmaster at the Haverford School,” Ehrhart wrote, “it took him awhile to realize that I did not feel about my military service the same pride that he felt about his.  And it took me awhile to realize that in spite of our differences, he possessed many admirable qualities I could like and admire.  To our mutual credit, we both gave each other the benefit of the doubt, and within a few years came to hold each other in mutual respect, out of which a genuine friendship has grown.”

With that personal connection clearly established, Bill gave us this critique of Schake and Golby’s rebuttal:

“The problem with this rebuttal is that it assumes other law enforcement agencies will step up and remove the president if the president refuses to accept the election results when the House declares Trump no longer to be the president.  But we have already seen that law enforcement agencies are more than willing to obey the orders of Trump in violation of Americans’ 1st Amendment rights.  The authors of this rebuttal argue that nothing Trump has done so far is illegal.  This may be true in a very narrow sense, but it is worth remembering that Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler all came to power through a combination of legal tactics and strong-arm bullying by thugs not unlike the unmarked and unidentifiable federal agents and armed right-wing militias roaming the streets of American cities as I write this. 

“Nor do these authors offer any practical solution should Trump refuse to accept an election loss and force a true succession crisis post November 3rd.  I keep remembering that when the Supreme Court ruled Andrew Jackson could not forcibly remove the Cherokee Nation from Georgia, Jackson responded, ‘Mr. Marshall has made his decision.  Now let him enforce it.’  We know how that one ended.  As these authors themselves admit, laws do not enforce themselves.  Who do we rely on if law enforcement agencies choose to side with #45, which many of them have already made clear they are willing to do, and right-wing armed militias decide to help keep Rug Head Guy in the White House?

“All of this, of course, is the cart before the horse.  The election has not yet been held, and we do not know the outcome, nor how Cadet Bone Spur will react if he loses. But helping to remove an illegal president who refuses to leave office would not be, in my view, ‘politicizing the military,’ but only requiring the military to obey the oath each and every member swore to defend and uphold the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.  What’s politically partisan about that?”

* The distinctive (and oh, so chi-chi) golden oak leaf and acorn adornments on the visors of high-ranking military officers are frequently referred to as “scrambled eggs” by the lesser ranks. Medals—full ones with the dangly bits, as opposed to the more modest, small, rectangular ribbons—may similarly be referred to dismissively as “gongs.”


Paper-Based DDoS?

A mailing from the N.H. GOP “accidentally” flooded Durham election officials with extraneous paper recently. Any resemblance to an online distributed denial-of-service attack must surely be coincidental.

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