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Trump is setting himself up for a coup by packing Cabinet with ex-generals, military expert warns

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Donald Trump is populating his Cabinet with retired generals, which one international affairs expert says violates democratic norms and puts him at risk of being toppled in a military coup.

Steve Saideman, a political scientist at Ottawa’s Carleton University and an author who has extensively studied civil-military relations in democratic societies, said he’s concerned that Trump seems to be ending civilian control of the U.S. military — which he says is a necessary condition of democratic governance.

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“Civilian control of the military is both means and end,” Saideman wrote on the blog Political Violence @ A Glance. “It is not just about concentrations of power, but of subservience of the folks with the guns to the people elected to run the country. This is not about the founders of the U.S. or about what makes the U.S. special, but what is essential for modern democracy.”

He’s concerned that Trump had appointed retired Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, who would require a congressional waiver to serve just three years after his retirement, in addition to naming two other retired generals, Michael Flynn and John Kelly, as his National Security Advisor and Secretary of Homeland Security.

“The limit on officers serving immediately after retirement is not an accident but a good policy that should not be tossed away simply because Trump admires generals (sort of),” wrote Saideman, a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and desk officer on the U.S. Joint Staff’s Directorate of Strategic Plans and Policy. “In a time where authoritarian politics (threats towards journalists and protesters, etc.) are (increasingly) popular, we should put the U.S. military, active and retired, further away from the controls of the U.S. government, not closer.”

He disagrees with those who argue that self-imposed checks by the U.S. military would prevent current or former officers from seizing power or disobeying civilian orders — because he believes Trump’s presidency presents a unique and serious threat to national security.

“Trump’s inherent flaws, including his appeals to white supremacy, his inability to concentrate for the length of an intel briefing, and – most importantly – his lack of respect for and adherence to the various norms that make the institutions operate, make civilian control of the military more, not less, important,” Saideman argued.

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He worries that Trump could be such an awful and conflicted president that the military camarilla he established around himself will see no choice but to take over the executive branch.

“Coups happen for a variety of reasons, but most often those engaged in a coup claim that the government is corrupt and/or incompetent,” Saideman warned. “Here is where I could insert a picture of Trump. Trump’s recent call with Taiwan’s President – perhaps to facilitate his own business interests – is an abuse of power that could be used to justify a coup.”

Event absent the threat of a military coup, Saideman said civilian control of the military is necessary to preserve American democratic institutions.

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“Simply put, when many of the norms and institutions are under attack, we need to be more, not less, careful about the role of the military in our society,” he wrote. “It is, of course, not so much about coups, but about controlling the military so that it does what civilians want.”


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Strong signs that judges will increasingly decide how 2020 elections are run during the coronavirus pandemic

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The jaw-dropping conclusion of a federal court hearing on April 1 about Wisconsin’s statewide elections on April 7 was no April Fools’ joke. U.S. District Judge William Conley said the state’s Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature had failed to put their citizenry’s health first by not postponing the statewide election in a pandemic.

“There’s a hurricane coming!” Conley fumed from the bench, interrupting Douglas M. Poland, a lawyer representing the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and four citizens who sued the state. “You can’t even give me a case where a federal judge stopped a state from stupidly holding an election when most of the voters were not going to go to the polls because there’s a hurricane coming!”

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Top South Dakota Republicans face investigation for appearing to be drunk during crucial coronavirus session

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Lawmakers in South Dakota are investigating whether or not Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer (R) was drunk during a meeting earlier this week -- a meeting that dealt with new legislation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the Rapid City Journal reports.

Another South Dakota Republican, Brock Greenfield, is also under investigation for his conduct during the meeting.

"Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak," the Journal reports. "As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee."

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‘Modern piracy’: Germany accuses Trump of stealing N95 masks it ordered from factory in China

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The German government is accusing the U.S. government of stealing N95 masks that it had ordered from a factory based in China that's run by American company 3M.

The Guardian reports that the German government claims that "200,000 N95 masks made by the manufacturer 3M were diverted to the U.S. as they were being transferred between planes in Thailand."

Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, said that the American seizure of masks that were set to go to Germany was "an act of modern piracy" and warned that continuing to take such actions could create chaos across the globe.

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