Even as the United States Constitution huffs and puffs and tries to put out the fires being set daily by Donald Trump, his deranged criminality continues to expose the limitations of a two century old document that we had hoped was infallible. Now that it’s become clear just how psychologically unstable Trump is, we have another problem on our hands: the specter of a de facto military coup.
This week Republican Senator Bob Corker sounded the alarm on Donald Trump’s unstable nature, while pointing that a pair of retired military Generals – James Mattis and John Kelly – may be the only ones currently standing in the way of nuclear armageddon. Vanity Fair writer Gabriel Sherman appeared on MSNBC this week and said that a prominent Republican has privately told him he imagines a scenario in which Mattis and Kelly have to physically tackle Trump as he lunges for the nuclear launch mechanism. In such a scenario we’d all want to root for Mattis and Kelly, but therein lies the problem.
General Mattis is the Secretary of Defense, but has no legal or Constitutional authority whatsoever when it comes to interfering with the actions of the U.S. President. General Kelly is merely the White House Chief of Staff, and has no authority of any kind. Even if these two men were still active Generals, they’d still have no authority to override the President. If Trump were attempting to launch a nuclear missile, and they physically tried to stop him from doing so, they’d be engaging in a coup.
In such a scenario, the Secret Service would be legally required to arrest Mattis and Kelly on the spot – but would they do it? If Trump was a few seconds away from sealing all our deaths with the press of a button, with whom would the Secret Service ultimately side? With whom would the military itself side? Much as we’d all like Trump ousted, military coups have a fairly bad historical record of getting democracies back on track when they’ve gone awry. If two legally powerless retired Generals are the only reason we’re all still alive, that alone means Donald Trump must be impeached by Congress and removed immediately.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report