Opinion Explosive revelations about Trump’s coup plot demand a quick response


HR King
May 29, 2001
By Greg Sargent
Columnist |
July 27, 2022 at 11:57 a.m. EDT

When discussing a future coup attempt, dry parliamentary reforms can seem almost comically beside the point. What can mere procedural tweaks accomplish against a movement that is fully prepared to wreck our political order at its foundations, as elements of Donald Trump’s movement appear prepared to do?
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Explosive revelations about the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 reelection loss raise this question. The news freshly illustrates how vulnerable our system is to a future coup scheme, underlining the need to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — and revealing how we might throw away a critical opportunity.
The Post reports that the Justice Department is investigating Trump’s actions amid a broader probe into 2020 shenanigans. Prosecutors appear to be asking about conversations among Trump and his inner circle about the scheme to substitute fake Trump electors in several states for those certified for Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has obtained emails about the coup scheme among assorted characters around Trump. These show how Trump allies plotted to use the fake electors scheme to subvert lawful processes in a way that sharply highlights the system’s vulnerabilities.

Here’s the big flashing warning sign: Reforming the Electoral Count Act (ECA), which governs how Congress counts presidential electors, is urgently needed to shore up exactly those vulnerabilities.
A bipartisan group of Senators recently introduced a bill that would fix the ECA. Now Congress will debate the particulars.
At the most elemental level, the overarching principle that should animate ECA reform is this: Congress must eliminate as many opportunities to manipulate which presidential electors are counted as it can.
The core problem: This manipulation can occur at both ends of the process. At the front end, a state legislature can appoint electors for the wrong candidate — and a governor working with them can certify those electors — in defiance of the choice made by the state’s voters.
At the back end, Congress can count that wrong set of electors, and if so, they officially stand. Whether done in one or multiple states, that could tip a close election.
ECA reform must fix the problem at both ends. But it turns out this is hard. The new revelations help explain why.
As The Post reports, the Justice Department is examining Trump’s involvement in two ways he and his allies tried to corrupt the process at the front end.
Trump tried to get state legislatures to appoint electors for him in defiance of the voting. Separately, Trump’s allies, apparently with his awareness, tried to get GOP officials in those states to put forth entirely fake electors for him.
The idea was that his vice president, Mike Pence, would delay the count of actual electors on Jan. 6, 2021, a goal much of the plot revolved around. The states could then change course and appoint Trump electors.
The emails obtained by the Times help show how the scheme interlocked. The idea was that the mere existence of numerous slates of electors could allow congressional Republicans to argue over which were real. That might presumably give Pence cover to delay the count. Importantly, the emails show Trump allies were in on this scheme at the highest levels.
What does this all say about ECA reform?
The Senate bill seeks to defang future efforts to put forth sham electors at the state level. It requires a state’s governor to certify the correct electors in keeping with state law as it existed before election day (i.e., in keeping with what voters decide, as laws in all states dictate now).
If a governor violates that duty — if a legislature ignores the popular vote and appoints the wrong electors, and a governor certifies them — then the bill triggers expedited judicial review. Federal courts would then require certification of the correct electors. Congress would then have to count the right electors. That would make it harder to execute Trumpworld’s scheme next time.
Importantly, the latest revelations show both that a rerun is definitely something to worry about and that it might be more likely to succeed.
Here’s why. The involvement of top Trump allies in this — as opposed to it being a lark pursued by state-level actors — shows an appetite for similar conduct among corrupted and Trumpist elements of the conservative legal movement.
What’s more, Republicans might control Congress in 2024. If so, they’d be in a position to count fake electors appointed at the state level. The plotters wouldn’t need a vice president’s help.
“This new reporting shows that the president’s allies at the highest levels were involved in this scheme,” Matthew Seligman, an expert on the ECA, told me. “There’s every reason to believe they’ll be involved in 2024 — this time most likely with a Republican Congress as an accomplice to count the fake electors.”
In a great piece in the Atlantic, legal scholar Kate Shaw recently explained that the electoral college itself helped cause Jan. 6. Its machinery is subject to manipulation at numerous levels, which invites corrupt actors to attempt such manipulation, as did Trump and his co-conspirators.
We’re not replacing the electoral college anytime soon. So what’s left is to close off chokepoints of manipulation wherever possible. It would be insane if Congress didn’t act right now while it has the chance — by passing ECA reform, perhaps with technical fixes — given the awful revelations we’re seeing.



HR Legend
Jul 14, 2011
"wreck our political order" - Isn't a political order what our founders warned against?