“Watch out, everyone! Donald Trump is going to steal the election!”
That is the warning from, ostensibly, a collection of politicians, academics, and deep state veterans, working in tandem with ideological allies in the press.
“We … assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power,” says the final report by a group dubbing itself the “Transition Integrity Project.” The group’s activities have been reported most extensively by The Boston Globe, which wrote about the group’s conclusions on Monday.
Everything about this story deserves the label of “fake news,” far more than plenty of stories that have been tarred with that label. For starters, there’s how the report is presented. The Globe describes the Transition Integrity Project as a “bipartisan” venture that sought to “game out what would happen if the apparent losing candidate in November’s general election refused to concede.”
This is a lie. While TIP might present itself as bipartisan and disinterested, the report’s wording makes it clear that it is partisan, even hysterically so.
“The Transition Integrity Project was launched in late 2019 out of concern that the Trump Administration may week to manipulate, ignore, undermine or disrupt the 2020 presidential election and transition process. … [T]he administration of President Donald Trump has steadily undermined core norms of democracy and the rule of law and embraced numerous corrupt and authoritarian practices.”
And so on. As evidence for President Trump’s sinister designs on the 2020 election, TIP actually cites reporting on itself, generated through leaks to the Globe and other outlets (despite the supposedly “secretive” nature of the proceedings).
No less fake is the way TIP reached its conclusions:
The group used a tabletop exercise, a fixture in national security and military circles that involves elaborate role-playing and a 10-sided die, to explore worst case scenarios for the 2020 election.
In other words, they played a board game. Their entire report, claiming that President Trump will try to overturn an election that doesn’t go his way, is based on a tabletop simulation, with rules crafted by the people writing the report.
David Frum, who participated in some of the simulations, described some of the nefarious actions “Team Trump” committed in this homemade Dungeons and Dragons campaign: “It intentionally tried to cause long-term economic damage so as to prevent early economic recovery … It tried to sabotage the census … and it sowed pervasive mistrust in the integrity of U.S. elections in ways that would polarize and embitter U.S. politics long after 2020.”
Of course, all of these are things the American left has done, gleefully, over the past four years. The left sued to block the census from asking an obviously-legal citizenship question. They’ve pushed months of lockdowns and school shutdowns over coronavirus, months after it was clear they were unnecessary and unhelpful. And of course, the left has spent four years doing everything they possibly can to polarize the electorate with divisive race rhetoric, while undermining confidence in U.S. elections.
In 2016, Democrats attempted to reverse the election result by convincing Electoral College members to ignore the the actual results. They then spent two and a half years pushing the entirely fabricated Russian collusion narrative to suggest the results were illegitimate. They had elaborate daydreams of emergency elections that would bring about President Hillary:
Straightforward from here:
1. Impeach Trump & Pence
2. Constitutional crisis
3. Call special election
4. Ryan v Clinton
5. President Clinton
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) February 15, 2017
And so on. Now, President Trump’s foes are warning that he’s about to do what they have been relentlessly doing for close to four years. In fact, they’re warning that Trump will do what they are already plotting for this election. This week in New York, a federal judge required the state to count ballots received after election day, even if they lacked a postmark. New York’s votes won’t matter much in November, of course, but votes in Nevada will. And in that state, the Democratic-controlled government just passed a bill sending an absentee ballot to every voter in the state (while still maintaining in-person voting sites as well). These ballots can arrive an entire week after election day and still be counted. In fact, they can arrive three days after the election and still be counted, even if they lack a postmark.
Now, after four years of manipulating, ignoring, undermining, and disrupting America’s electoral process, the left is warning that, if President Trump contests the results, it will an attempt to “manipulate, ignore, undermine, or disrupt” the election.
So, who is behind this stunt? According to the Globe, TIP was organized by Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks, and historian Nils Gilman of Berggruen Institute. Brooks is certainly an expert on trying to “ignore, undermine, or disrupt” an election. In 2017, not even two weeks into the Trump administration, she published on article outlining “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020.” One of those options: A military coup d’etat!
What would top U.S. military leaders do if given an order that struck them as not merely ill-advised, but dangerously unhinged? An order that wasn’t along the lines of “Prepare a plan to invade Iraq if Congress authorizes it based on questionable intelligence,” but “Prepare to invade Mexico tomorrow!” or “Start rounding up Muslim Americans and sending them to Guantánamo!” or “I’m going to teach China a lesson — with nukes!”
It’s impossible to say, of course. The prospect of American military leaders responding to a presidential order with open defiance is frightening — but so, too, is the prospect of military obedience to an insane order. After all, military officers swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president. For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: “No, sir. We’re not doing that,” to thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.
Nils Gilman’s Twitter account, meanwhile, shows him to be a Trump-hater of the most childish and insipid sort. This is not to say it is childish or insipid to oppose Trump, or even hate him. But it is childish to exclusively refer to him with an angry-face emoji rather than saying his name, as Gilman does. Gilman also recently shared an article arguing that it is immoral for companies to hire Western workers when they can outsource to poor nations instead.
How about Gilman’s employer, the Berggruen Institute? It doesn’t have a high profile, but it does have a huge amount of money. The Institute is less than a decade old, but boasts an endowment of $500 million, thanks to the sponsorship of its namesake founder, billionaire Nicholas Berggruen. The Institute has extensive ties to China, recently spending $25 million to open a research center at Peking University.
In 2017, Berggruen released a paper on “Renovating Democracy for the Digital Age.” One of the chief “renovations” the institute pitched was a favorite of the neoliberal ruling class the world over: Censorship by tech monopolies.
“Social media platforms are currently poorly designed to act as sites of civic deliberation and the exchange of reliable information,” the 2017 paper says. “Governments could, of course, legislate to impose restrictions on the information shared over social media platforms, but a more elegant solution would surely be to provide incentives for technology companies to tackle this problem themselves.”
So that is who is warning the public about Donald Trump’s existential threat to democracy: An apologist for a military coup, and a historian working for a China-linked think tank that pushes tech censorship, both teaming up to promote a party that has been undermining America’s electoral system for the past four years.
The Transition Integrity Project isn’t analysis. It’s the gaslighting of America.