A coup d’etat is defined as "a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics, especially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group".
The question of the attempt to oust US President Donald Trump from power in the United States from 2017-present has given rise to some debate over whether or not this constitutes a coup d’etat, albeit a failed one.
The etymology of the term itself is French, and translates to “a blow against the state.”
Coups have been occurring throughout history from as far back as kings of Israel outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible such as commander Zimri slaying King Elah.
Some of the most famous coups in history featured the rises to power of Napoleon Bonaparte, Francisco Franco, Muammar al-Qaddafi, Idi Amin, and Augusto Pinochet who was backed by the CIA in 1973.
More recently, the question of the attempt to oust U.S. President Donald Trump from power in the United States from 2017-present has given rise to some debate over whether or not this constitutes a coup d’etat, albeit a failed one.
President Trump and his supporters have both employed the phrase, and in many aspects it does seem to fit the narrow definition of the term.
The existing government of the United States was attempted to be overthrown by a small group from within the state.
This was not a traditional third-world coup which is characterized by military forces sweeping into the halls of power to swiftly arrest the former leader, but instead it represents something far more akin to a legal drama crossed with an espionage novel – two themes readily familiar to the American audience.
It was, in effect, a soft coup.
It was, in effect, a soft coup.
To put it plainly, if elements of state security services pushed to oust a leader in any other country, we would readily define that as a coup.
Now certainly, if you ask any of the individuals who supported the attempt, they would loudly declare that they were merely acting in the best interests of the nation and representing the legitimate ends of good government. That is what all coup participants say.
In 1965 the film Seven Days in May starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas was nominated for 2 Academy Awards and featured a plot centered around a failed military coup of the United States over the leaders of the military disagreeing with the President about relations with Russia. Fast-forward to today and much of the dialogue from that film would fit in perfectly with the text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
AMERICAN FOREIGN COUP
Let’s examine the origins of this coup attempt, which is unprecedented in this history of the American republic.
While the timeline has yet to be completely revealed, and many aspects are in question, a general public summary can be constructed.
In April 2016, the Clinton campaign began funding an opposition research firm to put together a series of reports detailing what they claimed were dubious ties between candidate Donald Trump and the Russian state.
[caption id="attachment_175655" align="alignnone" width="1920"] Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr, adapted from a photo in the public domain from the U.S. Department of State's Flickr photostream.[/caption]
While this may seem like politics as usual, the execution was anything but. Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and the DNC used a law firm to hire open source intelligence group FusionGPS and a former MI6 agent to write and disseminate information on the Republican candidate. This would later become infamously known as the Steele Dossier.
As the salacious and utterly unverified human intelligence (HUMINT) reports were written, Fusion employed sources from Russia and Ukraine in search of ‘dirt’ on Donald Trump. Where this took a turn for the sinister is that these reports were then passed to the Obama Department of Justice and the Comey FBI.
These reports were full of foreign disinformation stacked one upon the other mixing outlandish fantasies with just enough sprinkles of reality to hook in unsuspecting readers. These spin doctors and double agents crafted a story that Donald Trump and his associates were secretly engaged in an elaborate Kremlin plot to win the 2016 election.
Using the Steele Dossier as evidence, the Obama Administration applied several times for a FISA warrant to spy on at least one Trump associate, and were later granted it
In addition to this effort, foreign intelligence agencies targeted Trump aide George Papadopoulos also for suspected “Russian collusion” although tellingly, Mr. Papadopoulos does not even make an appearance in the Steele Dossier.
Even still, rumors from political opponents about his activities in Europe in 2016, particularly London, we used to open an FBI counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign codenamed Crossfire Hurricane. This investigation also included 3-star Army General Michael Flynn, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Using the Steele Dossier as evidence, the Obama Administration applied several times for a FISA warrant to spy on at least one Trump associate, and were later granted it. This associate, however, was never charged with wrongdoing of any kind.
Some bristle at the word "spying", so we should be clear. A FISA warrant permits the FBI to perform electronic surveillance and physical searches on the target in question. Given FISA’s infamous two-hop rule, this would have allowed communications access and data-mining on just about every member of the Trump campaign.
Once Trump won the 2016 election – in a stunning upset to many in the world – the investigation took on a life of its own.
First, FBI agents discussed developing sources in the Trump Transition Team and White House. Next, national security chiefs briefed Trump about the Russia dossier, but treated it as intelligence, not a product of a political campaign. Following this briefing, those same chiefs apparently leaked its existence to CNN’s Jake Tapper, who was eager to report on this disinformation. Buzzfeed later published the Steele Dossier in full.
Only later did it come out that Hillary Clinton and her allies had footed the bill for the report. Over the next months and years, those former Obama national security officials accepted media positions on cable news networks and could be found nightly calling for the ouster of President Trump over so-called Russian collusion. These officials abused their positions and access to mislead the American people in order to support the overthrow of an established and legitimately-elected president.
History will show that later, Special Counsel Mueller found their wild conspiracy theory to be completely unfounded. There was never any collusion between Trump and Russia, and these officials likely knew that all along. That their coup attempt failed makes it no less of an attempt.
It is now incumbent on the new leaders of the government to investigate this egregious wrongdoing. If laws were broken, the lawbreakers ought to be brought to justice.
Only by doing so can the American republic ensure such an outrageous act never again attempts to subvert the will of the people, and abuse laws to overturn the results of our democratic process.