Robert Reich: The Four Phases Of Trump’s Attempted Coup – OpEd


Trump’s attempted coup against the United States continues. We are now in Phase 3.

Phase 1 was his refusal to concede the loss of the 2020 election and his big lie that the election was “stolen” from him, without any basis in fact.

Trump’s actions in Phase 1 were not illegal, but they were immoral. They violated the norms that every president before Trump had dutifully followed.

Phase 2 was his plot to overturn the result of the 2020 election.

Phase 2 was hatched even before Election Day. On October 31, 2020, Trump confidante Steve Bannon told associates that Trump planned to declare he won and claim Biden’s expected victory fraudulent. Audio footage recently available shows that two days before the election, Trump lieutenant Roger Stone was already planning for alternative slates of electors.

Then came Trump’s efforts to strong-arm election officials in swing states to alter votes, persuade Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of electors, get the Justice Department to find fraud in the election process, come up with slates of fake electors, persuade Republican members of Congress to reject the certification, defame and intimidate poll workers, and invite supporters to Washington on the day of the certification — which led inexorably to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Phase 2 was illegal. It violated both statutory laws and the Constitution. Trump is only now starting to be held accountable for these violations, in federal court in Washington and in state court in Georgia.

Phase 3 is his current attempt to discredit and undermine the criminal justice system that’s seeking to hold him accountable for Phase 2.

Trump is smearing presiding judges, excoriating prosecutors, and harassing and intimidating potential witnesses and jurors.

He’s telling another big lie: that the prosecutors, grand juries, judges, potential jurors, and witnesses who are prepared to try him are corrupt and partisan — engaged in a plot to prevent him from being reelected. Like his original big lie, this one has no basis in fact.

Trump’s efforts in Phase 3 are illegal. By publicly threatening people who are or will soon be participating in his trials, he is violating the explicit terms of his release pending trial, which prohibited him from engaging in harassment or intimidation.

In seeking to silence or intimidate judges, prosecutors, and potential jurors and witnesses, Trump is attempting to obstruct justice.

Whether Trump is held accountable for Phase 3 of his attempted coup will be up to the judges and prosecutors now engaged in trying to hold him accountable for Phase 2.

Which brings us to what is likely to be Phase 4 of his attempted coup — his campaign for reelection.

As his trials approach in the months ahead, Trump is likely to escalate his lies that the election system and the criminal justice system are both rigged against him, and therefore against his supporters.

It is too early to know what additional illegal or unconstitutional means he will employ in Phase 4, but there is no reason to believe Trump will treat the upcoming election any more respectfully than he treated the 2020 election or has treated efforts to hold him accountable for what he did then.

Notwithstanding Trump’s ongoing attempted coup, the most recent New York Times/Siena poll shows Trump in a dead heat with Biden for the presidency. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll also shows Trump and Biden in a virtual tie.

Polls are fallible, of course, and the election is 15 months away. But the closeness of the race should be of concern, especially given that Trump has now been indicted for seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump’s attempted coup continues. Since before the 2020 election, he has been engaged in a concerted attempt to undermine the institutions of the United States government. 

Everyone who cares about American democracy should be duly warned — and prepared for Phase 4. 

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

2 thoughts on “Robert Reich: The Four Phases Of Trump’s Attempted Coup – OpEd

  • August 23, 2023 at 10:43 pm

    spot on, the sad thing is educated Americans are believing Mr. Trumps lies.


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