The eye-popping events at the Capitol building this week left some people asking a troubling question: If President Trump is capable of inciting something like that, what else might he be capable of? And with 12 days left in his time in office, it’s a question worth asking.
Some of the possibilities are almost too scary to think about. The worst, perhaps, is the possibility that Trump, increasingly isolated and panicked and fearing indictment after the inauguration, might use the nuclear codes to launch an attack against—who knows—Iran, or China, or North Korea. Or he might use the codes for nuclear blackmail of some kind.
It sounds unthinkable, but it’s irresponsible not to consider it. As Politico reported, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked to General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about placing restrictions on when and how Trump would be able to access the codes.
“The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy,” Pelosi said in her letter to Milley.
During this week’s chaos, I continually recalled something that Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, said when I spoke with her shortly after the first presidential debate. I’d asked her if she believed there was any line that Trump would not cross to hold onto power. She answered, simply, “no.” At the time I was thinking about Trump attempting a coup, but that ship may have now sailed.
I reconnected with Mary Trump on Thursday, the day after her uncle’s supporters broke into the Capitol building, interrupting the counting of the electoral votes that eventually ratified Joe Biden’s win.
“This is somebody who committed crimes against America yesterday,” Mary Trump told me. “And he’s still busy, he’s still in the Oval Office.”
“Somebody said on Twitter that he’s locked out of Facebook, but he’s still got the nuclear codes,” she added.
Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have each locked Trump’s accounts, and YouTube has removed a video posted by Trump calling for the Capitol rioters to “go home” but repeating the fallacy that the election was “stolen” from him.
Indeed, even Trump’s old “fixer,” Michael Cohen, is expressing anxiety about the situation. “I am certain that Donald Trump is psychotic right now,” he told the Daily Beast Friday. “Donald Trump would rather burn down the White House, [than] turn over the keys.” With the nuclear codes he could burn down much more than that.
“So this is down to Congress,” Mary Trump added. “He should have been removed by a 25th Amendment today, or he should have been impeached and removed.” Vice President Mike Pence is said to oppose initiating proceedings to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment, but House Democrats say they’re seriously considering bringing articles of impeachment against the president on Monday.
If that can’t be done quickly, the remaining days of his term could be very long ones.
“There could be more tragedy coming up for us,” Mary Trump said. “There is a potential that the next two weeks are among the worst in our history.”
She’s not trying to be alarmist, she says. She’s merely making clear what might be possible based on her knowledge of her uncle’s personality, which she’s described as “nihilist.”
“No matter what happens, that potential does exist right now,” she said.