In an interview with NBC News this week, Attorney General William Barr appeared to “whitewash” the Russian attack against the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The attorney general’s “frightening” statements have prompted a leading conservative scholar to warn that Barr “will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office,” including allowing the president to declare martial law.
Trump himself, according to the warning posted to Twitter by Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, will “do anything” to remain in office. He warned that Trump may even suspend the upcoming elections and declare martial law in order to preserve his hold on power.
Though seemingly far-fetched, those possibilities can no longer be considered “fanciful, alarmist or crazy things,” according to Ornstein’s warning. The scholar also called on political and civic leaders, as well as law enforcement and military officials, to start “thinking now about how they might respond” if Trump attempts what would amount to a coup.
Ornstein’s warning came on the same day that Trump, during a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, said that he may stay in office as long as another 29 years — which would take him to age 102. On Sunday, Trump also made a “joke” about remaining in office beyond the constitutional end of his term, calling it “not a bad idea.”
In fact, Trump has frequently made what he calls “jokes” about becoming, in effect, president-for-life. Those repeated “jokes” have prompted other scholars prior to Ornstein to warn that United States institutions are poorly equipped — or not equipped at all — to prevent an unconstitutional seizure of presidential power by Trump.
In September, a former National Security Council official who is now a Georgetown University law professor, Josh Geltzer, issued a similar warning. Trump, Geltzer said, “is increasingly proving himself to be a President eager to overstep his authority.”
The law professor cited Trump’s attempts to obstruct the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as one example of Trump exceeding his authority. But in his NBC News interview, Barr appeared to support Trump’s dismissive approach to the Russian interference campaign. He called the 2015 Russian interference a “bogus narrative.”
In his Twitter post, Ornstein called Barr’s statements “even more frightening than many Americans imagine.” The conservative author and researcher said that Barr has now made it “clear” that if Trump attempts to hold on to power past the end of his term, the attorney general will “enable” him to do so.