We’ve all already heard that Donald Trump intends to run everyone out of the federal government than he can on the day he takes office, even if his own handpicked replacements aren’t ready or confirmable for weeks or months, just to prove some weird point about how much he doesn’t like President Barack Obama. And that falls more or less in line with what we already know about Trump’s egotistical narcissism. But now comes word about one firing in particular, which will take place at the inauguration, during the inauguration, in a way that directly impacts the inauguration, and it sets off a round of red flags not previously thought possible.
Donald Trump will only have the ability to fire one National Guard chief in the nation, Major General Errol R. Schwartz, who happens to head the Washington DC National Guard. Not only is Trump dumping the guy, he’s doing it during the inauguration, according to the Washington Post and other sources. Schwartz will be removed from command at precisely 12:01pm local time, the exact second that Trump is being sworn in. Schwartz will be at the inauguration, overseeing the National Guard troops who are on site protecting the event — and in the middle of it all, suddenly no one will be in charge of these troops. No explanation has been given, but I can think of a few, and each is scarier than the last.
One possibility is that Trump is so bent on spiting Obama, he’s willing to run off Obama’s DC National Guard chief at literally the first possible moment, without regard for how it might impact the safety of the inauguration event. What if the inauguration is attacked by foreign terrorists? Trump would be making himself less safe by sending the Guard into total chaos at the precise moment he’s set to be sworn in. If this is the case, it suggests Trump is not merely the willing-to-harm-others sociopath we all believed, but instead a psychopath who’s willing to put himself and his family at risk just to send a symbolic message of spite that he’s not capable of realizing will fall mostly on deaf ears.
Another possibility — and one which I can only hope isn’t the case — is that Donald Trump and/or his team have something mischievous up their sleeve for the inauguration, and it requires immediately getting Major General Schwartz out of the way so they can enact it. Are they planning some kind of phony assassination attempt in the hope of making Trump look sympathetic and boosting his weak popularity? Are they planning to instruct the Guard to turn violent against peaceful inauguration protesters, as an excuse to round them up and make a definitive statement about what happens to dissenters in Trump’s new America?
I’d like to dismiss this as nothing more than sheer ignorant incompetence on the part of a guy who has zero experience holding office and his uniformly inept staff, who simply don’t realize the real world implications of firing the head of the National Guard at the inauguration, during the inauguration, who’s supposed to be commanding the troops protecting the inauguration. And many of the Trump administration’s recent moves have precisely that kind of obliviously incompetent feel. But this is different. This feels strangely specific and unnervingly sinister. And it can’t be easily explained away. I hope I’m wrong.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report