Donald Trump
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It’s hard to think of a more consequential election in American history since at least 1932. With a raging pandemic, a closing time window to address climate change, record economic inequality and the greatest social unrest in decades, the difference between the two candidates could hardly be more stark. Donald Trump has no plan for the pandemic and would condemn hundreds of thousands millions to die needlessly; he doesn’t believe in climate change and is doing all he can to increase emissions; he cut taxes even further on corporations and the rich while planning to defund social security; and he is the most openly racist president in modern American history. Joe Biden wasn’t the most progressive candidate in the Democratic primary on these issues, but his campaign platform is the still most progressive of any Democratic nominee in at least the last half century.

But tonight the stakes grew even more alarming: Axios reports that President Trump is planning a series of Saturday Night Massacres if he wins re-election, furiously overturning the leadership of the FBI, CIA and the Pentagon:

If President Trump wins re-election,he’ll move to immediately fire FBI Director Christopher Wray and also expects to replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, two people who’ve discussed these officials’ fates with the president tell Axios.

The reason is simple: Trump is obsessed with prosecuting his political opponents for illusory “crimes.” He has been every since his infamous chants of “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server (a violation of of which he, his family and administration have also been notoriously guilty.) Trump is furious that the FBI has not more aggressively persecuted Obama for the imagined offense of “spying on his campaign.” (The Obama Administration did no such thing.) When John Durham was made the henchman responsible for running a specious counter-investigation of the FBI in retaliation for the Trump-Russia probe, Trump expected big things. When it fizzled, he became furious with CIA Director Gina Haspel for not doing more to help him.

Meanwhile, for over a year Trump and his personal lawyer/consigliere Rudy Giuliani have been trying to dig up fake mud on the Bidens by focusing Hunter Biden’s employment by a company in Ukraine. Trump’s attempt to extort the government of Ukraine into helping his campaign wound up getting him impeached. Now Giuliani has come up with another suspicious attack on Hunter Biden via a laptop supposedly left at a repair shop. Trump and his entourage see in it a last-ditch opportunity for an October Surprise, and they’re incensed that FBI Director Wray hasn’t already set the Bidens up for scurrilous investigations and show trials.

As for Wray, whose expected firing was first reported by The Daily Beast, Trump is angry his second FBI chief didn’t launch a formal investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign business connections — and didn’t purge more officials Trump believes abused power to investigate his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.

  • Trump also grew incensed when Wray testified in September that the FBI has not seen widespread election fraud, including with mail-in ballots.

Over at the Pentagon, Trump is outraged that the upper echelons of the military didn’t cooperate with his wildly unconstitutional and immoral attempts to use U.S. soldiers against racial justice protesters:

Trump soured on Esper over the summer when the Defense secretary rebuffed the idea of sending active-duty military into the streets to deal with racial justice protests and distanced himself from the clearing of Lafayette Square for a photo op at St. John’s church.

And as much as Attorney General Bill Barr has turned the Justice Department into Trump’s personal law firm, Trump is still upset that it isn’t enough–even as Barr grumbles that Trump’s own proclamations make it harder for him to assist in Trump’s attempts to flagrantly obstruct justice.

If elected to a second term, Trump will see himself as vindicated and utterly unconstrained. With no active public policy plan for a second term, he will focus entirely on settling old scores. Even more dangerously, he will work to eliminate the last barriers against autocratic power, doing all he can to ensure that he and his family are never disempowered, much less held accountable for their misdeeds.

With the help of a handpicked radical Supreme Court, Trump will obliterate the last vestiges of congressional oversight, firing any and all who observe moral decency and the letter of law. The only test for employment in the administration will be shamelessness and total loyalty to Trump’s will.

Chris Liddell, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, is heading the White House’s transition effort, including vetting potential new Cabinet officials, two White House officials told Axios.

  • He’s working closely with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Johnny McEntee, who runs the Office of Presidential Personnel and has been conducting “loyalty tests” to weed out “Never Trumpers” from the administration.

If Trump wins, expect to see dangerously unqualified ideologues in charge of the FBI, CIA, Pentagon and other key posts. There will be kangaroo court trials of Clinton, Obama, Biden and anyone else on the Fox News target list. There will be more comprehensive purges across government of career civil servants in favor of culture war inquisitors. The intelligence and immigration services will likely be converted into a secret police persecuting liberals and protesters (even more than they have been historically), and Trump will do all he can to use the full might of the military against civilian opposition.

It is an unthinkable nightmare from which it would take generations to awaken–and America has just nine days left to stop it.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.