When National Thriller Author Pales In Comparison To A Dangerous President

Every now and then I read a James Patterson book for a complete escape, the level of drama created by a plot that seems hard to imagine. On Thursday night, I read a Washington Post story about an actual event that would have been even harder to fathom if we had not seen the events play out on national television.

In the waning weeks of Donald Trump’s term, the country’s top military leader repeatedly worried about what the president might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming.

The inside account of the lies created by Donald Trump concerning the 2020 presidential election, and the coup attempt on January 6th from “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig is not for those who wish to have a calm night of sleep. The events relayed in two excerpts of the book alert us anew to the treachery and absolute danger posed by Trump and his sycophants.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation’s top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley’s growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

The events are harrowing to read about, as we know how deeply engrained the lies Trump was pushing had taken hold in the weakly educated parts of the nation.

Outside the Capitol, the pro-Trump protest was quickly morphing into a battle scene. Demonstrators so outnumbered law enforcement officials that hundreds of Capitol Police officers on the western front of the complex had no chance of holding the crowds away from the grounds. This was no ordinary political protest. It was a riot. Many of those crashing through the outer barricades were wearing military gear and carrying Trump flags, and some were wielding pipes, batons and cans of bear spray. A few had climbing gear, and some even brought night-vision goggles and fire-retardant gloves. Some engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the police officers, who chose not to fire on the crowd for fear of triggering gruesome violence.

Inside the Capitol, the joint session was underway in the House chamber. Lawmakers from both chambers began considering electoral vote counts state by state, in alphabetical order, but were interrupted by a Republican objection to Arizona’s tally and soon disbanded. Senators returned to the Senate chamber for debate, where at 1:35 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to strenuously condemn the move by some of his Republican brethren to block certification.

Reading from a carefully prepared text, McConnell said, “The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a National Board of Elections on steroids … [If] this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

McConnell and most of his colleagues did not know about the mayhem building outside. But Sen. Mitt Romney had been more attentive than others. On Jan. 2, the senator from Utah received a call from Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, warning him about unsettling personal and specific threats. Milley had shared with King online chatter he had discovered through an app on his phone called Dataminr.

Pro-Trump rhetoric was interlaced with calls for violence and references to smuggling guns and other weapons into Washington to “stop the steal.” One message said something along the lines of, “Let’s burn Senator McConnell’s house down while he’s in it.”

We are coming to kill you. Just wait a few days,” read another message, which appeared to be aimed at members of Congress who supported certifying the election.

Romney told his wife, Ann, about King’s call.

“Mitt, you can’t go back,” Ann Romney told her husband. She called his Senate staff and said she feared for his safety.

Mitt Romney tried to reassure her. “It’s the Capitol and I’m careful and I do have precautions and security. I’ll be very, very careful,” he told his wife. He said he had a responsibility to go back to Washington to certify the election.

Romney solidified his plans to fly to Washington while his aides arranged for additional security. He was harassed by Trump supporters at Salt Lake City International Airport on Jan. 5 and aboard his flight; some passengers chanted, “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”

As Romney sat in the Senate on Jan. 6, his phone buzzed with a text message from aide Chris Marroletti.

“I’m not liking what’s happening outside the Capitol,” Marroletti wrote to his boss. “There are really big, violent demonstrations going on. I think you ought to leave.”

“Let me know if they get inside the Capitol and I will go to my hideaway,” Romney texted back.

At 2:10, the first rioter entered the Capitol by breaking a window and climbing inside. A stream of Trump warriors followed him.

The undermining of our democracy is real, and we must never forget what happened in the closing months of Trump’s term in office. He was the ringleader. The autocrat who thought America was too weak to stand up to him.

Trump lost.