“Peril”: journey to the heart of a democracy struck from within

On June 26, in Wellington, Ohio, more than 10,000 supporters of Donald Trump came together to “save America”. The former US president was there, pumped up to denounce for the umpteenth time the rigged elections which, according to him and in contradiction with the facts, cost him the victory, seven months earlier.

“We haven’t lost. We haven’t lost. We have not lost “, he hammered, before adding to a crowd calling for his return to the White House for” four more years “:” We have won the elections, twice. “

Stolen elections. Fraud. Manipulation of the ballot… The refrain of the ex-star of reality television is known, since the American electoral authorities confirmed the victory of Joe Biden last November. A determination to discredit the Democratic camp in perfect harmony with the attitude of the populist, who thus seeks to keep alive the image of winner, fighter, resistance who pleases his base, but especially to feed another of his screens of smoke that have served him for months, with great lies, to conceal another truth: the 2020 elections, it was finally he who sought to steal them, report the journalists of the Washington Post Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, in another hard-hitting essay titled Peril (Danger).

After Fear (Fear) and 2018 et Rage in 2020, this last chapter of their “Trump trilogy” which has just been released draws up, going through the scenes of the last months of power of the former president, the worrying portrait of an American democracy which has indeed been attacked. from within by Donald Trump. And his departure from the White House on January 20 is far from having completely removed the threat he still poses to the country’s democratic institutions, according to them.

“We are on the way to a coup d’etat from the right”, summed up, three days after the confirmation of the victory of Joe Biden, on November 10, 2020, the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, during a phone call with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley. The day before, Trump had fired the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mark Esper, a gesture interpreted by many as a warning to those who would prevent him from putting the army, the FBI or the CIA at the service of his news post-election political ambitions: to stay in power, at all costs. “This is all crazy. He’s behaving like an angry six-year-old, ”she added, fearing to be next on the thank you list.

The Republicans plan

Donald Trump is angry, yes, but he will especially go very far to try to block the road to Joe Biden, to whom he has still not conceded the victory to this day.

His attempts to overturn the vote in several key states, by exposing fraud that no credible investigation can demonstrate, led nowhere. It is therefore through his vice-president that he will try to keep his seat.

On January 4, 2021, a plan is also presented to Mike Pence, in the presence of Donald Trump, in the Oval Office, indicate the two authors of the book, referring to a note of which they have obtained a copy.

The six-step plan is to get Mike Pence to deny certification of the vote in seven states that the Trump side has decided to make contentious on purpose. Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania are among them. Republicans are now denouncing the presence of “alternative voters” to justify the matter. The mechanism aims to subtract from the final count millions of ballots yet legally deposited in the ballot boxes and to give the role of arbiter of the final result to the vice-president in favor of Donald Trump.

He behaves like an angry six year old

The note was forwarded to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close and loyal to the ex-president, who, however, since December had admitted the victory of Joe Biden and judged calls for electoral fraud “unfounded”. According to him, the document has the credibility of a text written by a student of “third year”, indicate comments reported by the authors. “I can have you tomorrow an affidavit affirming that the Earth is flat,” he also said wryly.

Nevertheless, put under pressure by Donald Trump, Mike Pence will then seek advice from the former vice-president of George Bush Sr., Dan Quayle, 74, who has retired for years in Arizona. “Mike, you have no wiggle room. Nothing. Zero. Forget that, ”Quayle would have told him during a surreal exchange recounted by the two journalists, at the end of a series of interviews carried out with the actors in the foreground of all the scenes described in the book.

” I know. That’s what I’m trying to tell Trump, replied Mike Pence. But he really thinks that I can [annuler le vote]. And other guys also say that I have the power… ”

Dan Quayle then interrupted him: “You don’t have it. Stop it now, ”he told her, reminding her that no evidence of fraud had been provided to date.

Pence then points out to him that there are indeed “some cases” that are coming out in Arizona on the validity of the vote. “Mike, I live in Arizona. There is nothing here, ”his counterpart would have answered.

“Something much worse”

The sequel is now part of the history of the United States. On the evening of January 5, Donald Trump tried one last time to encourage Mike Pence to implement his plan to cancel the result of the vote. We’re in the White House. Outside, the billionaire’s followers, galvanized by the unfounded allegations of fraud, began to converge on Washington where, on the 6th, the vice president is due to chair the parliamentary session aimed at certifying the vote in favor of Joe Biden. And Mike Pence tells the president he doesn’t have the authority to make it otherwise.

“What if these people say you got it,” Trump reportedly told his stalwart mate, referring to the crowd. “If these people told you you had the power, wouldn’t you want it?” “

The next day, Mike Pence will stick to the answer he gave to the president the day before – “no” -, respecting the limits of his function, and especially the Constitution of the country, and this, under the dome of American democracy beset by supporters of the deposed Republican.

The images went around the world. For Woodward and Costa, they testify to a failure of the intelligence services equivalent to the errors which preceded Pearl Harbor and the attacks of September 11, they write. But they would also portend the worst.

“Was January 6 a dress rehearsal? They ask in their 480-page brick, recalling that the Russian Revolution of 1917 which led to the founding of the Soviet Union in 1917 was preceded by a failed attempt to overthrow the Tsar regime in 1905, that Lenin later called it a “dress rehearsal”.

This reading of the present seems, moreover, to be shared by Mark Milley who, in the aftermath of the insurrection, is said to have told one of his collaborators that “what you have just seen is undoubtedly the premise of something much worse which is on our way ”.

Peril captures moreover precisely the dark spirit of this time. A time when the threat may have moved away from the White House, the better to ambush.

Peril

Bod Woodward and Robert Costa, Simon and Schuster, 2021, New York, 482 pages

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