President Donald Trump's supporters are calling on him to declare martial law so the U.S. military can somehow overturn his election loss, but legal experts aren't sure how that would actually work.
The president's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and at least one Republican lawmaker have urged Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which they somehow believe would allow him to unravel the alleged conspiracy against him, reported Politico.
“I guess it’d be a voting fraud conspiracy, but how is the military going to suppress that?” said Jimmy Gurulé, a former Justice Department prosecutor who now teaches at Notre Dame Law School. “By what, seizing all the ballots? By seizing all the voting machines? By then, what are they going to do, conduct the votes? It just doesn't make sense.”
The 1807 law allows the president to send in troops to suppress a domestic "conspiracy," but Gurulé doesn't understand what Trump's invocation of the law would be meant to accomplish.
“I think that the key here is, 'Well, what the hell is that conspiracy?’” he said. “No one can articulate the participants in the conspiracy, the scope of the conspiracy, the object of the conspiracy. It’s all over the place.”
Jared Holt, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, tried to narrow down the convoluted conspiracy theory into simple, if still nonsensical, terms.
“The central theme here is that there supposedly exists a network of nefarious actors trying to undermine Trump and destroy the United States, and that this is a tool that Trump could use to save the day,” Holt said.
The law has been used many times against riots, racial strife and during the Civil War, but only once after an election -- when President Ulysses S. Grant invoked it to put down a militia attack on Louisiana's government after former Confederate officer John McEnery lost the governor's race in 1872.
“When you're talking about a group of conspiracy theorists, and others who lack any kind of legal knowledge, they'll just pull that arrow out of their quiver when the rest don’t work,” said Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Trump may be fanning those flames to keep donations rolling in to his long-shot legal challenges, but Levin worries what will happen if his supporters refuse to accept Joe Biden as a legitimate president.
“What is the heart of the Second Amendment, pro-militia, anti-government patriot movement? It's the insurrectionist theory of the Second Amendment,” Levin said. “It says people can rise up against a tyrannical government. To me, this looks like the last exit on the Jersey Turnpike before we get to that spot.”