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HomeIllinois NewsBeckman: For the record, define "coup d'etat," "sedition," or maybe "insurrection"

Beckman: For the record, define “coup d’etat,” “sedition,” or maybe “insurrection”



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By Hank Beckman - 

You might have heard that a group of Trump supporters attempted "a coup d’etat" two weeks ago.

On the day that Congress was to certify the electoral votes confirming that Joe Biden was officially our next president, a group of MAGA hat—wearing, flag-waving Trump enthusiasts stormed the Capital protesting what they believe was an election that was stolen through various fraudulent voting practices, including dubious mail-in votes, states ignoring their own election laws, and manipulation of electronic votes.

Whether or not any of these allegations have merit is beside the point and should be the subject of a congressional investigation.

The important point is that the Trump supporters operate under the sincere perception that the election was stolen from their hero, and they saw it as their patriotic duty to vigorously protest what they see as a historic injustice. And as has often been said, perception has a way of becoming reality; at least in the minds of those holding the perception.

Unfortunately, a small number of the protestors violently stormed the Capitol building, attacking police personnel, invading the offices of legislators, generally wreaking havoc and destruction. One of the protestors was fatally shot.

We don’t know the details yet, so we should refrain from claiming that she was murdered or demand the arrest of anyone before the facts emerge. We’ve seen enough of that nonsense in the recent past.

Moreover, pictures and various interviews with participants prove that it was indeed a small number of protesters that turned violent. The phrase “mostly peaceful” comes to mind.

But what of the charge that the riot represented nothing less than an attempted coup d’etat by traitors who need to be hunted down and jailed for the good of the country? Does sedition really describe what happened?

One of my recent columns pointed out the mainstream media’s habit of reciting the same talking point on cue. In the wake of the riot, our leftist friends stayed true to form, regaling us with their latest nugget of wisdom: the riot was an insurrection.

On the American Spectator website, David Catron provides several examples of liberals breathlessly repeating the charge, along with the inevitable, despicable claim of a racial double standard, so I won’t bother to repeat them; check his column out for yourself.

Catron also provides a legal definition of insurrection by citing 18 U.S. Code 2383, which defines insurrection as “rebellion against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof.” Formal rebellion implies an organized group with a plan of action.

I’m not sure the group marching on the Capital could plan anything more complicated than a trip to the beach on a hot day, but if liberals insist on labeling what happened an insurrection, or a coup attempt, they need to explain why they were so reluctant to describe the riots last Spring the same way.

If organization and planning are necessary for an act to be classified as a coup d’etat, there was another attempt in recent memory that certainly qualifies.

Around the same time that Donald Trump was being elected, an organized group of plotters in the Justice Department and FBI planned a coup against first his candidacy and then his presidency.

These were people highly educated in both the laws of the land and the political culture of the rancid swamp that is Washington, D.C.

They used a seriously flawed dossier—paid for by the Clinton campaign—to obtain a warrant from the FISA court to spy on Carter Page, ostensibly to make sure he wasn’t working with the Russians. But as anyone with a smidgen of common sense can tell you, their real objective was to spy on the Trump campaign.

And as it turns out, not only was Page not a Russian agent or stooge, but he was actually working for the CIA. His claims that he was working for them were largely dismissed in media accounts, but Justice Department Inspector General’s Michael Horowitz’s report makes it clear that Page was telling the truth.

To this day, the authorities have failed to charge Mr. Page with any crime and have never found it necessary to explain to the public why they spent so much time and treasure making his life a living hell but failed to find him accountable for any criminal act of espionage against the United States.

For all the taxpayer dollars spent, all that the Mueller investigation produced were worthless indictments of Russian nationals for Internet hoaxes, convictions of Paul Manafort for financial crimes that had nothing to do with colluding with the Russians during the campaign, and several convictions of more minor figures for lying to the FBI.

And of course, Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, obtained after the plotters threatened to investigate his family.

The plotters leaked any number of false stories to their friends in media to keep alive the narrative that the 2016 election was stolen by Trump with the assistance of Vladimir Putin and his Russian cronies. 

In her 7 May Wall Street Journal article, Kim Strassel provides a brief but valuable outline of the attempt to undermine the Trump administration.

She explains how every allegation against Page and Manafort stemmed from the flawed dossier and that the people investigating the alleged collusion knew by August 2017 that the dossier was faulty.

Yet, in an effort to bring down Donald Trump—an organized effort, remember—the plotters persisted in dragging out the investigation, finally admitting with the release of the Mueller Report that they had insufficient evidence to charge the president with obstruction of justice or any other crime.

Mueller and his allies in the media went to great lengths to stress that the report specifically stated that it didn’t mean there wasn’t criminal activity involving the president’s campaign colluding illegally with the Russians, just that there was insufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges against Trump or anyone in the campaign.

As for obstructing the investigation, the report states that the investigation “does not conclude that the President committed a crime.” But the report also stated that it didn’t exonerate Trump.

That’s a cheap, sleazy way of saying that the government couldn’t prove any crime, but wants the public to believe that an American citizen was still guilty.

Special counsels are tasked with finding out whether a crime has been committed. The special part of the title means that a conflict of interest exists for the usual prosecuting authority, so the investigation is given to a special counsel. Editorializing about what might have happened is not part of the job.

Writing in the New York Post April 18, 2019, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy called Mueller’s failure to indict while leaving the impression that the matter was unresolved was an “outrageous shifting of the burden of proof: The constitutional right of every American to force the government to prove a crime has been committed, rather than to have to prove his or or her own innocence…The obligation of the prosecutor is to render a judgement about whether there is enough proof to charge a crime. If there is, the prosecutor indicts; if there is not, the prosecutor remains silent.”

McCarthy minces no words, calling Mueller’s conclusions a “smear. Worse than that, it flouts the Constitution.”

What happened at the capital last week obviously doesn’t qualify as an insurrection or attempted coup. Anyone interested in what a real attempted coup d’tat looks like should pay close attention to what happened to a legally-elected, sitting president by his own government.

Unlike the amateur, rag-tag bunch that descended on the Capital, the people that set up Carter Page and jump-started a two-year witch hunt for Americans colluding with the Russians were professional saboteurs.


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  1. What happened in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021 was not an insurrection.
    If you want to see an insurrection firsthand take a look at what is happening at the US District Court House in Portland, Oregon every night of the week.