Trump plots martial law from White House — the press shrugs

The Normalizing Olympics

If you enjoy PRESS RUN, please consider purchasing a gift subscription for a friend who might enjoy fearless media commentary. Thanks!

Stay healthy.

Be kind.

Give a PRESS RUN gift subscription

In a West Wing meeting that would seem more fitting for a nation with a long history of authoritarian rule, Trump recently met with deranged, conspiracy-peddling advisers and discussed the possibility of using the U.S. military to seize voting machines across the country, declare martial law, and re-do the election in an effort to overturn this year's contest, which Trump lost by seven million votes. The meeting reportedly unraveled into a shouting match, with Trump's unhinged "election fraud" advisers condemning his staffers as "quitters."

The erratic plotting, which the New York Times reported was knocked down by Trump's more senior White House aides, was the latest manifestation of his chronically unstable behavior. Refusing to accept his lopsided loss, Trump has shredded faith in the democratic process for millions of Americans, and he shows no signs of ever peacefully transferring power in-person to President-elect Joe Biden. It represents one of the darkest chapters in American political history, with the subversive act threatening to do permanent damage to our democracy.

Incredibly though, the Times did not run its martial law story on page one on Sunday. Instead it was tucked inside on page 28. (It was also buried on the paper’s website.) Additionally, the military coup aspect of the report — the fact the President of the United States might want to enlist armed players to destroy free and fair elections — wasn't even included in the Times headline, or in the lede of the story.

"Trump Discussed Naming Sidney Powell as Special Counsel on Election Fraud," read the botched headline. Fact: There was no "election fraud" in 2020, so it's irresponsible for the Times to treat the debunked claim as fact in its headline by reporting Trump might appoint a special counsel for the phony topic.

Subscribe to PRESS RUN

Subscribe to PRESS RUN

The Times didn't think discussing a military coup warranted front-page coverage, but on Sunday the Times did run a big, page-one story about how Joe Biden's emerging cabinet isn't liberal enough for certain Democratic activists. It was the third time in seven days the Times ran essentially the same Dems in Disarray story about Biden's unfolding administration. (Alliances have been "strained," his choices are "vexing" "frustrated" and " increasingly skeptical" supporters.) This time, the paper gave that redundant story higher billing than the stunning report about Trump's advisers urging martial law to protect this reign of power.  

It's like the Normalizing Olympics — the press has spent four years turning often-seditious Trump behavior into 800-word stories that run on page 28.

The Times was not alone in basically shrugging a White House meeting that has likely never taken place in American history before. On Sunday morning, the Washington Post homepage included no mention of Trump considering the idea of imposing martial law. I couldn’t find a single major newspaper that ran the story on the front page over the weekend.

On the Sunday morning network talk shows, the discussed coup attempt was given just passing attention. NBC'S Meet the Press hosted Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), but never asked him about the White House martial law meeting where Trump wallowed in unhinged schemes with conspiracy attorney Sidney Powell (she claims Venezuela was behind Trump's November defeat), retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani. Sunday's CBS's Face the Nation also never mentioned the Friday meeting.

Wildly downplaying the severity, ABC News referred to the idea of imposing martial law to illegally secure Trump's power as a "scorched earth policy." I'd suggest filing dozens of frivolous lawsuits claiming nonexistent fraud represented a "scorched-earth course." But declaring martial law so soldiers can secure voting machines to change the outcome of an election is so far beyond that everyday description. What if Trump ordered Democratic Party officials be arrested? Would ABC News label that a "scorched-earth policy" move? A better description would be "attempted coup."

To its credit, CNN ran the story on the top of its homepage most of the weekend, discussed it dozens of times on the air, and unlike the Times, CNN used "martial law" in its headline.

Overall, we've seen this media timidity before, and specifically regarding Trump's open warfare on the American ballot box. Back in October when he was asked whether he would agree to the peaceful transfer of power if he lost, Trump became the first president in American history to balk at the centerpiece of our democratic tradition.  

Instead of generating banner headlines, the unprecedented development was treated as passing news. The Times placed the story inside the paper on page 15, gently noting that Trump had "declined an opportunity on Wednesday to endorse a peaceful transfer of power." The newspaper stressed that it was Democrats who were "increasingly alarmed" by Trump’s pledge to ignore election results, not all Americans who value liberty. "Trump Won't Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power" should have been on the front page of every major newspaper in America. It didn't appear on a single one. 

The day of Trump's comments, none of the evening network newscasts even reported on his transfer-of-power remarks.

All through Trump's unprecedented crusade against democratic elections the press, time and again, has refused to acknowledge the severity of his actions and the deep Republican support he enjoys when he attacks the democratic process. It’s sadly fitting that after four years of failing to call out Trump, much of the press downplayed the White House talk of martial law. The normalizing never stops.



After Mitt Romney lost in 2012, the GOP ordered up a political “autopsy” to see what went wrong. Following Trump’s loss to Biden, which was larger than Romney’s loss to Barack Obama, the GOP shows indication it’s concerned about its future.

Maybe it should be. From the Denver Post’sWhat Happened to the Colorado Republican Party?”

The Denver Post examined data and spoke to more than 20 Republicans, including many current and former elected officials, and found most attribute the powerlessness of a party that was competitive here just a few years ago, and dominant as recently as 2002, to a mix of factors: allegedly mismanaged campaign money; fundamental disagreements within the party over its direction and message; the increasing strength of the Democratic Party; demographic shifts that contributed heavily to the GOP’s disadvantage in voter registration; and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump, whom one pollster referred to as a “rocket booster” for Colorado Democrats.

Followe me on Twitter


James Maddock, "New York Skyline"

My favorite New York City singer/songwriter helps end this erratic year on a pleasing note with the release of his seventh studio album, No Time to Cry. A gifted singer with a soulful voice that delivers on so many levels, Maddock here covers Garland Jeffreys’ gorgeous and aching, "New York Skyline," which carries all sorts of new meanings and emotions during our pandemic run.

But the New York Skyline
It's calling me home tonight
Female, feline, feminine,
She's been making my world so bright