Retired Army Col. Phil Waldron, who authored the extensive PowerPoint presentation explaining how Republicans could overthrow the elected government of the United States, is now seeing the consequences of that revelation. He has been invited to Louisiana by the Republican secretary of state, so that he can explain to the state’s voting commission how they need to reform their voting system.
The story of the coup plan, as we understood it two weeks ago, was rather simple: Attorney John Eastman had drafted the plan. After it bounced back and forth between Trump and his legal team, that plan was presented to Mike Pence at a meeting where it was pushed by Trump and Mark Meadows. However, Pence refused to go along, and on Jan. 6 dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s as the Electoral Count Act requires. What we know now is a richer story. And much more frightening.
Far from being the subject of a single, secretive meeting, versions of the plan were spread across Washington. It was circulated among Republican officials. Waldron’s 36-slide PowerPoint presentation was made to Republicans in Congress. In response to this, Congressmembers not only texted Meadows in apparent eagerness to comply, but provided their own suggestions for how events could be accelerated.
Not a single voice appears to have been raised in protest.
The story of Waldron’s coup PowerPoint should be ridiculous. What makes it so, so very not ridiculous is the simple fact that it took 11 months before that plan became public. At the very least, dozens of Republicans in Congress were aware of the scheme before they sat down to play their part on Jan. 6. But the public did not know about it. No media reported on it. Even those deeply concerned about Trump’s “will be wild” invitation, and the potential for violence on that day, were completely unaware that Republicans—from top to bottom—had reviewed a plan for how they would use this day to defy the outcome of the election.
This wasn’t Donald Trump’s scheme. This was a Republican scheme. Even those who were not in full agreement with the plan were surely apprised of its existence. If nothing else, this should be comforting to conspiracy theorists everywhere. If we—the media, Democrats in Congress, everyone—missed this, what else have we missed?
But even as the emails, documents, and texts out of Meadows’ office peel back blinders on what was really going on in the days and hours before the assault on the Capitol, a new reality is becoming startlingly clear. In this reality, Republicans no longer plot in secret to defeat democracy. They do it in the open. They champion it. They run on it. They run to make the next election the last election.
As The Washington Post reports, Waldron was in Louisiana to tell them how they should replace their voting machines with paper ballots. Except that most voters in Louisiana already mark a paper ballot. Still, Waldron spent 90 minutes telling them to stop doing what they’re already not doing. He also seems to have suggested posting all ballots online in a way that invites violation of privacy.
There seems to be absolutely no reason to have Waldron appear before at the state commission charged with reforming elections in Louisiana. Before being brought into the Trump White House to spread what is a concretely illegal scheme for overthrowing the government, Waldron was simply a garden-mill conspiracy theorist. As Mother Jones reports, Waldron “specialized in psychological operations” during his time in the military and lists his current occupation as a “cybersecurity specialist.”
That last title might suggest some reason other than his promotion of a coup that Louisiana officials might invite Waldron to drop in. Except that “cybersecurity specialist” is also how Rudy Giuliani was marketing himself. Giuliani was even Trump’s official “cybersecurity adviser.”
It’s unclear if Waldron has ever done anything to demonstrate any actual cybersecurity skills other than to create a lot of baseless claims that were included in the nonsense that Giuliani and Sidney Powell inserted into their doomed lawsuits. In fact, that’s how Waldron entered Trump’s circle, as a “source” for Giuliani and Powell after testifying that Dominion voting machines are connected to the internet (they’re not) and that he had witnesses who had taken “truckloads of ballots for Joe Biden” from from New York and delivered them to Michigan.
That’s the expertise that got Waldron a day in Louisiana.
What’s clear is that Waldron’s participation in efforts to destroy democracy have consequences. Consequences like making him a Republican star, an “expert” on voting, and the recipient of a nice payday.