Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann
The morbidly rich often believe they’re immune from the politicians they fund turning on them. And they’re often wrong.
Now, here in America, rightwing billionaires are repeating the same mistake Germany’s ultra-rich made in the 1930s. And the MAGA Republicans and the billionaires who fund them are now gung-ho to put you and me under the thumb of the US military, just like Hitler did.
There’s even some concern that Tommy Tuberville’s Senate hold on military promotions may be a way of keeping top military positions open so Trump or another MAGA Republican president can fill them if the GOP takes the White House in 2024.
After all, it was one part of the military (the Secretary of Defense) that first helped Trump nearly assassinate Mike Pence and thus end American democracy, but then another part of the military (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) that apparently stopped him from finally succeeding.
It looks like the billionaires who control the MAGA movement have learned from January 6th and won’t make the mistake of having an independent military, FBI, press, or Department of Justice again.
After Hitler’s failed beer hall putsch, he was legally banned from public speaking and mass rallies. In 1930, however, German media mogul Alfred Hugenberg—a rightwing billionaire who owned two of the largest national newspapers and had considerable influence over radio—joined forces with Hitler and relentlessly promoted him, much like the Murdoch media empire and billionaire-owned rightwing radio helped bring Trump to power in 2016 and still promote MAGA today.
While politically independent, German President Paul von Hindenburg’s sympathies lay with the conservatives and monarchists. Like today’s GOP, Hindenburg’s coalition favored Germany’s morbidly rich (Hindenburg’s father was an aristocrat) and industry, but was always just short of achieving total power over the German state.
Hitler, on the other hand, didn’t care much at first about Germany’s aristocrats; he led a populist evangelical movement dedicated to “purifying” Germany of the “filth” of Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and socialists.
While Hindenburg and the German conservative movement looked down on Hitler and his followers as ignoble rabble rousers, they were more than enthusiastic about getting their votes. They were convinced that, because they were backed by the largest industries and wealthiest people in Germany, they could control Hitler and he’d never be able to turn on people as wealthy and powerful as they were.
As German industrialist Fritz Thyssen confessed in his apologetic book I Paid Hitler, he pressured German President von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, and then lobbied the Association of German Industrialists, that country’s and era’s version of the US Chamber of Commerce, to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party for the 1932 election.
While Thyssen did it primarily because he wanted tax cuts for morbidly rich people like himself and more government contracts for his company, his efforts combined with Hugenberg’s media empire brought Hitler and his bigots to power.
And then Hitler, once he had full control of the military, turned on most all of them and utterly destroyed what was left of German democracy.
Was this what Trump had in mind at the end of his administration? Is it what he and his billionaire buddies are planning for the next Republican presidency?
Back on December 16, 2020—six weeks after Trump lost the election but three weeks before the vote would be certified by Vice President Pence and Congress—Donald Trump put down on paper his plan to have the US military seize control of the nation.
It would have been America’s first military coup.
His executive order laid out his mobilization of the Army to seize voting machines across the nation and confront anybody who protested with lethal force. It starts:
“By the authority vested in me as President of the United States pursuant to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, … I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, find that the forensic report of the Antrim County, Michigan voting machines, released December 13, 2020, and other evidence submitted to me in support of this order, provide probable cause sufficient to require action under the authorities cited above because of evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 3, 2020, election.”
The next half-dozen paragraphs cite a long list of claims that purport to prove the election was stolen from Trump. For example:
“Dominion Voting Systems and related companies are owned or heavily controlled and influenced by foreign agents, countries, and interests. The forensic report prepared by experts found that ‘the Dominion Voting System is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results. The system intentionally generates an enormously high number of ballot errors. The intentional errors lead to bulk adjudication of ballots with no oversight, no transparency, and no audit trail. This leads to voter or election fraud.’”
And then he gets to the military part:
“Accordingly, I hereby order: (1) Effective immediately, the Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under United States Code Title 42, Sections 1974-1974(e), including but not limited to those identified in footnote 1.
“The Secretary of Defense has discretion to determine the interdiction of national critical infrastructure supporting federal elections.”
This Executive Order, if it had been instituted, would have probably led to the immediate takeover of America by the military.
“National critical infrastructure” could be broadly interpreted to include our highways and airports—as these are used to transport ballots and voting machines—as well as seizing control of the internet, which is referenced at length in one of the paragraphs “documenting” the stolen election:
“The report found the election management system to be wrought with unacceptable and unlawful vulnerabilities––including access to the internet–– probable cause to find evidence of fraud, and numerous malicious actions. … In fact, there is probable cause to find a massive cyber-attack by foreign interests on our crucial national infrastructure surrounding our election––not the least of which was the hacking of the voter registration system by Iran.”
So, why didn’t Trump execute his Executive Order? Right now, nobody knows for sure, but a reasonable speculation is that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told him that he’d refuse the orders if given by Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, and his Chief of Staff, Kash Patel.
That would certainly account for why Trump has been showing such open hatred for Milley. He may well have been the one man blocking Trump’s plan to militarize the nation and remain in office during the “state of emergency” resulting from the “proof” they expected to find or manufacture once they’d seized the swing states’ voting machines.
Acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, would definitely not be the man who stood up to Trump that month. In fact, he gave the order that left the Capitol unprotected even as every police and security agency in the federal government (and anybody with a Facebook or Twitter account) knew there could be bloodshed coming.
Just three weeks later, on January 4th, Acting Defense Secretary Miller, in the effective role of commander of our entire military just one step below Commander-in-Chief Trump (on whose behalf he acted), issued a memo (attached at the end of this article) specifically directing Army Secretary McCarthy and the National Guard that for January 6th and just for January 6th they were:
- Not authorized to be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.
- Not to interact physically with protestors, except when necessary in self-defense or defense of others.
- Not to employ any riot control agents.
- Not to share equipment with law enforcement agencies.
- Not authorized to use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities in assistance to Capitol Police.
- Not allowed to employ helicopters or any other air assets.
- Not to conduct searches, seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law enforcement activity.
- Not authorized to seek support from any non-DC National Guard units.
If this isn’t bad enough, on January 6th itself—as armed traitors were attacking police and searching to “hang Mike Pence”—Chris Miller oversaw a mid-afternoon, mid-riot conference call in which Army Secretary McCarthy was again begging for authority to immediately bring in the National Guard.
Then-Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations General Charles Flynn, the brother of convicted/pardoned foreign agent General Michael Flynn (who had been pushing Trump to declare martial law and seize voting machines nationwide) was on the call; both the Pentagon and the Army, NBC News reported, lied to the press, Congress, and, apparently, to the Biden administration about his presence on that call for almost a year.
It wasn’t until December that it was widely reported that the National Security Council’s Colonel Earl Matthews (who was also on the call) wrote a memo calling both Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen Walter Piatt, the Director of Army Staff, “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their testimony to Congress in which they both denied they’d argued to withhold the National Guard on January 6th.
Months later, America discovered that the phones and text messages of most of the group, including Chris Miller, Walter Piatt, Kash Patel and Ryan McCarthy, were all wiped of all conversations they had on and leading up to January 6th.
ICE’s senior command, whose plainclothes agents were sent by Trump to Portland to beat up and kidnap protesters off the street and used, essentially, as his private militia was also instructed by the Trump Administration to wipe all their phones after January 6th.
So, if Trump or a similar MAGA-type Republican were to take the White House in the 2024 election, it makes sense that their first efforts would be directed toward seizing fuller control of the senior levels of the military command structure than Trump had during his last weeks in office in 2021.
And, no doubt just by coincidence, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is, at this moment, holding open hundreds of senior military positions in a fashion similar to the way Mitch McConnell held Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court open for well over a year before Trump took office in 2017.
That would be the Senator Tuberville whose hometown newspaper printed pictures showing him in Trump’s private residence the evening of January 5th, 2021, at what appears to be a planning session just hours before the Capitol was invaded.
As the Alabama Political Reporter newspaper reported at the time:
“The night before the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville and the then-director of the Republican Attorneys General Association met with then-President Donald Trump’s sons and close advisers, according to a social media post by a Nebraska Republican who at the time was a Trump administration appointee.
“Charles W. Herbster, who was then the national chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee in Trump’s administration, in a Facebook post at 8:33 p.m. on Jan. 5 said that he was standing ‘in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth.’ …
“Among the attendees, according to Herbster’s post, were Tuberville, former RAGA director Adam Piper, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie.”
Tuberville has denied to the press that he was at the meeting, but the Alabama Political Reporter noted not only the pictures of him there but also reprinted Facebook and Instagram posts from others who attended citing Tuberville as being part of this particular war room event planning for January 6th.
One, a rightwing tech CEO named Daniel Beck, even wrote on Instagram just before midnight January 5th (with a picture at the hotel) that he’d just:
“[S]pent the evening with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Tommy Tuberville, Michael J. Lindell, Peter Navarro, and Rudy Giuliani. We talked about the elections, illegal votes, court cases, the republics’ status, what to expect on the hill tomorrow. TRUMP WILL RETAIN THE PRESIDENCY!!!”
The billionaires behind the MAGA movement aren’t just working hard to get Trump or another MAGA-type Republican elected next year; they’ve also laid out a detailed plan to end the independence of the FBI, the FCC, and the Federal Reserve. They call it Project 2025 and it’s already been publicly rolled out by the billionaire-founded and -supported Heritage Foundation.
Combined with the power of the US military, the FCC could shut down most opposition radio, TV, podcasts, and websites in days. The Federal Reserve could seize or freeze banking assets of people and organizations the new Republican administration considers disloyal.
In this, the GOP would be following a nearly identical game-plan played out in the 1930s by Hitler and Mussolini, and in the past decade by both Putin and Orbán.
In all four of those countries it was the morbidly rich who supported the authoritarian takeovers; they believed their interests would be best served by autocracy and oligarchy instead of democracy.
For a while they were right, too—until the leaders turned on them. Thyssen fled Germany to save his and his family’s life; hundreds of other industrialists weren’t so fortunate. Russian billionaires are today falling out of windows with startling frequency.
Ever since five Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery, pitting the full power of billionaire money against our system of government, we have been inexorably moving toward this moment in history.
The 2024 election will determine the direction this country takes, perhaps for another century.
Will we turn to fascism and authoritarianism with a military takeover, as a handful of activist rightwing billionaires and their wholly-owned Republican politicians want? Or will we turn back toward democracy and rebuild America’s middle class that has been so battered and gutted by 42 years of neoliberal Reaganomics?
To the extent that our institutions are still intact, that decision will be in your hands and those of people like you. Tag, you’re it!
Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.