Kevin Carroll, a former Army officer who served as senior counsel to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly during the Trump administration, highlighted a significant aspect of the latest indictment against former President Donald Trump in an op-ed published on Tuesday. Carroll’s piece titled “An Unthinkable Choice,” featured in The Dispatch sheds light on a crucial angle that hasn’t garnered widespread attention.
Carroll’s op-ed opens with a striking subheading, stating, “Donald Trump’s advisers would have put the U.S. military in the position of defying orders or turning their weapons on civilians.” The former Army officer starts by expressing his concern over two specific passages in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment against Trump. These paragraphs illustrate Trump’s alleged autocratic plan to remain in power and its implications for the U.S. military.
Carroll explains that the indictment describes how Trump and his team of lawyers, who denied the election results, formulated a plan that would force the U.S. military to choose between following civilian control or participating in an anti-democratic domestic political role. He further reveals that Trump’s co-conspirators discussed ways to suppress the inevitable riots if Trump managed to overturn the 2020 election outcome.
In the first passage, it appears that when a deputy White House counsel warned Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark that if Trump remained in office despite the absence of any evidence of outcome-determinative election fraud, riots would break out in U.S. cities, Clark responded, “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.” In the second, the indictment reports that when similarly warned of the risk of riots, Trump’s outside counsel John Eastman responded that there were points in American history when violence was necessary to protect the republic.
According to Carroll, Trump’s plan included having then Vice President Mike Pence invalidate electoral college votes from key states won by Biden and replace them with Trump votes, thus altering the election’s outcome. Carroll points out that Pence, in recent interviews, confirmed that this was Trump’s plan, which he ultimately rejected.
Carroll highlights that Trump’s team anticipated potential unrest as a result of their unconstitutional actions, and their strategy involved using federal troops or federalized National Guardsmen to quell the riots. The armed forces were meant to employ force against American citizens to ensure Trump’s retention in office, despite overwhelming evidence that Biden had won the election.
Carroll paints a scenario where soldiers would confront rioting civilians, which could lead to the tragic loss of life and escalate out of control. He emphasizes the excruciating position this plan would place military leaders in, torn between a legal order with ulterior motives and their oath to uphold the Constitution.
Generals would be forced to choose whether to abandon an unbroken tradition of American military obedience to civilian control, or turn their guns on civilians to facilitate a losing candidate remaining in the White House beyond Inauguration Day.
The foreseeable consequences of Clark, Eastman, and Trump’s criminal plot would have been profound for the military and the nation. I suspect the generals would have reluctantly chosen the first of the two bad options they faced.
In conclusion, Carroll suggests that if Trump is convicted of conspiracy related to his attempts to overturn the election, the potential harm caused by his willingness to deploy the military against the American public should be considered during his sentencing.