Can Trump really stage a coup? Experts weigh in on whether it’s possible

Donald Trump Getty Images/AP Photo/Salon

Source: Yahoo

By Nicole Karlis

This article originally appeared here on

For the first time in history, an incumbent president is refusing to concede after clearly and indisputably losing a presidential election. That’s making observers, citizens, and experts nervous that Trump may be preparing to stage a coup of some sort, or perhaps call again on his supporters to commit violence to sustain his rule. 

Though it sounds alarmist, such happenings are certainly not unprecedented in the global arena; the United States frequently interferes with the Democratic process in other countries, and often undermines it in order to provoke a coup or make a citizenry lose faith in a governing party, as US interests did in Bolivia last year. What is more unprecedented is for such a thing to happen in the United States. We’ve certainly had bitter and controversial presidential elections, including, infamously, in 2000. Moreover, the Founding Fathers prophesied this happening: as my colleague Matthew Rozsa noted, in early American history George Washington warned against Americans electing a president who’d refuse to step down.- ADVERTISEMENT -

But in a historical first, Trump is the first president to flat out refuse to concede, leading some to believe he’s setting the gears in motion for a coup d’etat. Since the election was called on Saturday, Trump has tweeted baseless claims that there’s a pathway to invalidating counted ballots. In addition to his refusal to concede, he’s pushed to fight the election results with evidence-free lawsuits. 

As Barton Gellman wrote in The Atlantic before the election, the possibility that Trump might not concede was a prophecy that turned out true. “We have no precedent or procedure to end this election if Biden seems to carry the Electoral College but Trump refuses to concede,” Gellman said, noting that there are “endless happenstances in any election for lawyers to exploit.”

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