People may be wondering why Trump thought he could steal the election by sending a mob to attack the Capitol to stop counting the votes of the Electoral College. Maybe it’s because Republicans have used that playbook before: the Brooks Brothers Riot that ended vote counting in Florida in 2000, and installed George W. Bush in the White House.
This prophetic article in The Guardian appeared September 24, 2020.
In late November 2000, hundreds of mostly middle-aged male protesters, dressed in off-the-peg suits and cautious ties, descended on the Miami-Dade polling headquarters in Florida. Shouting, jostling, and punching, they demanded that a recount of ballots for the presidential election be stopped.
The protesters, many of whom were paid Republican operatives, succeeded. A recount of ballots in Florida was abandoned. What became known as the Brooks Brothers riot went down in infamy, and George W Bush became president after a supreme court decision.
In 2020, fears are growing that the US could see an unwanted sequel to the Brooks Brothers debacle – but with more violent participants.
Note the Supreme Court mention. Is it a stretch to think Trump would have been certain a Supreme Court with three members appointed by him plus the other conservatives would not hand a disputed election to him? Who could have suggested to him that a riot would be the answer? Guess who...
Perhaps the most famous operative on the scene was Nixon’s “dirty trickster” himself: Roger Stone.
In a 2008 New Yorker profile, Stone claimed he had been recruited by none other than James Baker III, the former secretary of state leading the Bush recount team, and that it was Stone’s idea to court protesters via Cuban radio.
“The idea we were putting out there was that this was a left-wing power grab by Gore, the same way Fidel Castro did it in Cuba,” he told Jeffrey Toobin. "We were very explicitly drawing that analogy.”
Stone claimed he ran the Brooks Brothers riot from a Winnebago parked near the election office.
Not everyone buys Stone’s claims: Brad Blakeman, a Bush campaign operative had this to say:
“Roger says a lot of things that aren’t true,” he said. “If he was there, everybody would know it, because nobody can miss Roger Stone.”(That idea is backed up by none other than Donald Trump, who Stone consulted on a possible 2000 presidential run. “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump told Toobin. “He always tries taking credit for things he never did.” Tapper’s book, meanwhile, does include a Stone sighting in the Winnebago but identifies Blakeman as the man behind the effort.)
The Washington Post article is from 2018, but if you read the rest of it, you can see some similarities between 2000 and what has been happening in 2020:
“It had to be a three-legged stool. We had to fight in the courts, in the recount centers and in the streets — in public opinion,” Blakeman said. He dressed up two staffers as a turkey and a pilgrim with a sign that said “stuff the turkey, not the ballot box.” He put another in a Grinch outfit, calling him the Gore-inch who instead of stealing Christmas, stole the election. He flew an anti-Gore banner over the city from an airplane, handed out free “Don’t be had by a chad” T-shirts and gave away “Sore/Loserman” “crying” towels.
Whether or not Stone was involved to the extent he claims, he still has Trump’s ear (and his pardon), and has been up to his Nixon tattoo in ratf*cking on behalf of Trump. If Trump needed any advice on how steal an election, the answers were not very far away. The Winnebago of 2000 has been upgraded to the tent set up before the rally on the National Mall. The White House afterwards is where Trump watched the riot unfold.
As rioters broke through police barricades and occupied the Capitol, paralyzing the business of Congress, aides said Trump resisted entreaties from some of his advisers to condemn the marauders and refused to be reasoned with.
“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’ ” an administration official said. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”
What we’ve learned since this 1/7/2021 report is the that Trump and Giuliani were on the phone while the riot was taking place, trying to keep Republicans in Congress delaying the vote. The semi-covert involvement of so many people with connections to members of Congress and others in the GOP back in 2000 to steal the election has become open participation by Republican Representatives and Senators to discredit the election of 2020. As of 1/8/2021, we learned:
President Donald Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani both mistakenly made calls to Republican Sen. Mike Lee as deadly riots were unfolding at the US Capitol earlier this week, a spokesman for the senator confirmed to CNN -- calls that were intended for another GOP senator the White House was frantically trying to convince to delay the counting of Electoral College votes.
The GOP has gone full Fascist under Trump. Even after the assault on the Capitol, there were Republicans still trying to delay the vote. Stealing the White House, stealing a Supreme Court seat — you name it. It is now in the DNA of the Republican Party. The Brooks Brothers Riot of 2000 can be viewed as a rehearsal for storming the Capitol in 2020. Only the flawed execution and chance kept it from becoming a successful coup. While Florida 2000 may have been a measure of Republican readiness to seize an opportunity, the Coup Attempt of 2020 was telegraphed ahead.
Monday is the earliest Pelosi can initiate impeachment. There is growing pressure on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. Pence is being given 24 hours to get Trump out of Dodge, either by 25th Amendment or resignation. (Remember when the TV show “24” was all the rage?)
An impeachment could start as early as Tuesday, but passing it on to the Senate for a trial could be held until after Biden is inaugurated and a Democratic Senate majority is in place. The suggestion is it could be delayed to give Biden 100 days to get his agenda started.
Whether or not impeachment is a good idea is being heavily debated. Here’s a hypothetical. Postulate a private citizen who has spent months pushing conspiracy theories and disinformation. Suppose this person, who has a lot of money and some political power players in his orbit, has accumulated a huge following. Suppose he warns that if candidate X loses the presidential election, it will only be because of fraud.
X loses decisively — and this person insists the election was stolen, without a shred of evidence despite multiple lawsuits where evidence could be brought forward — if it existed. His claims are amplified by a media complex and the internet. He holds rallies promoting the claim.
On the day Congress is set to accept the results of the election, he holds a rally on the National Mall. He and other speakers rouse the crowd to fury, and then send them off to attack the Capitol with rhetoric talking about fighting and being strong. The crowd includes people who have been prepping for weeks for this moment. They storm the Capitol, overwhelm the police, break in, commit vandalism, and send Congress fleeing for their lives. People die.
What consequences would the person who organized all this and lit the match on the fuse be facing today if he were not President of the United States? And what consequences should the party behind him face after 20+ years of efforts leading up to this moment?
This is part one — the next installment will discuss the prospect of impeachment and what it might accomplish.