Roger Stone, long-time Rasputin-like political advisor and confidant to Donald Trump, should be in federal prison right now. Stone was convicted and sentenced for seven federal felonies, based, among other things, on his lying to Congress regarding his communications with Wikileaks about coordinating release of Hillary Clinton's stolen emails for maximum advantage to the 2016 Trump campaign.
Instead, Stone is back on the streets after Trump commuted his sentence. Stone had told the media that Trump should let him out of the slammer so he could more effectively help Trump to stay in office. Trump apparently agreed.
"This election could determine whether American democracy, no matter how imperfect, can survive."
Now Stone is advising Trump to have federal agents seize ballots in Nevada, physically block certain voters from casting ballots, arrest media critics and shut-down their publications, and even invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to arrest the likes of the Clintons, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple's Tim Cook.
Trump is apparently listening. In a Fox News interview just two days after Stone made his advice public, Trump referred to potential pro-Biden demonstrations around the election as "insurrection," telling Jeanine Pirro, "We'll put them down very quickly if they do that."
Trump added, "We have the right to do that. We have the power to do that if we want. Look, it's called Insurrection. We just send in and we, we do it very easy. I mean it's very easy.”
Stone laid out his advice on Alex Jones' Infowars program last Thursday. Stone advised Trump to form "an election day operation using the FBI, Federal Marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and, if necessary, to physically stand in the way of criminal activity…The President's authority is the Insurrection Act and his ability to declare marshall law."
Using the Insurrection Act, Stone suggested that Trump arrest the Clintons, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, among others.
Stone attacked The Daily Beast for reporting on progressive discussions about countering Trump's efforts to discredit the election, advocating that "their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down."
Stone also proposed that "The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada…"
If these were normal times and Trump were a normal President, Stone's comments would likely be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. But Fox's Chris Wallace asked Trump, whether he would "give a direct answer that you will accept the election." Trump refused, saying "I have to see. No, I'm not going to just say yes."
In a recent column in Forbes magazine, hardly a pillar of liberalism, Seth Cohen wrote that "Stone's calls for dramatic actions by Trump may not just be the rambling ideas of a disgraced felon. They might be actions the President actually, and dangerously considers."
And Harvard constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, generally a liberal but no extremist, tweeted: "If Stone were some random QAnon-like dude, this might not be worth worrying about. But Stone has Trump's ear, so his advocacy of totalitarian takeover by Trump has to be taken seriously. A normal president would tell Stone to shove it. Not Trump."
A number of experienced political hands are warning of chaos and even civil violence after Election Day if, due to delays in counting mail-in ballots, the winner isn't certain. The Transition Integrity Project, "a bipartisan group of over 100 current and former senior government and campaign leaders and other experts" conducted "war games"of various post-Election Day scenarios. In three of their four scenarios (excepting a Biden landslide) "the potential for violence is high."
There's a strong possibility that the period after Election Day could make Bush v. Gore in 2000 look like a tea party. Both the Biden campaign and the wider progressive movement have to be making contingency plans now for legal, political and mass action so it's not taken by surprise.
Initial strategy discussions have begun among activist groups, led so far by the Indivisible Project and Protect The Results who have formed a coalition of dozens of progressive organizations to plan for mass mobilization if Trump tries to overturn the election. So far, I haven't seen much reaction from the Biden campaign—at least not publicly.
Many commentators have warned that this election could determine whether American democracy, no matter how imperfect, can survive. Stone's proposals—and the possibility that Trump might do something along their lines—make these warnings seem even more relevant and alarming.