Flynn Suggests a Coup

For those wondering what a textbook coup would look like.

There has been something of an ongoing debate about what a “coup” would look like. Well, here’s Michael Flynn on Newsmax suggesting actions that would clearly constitute a coup a couple of days ago:

The video is above, but here is the key portion:

During an appearance on Newsmax‘s “Greg Kelly Reports,” Flynn was asked about the actions the president could take to undo the results of the election.

After Flynn suggested that the president could seize every voting machine across the country, he then suggested deploying the military in swing states that the president lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

“He could order, within the swing states if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and basically rerun an election each in those states,” Flynn said.

So, anyone who wants a textbook example of a military coup, there you have it. This is straight out of examples from Peru and Argentina in 1960s. This would be utterly unacceptable and it is beyond ridiculous that he talks about all of this in sentences adjacent wherein he talks about constitutional principles. There would nothing constitutional about any of the above.

The president has no authority to seize state-owned and run equipment and no legal basis whatsoever to order new elections. The cherry on the sundae of subversion of democracy is the notion that this rerun election would only take place in the swing states.

Moreover, Flynn was remarkably cavalier about martial law:

Flynn added that using the military is “not unprecedented,” saying that people talk about it “like it’s something that we’ve never done,” but he also said he was “not calling for that.”

“Martial law has been instituted 64 times,” he said. “So I’m not calling for that. We have a constitutional process, and that has to be followed.”

I am not sure as to the exact 64 incidences to which he is referring, but I know that such actions have been limited. Most instances are linked to natural disasters or riots. There have been some examples during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The notion that any of this should even casually raised in a conversation about election is utterly, totally unacceptable.

That Flynn was an officer, let alone a lieutenant general and head of the DIA, is beyond concerning. It is, in fact, the kind of thing that puts a pit in one’s stomach.

Anyone who thinks that the military could be used to seize voting equipment and then force a re-run of an election should never have been anywhere near service in the US armed forces.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Moosebreath says:

    “This would be utterly unacceptable”

    To you and me, correct. To a very significant portion of Trump voters, no. Therein lies the problem we are facing.

  2. Teve says:

    The New York Times put this on page 28.

    There are great things about the New York Times. I’ve read it for 25 years and I have a digital subscription. Kara Swisher, Paul Krugman, Carl Zimmer, George George Packer…

    There are also complete idiots at the Times, mostly w/r/t politics. So on Jan 3 I’m canceling my subscription and switching to WaPo.

  3. CSK says:

    Trump tweeted this at 12:06 this morning:

    “Martial law = Fake News. Just more knowingly bad reporting!”

    I don’t know what the hell that means.

  4. drj says:

    From the same NYT article:

    During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.

    Flynn might not be the biggest problem here.

    On a side note:

    The cherry on the sundae of subversion of democracy is the notion that this rerun election would only take place in the swing states.

    “Swing states” in Flynn’s statement = states that Biden narrowly won, but (of course) not the states that Biden narrowly lost. So that’s quite a novel interpretation of the term.

    It’s probably not a good idea to uncritically repeat it.

  5. @drj: On the one hand, point taken. On the other, I am not sure how one can interpret anything in this post as being uncritical of Flynn and his words.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Veteran intelligence officers told SpyTalk they were appalled at the coup talk.

    “Many former intelligence officers, myself included,” retired CIA presidential briefer David Priess told SpyTalk, “are shocked that the using-the-military-to-interfere-in-democratic-processes, things we used to collect on and analyze regarding other countries, are reportedly being discussed by the U.S. president about the US political process!”

    Former CIA chief of staff Larry Pfeiffer called the coup talk “very disturbing.” He virtually cringed at the thought of foreign embassies in Washington filing reports on the possibility of martial law in the United States.

    That red ball in the west, it ain’t the sun it is our image sinking out of sight. The neo-cons should start advocating for democracy promotion in the good old US of A.


    We have a constitutional process, and that has to be followed.”

    Oh the irony.

    A quick look at Wikipedia show these instances of martial law being declared.

    1 American Revolution
    2 New Orleans in War of 1812
    3 Nauvoo, Illinois, during the Illinois Mormon War
    4 Utah during the Utah War
    5 Baltimore, 1861
    6 Ex parte Milligan
    7 The Great Chicago Fire
    8 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 1892
    9 San Francisco earthquake of 1906
    10 Colorado Coalfield War
    11 West Virginia Coal Wars
    12 Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1934
    13 San Francisco, California, 1934
    14 The Territory of Hawaii
    15 Russell County, Alabama (1954–55)
    16 Freedom Riders

    Note except for the Revolution and Civil War these incidents were local events and invoked by the governor of the state/territory rather than the Federal Gov.

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: The neo-cons aren’t interested in our national image. They’re willing to rule over the ashes of whatever the world pictures the US to be. Rule is what matters to them. Remember Douthat from yesterday–the GOP message is that liberals are always wrong. If it takes a police state, they’re up for that–as long as they’re the police, everything will work out.

  8. dazedandconfused says:

    I appears Trump is laughing at suggestions he would actually attempt something that stupid and personally dangerous. There is practically zero chance the military would obey such an order and a 100 percent chance the generals are making that clear. It’s another indication Trump’s only goal is to milk the suckers for cash, he doesn’t actually believe there was massive fraud.

  9. CSK says:

    Then why is he entertaining suggestions from Flynn that he stage a coup?

    Oh, wait. I get it: There’s nothing good on television.

  10. JohnMcC says:

    @Teve: Haven’t subscribed to the Times as long as you have but am in agreement with your plan; I subscribe to NYT and WaPo both, and the Post is better. I’m planning to cancel the Times and resume my Atlantic subsciption.

  11. Teve says:

    @JohnMcC: the Atlantic is balling these days.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: I admit that for the past four years the WaPo has been better than it has in the past. But when Trump is gone it will return to what it has always been: a local paper with two competing sports teams. In Washington the sport is politics and the teams are the Democrats and the Republicans. And like all local papers with the hometown dilemma, they solve it by never evaluating truth from fiction themselves, but rather quoting fans and haters from both sides.

  13. dazedandconfused says:


    He’s in the midst of milking the Qanon loons for buck$ himself. He probably thinks Flynn is doing the same thing, the guy does have serious legal bills to pay, and “Batshit crazy.” is line one on the checklist.

  14. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    And that is why they are such naive fools.
    Machiavelli half a millennium ago could have told them: once you need to rely on mercenaries to rule, how long until the mercenaries cut out the middle man.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: My understanding was that the bigger problem was that mercenaries don’t stay bought, but this would certainly be a problem, too.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I am always a little bit amazed at the ability of these numbnuts to assume they will be around to witness the imagined end.

  17. Slugger says:

    Flynn was a Lt. General (three stars, a big deal). He had important high ranking jobs in the White House. Then he did consulting work for other nations including Russia and Turkey. He is clearly a criminal, and he confessed to that. The pardon has not erased his misdeeds, just removed the penalties. He is an opponent of the USA.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    The Cubs and the Cardinals are opponents.
    Flynn is an insurrectionist, an enemy of The Constitution of the United States.

  19. Lounsburr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: What are you going on about “neo-cons’ about? The Trump loons are not neo-cons, actual neo-cons like Kristol or Bolton all appear to be thoroughly against Trump’s machinations.