How Trump is likely to seize more power after a terrorist attack

Ryan Lizza writes: Since September 11, 2001, ninety-four people have been killed in the United States in ten attacks carried out by a total of twelve radical Islamist terrorists. Each of the attackers was either an American citizen or a legal resident. More than half of the ninety-four murders occurred last year, when Omar Mateen, who was born on Long Island, killed forty-nine people at a night club in Orlando.

According to the comprehensive terrorism database maintained by the New America Foundation, since 9/11 there have been three hundred and ninety-six people involved in American terrorism cases, which New America defines as “individuals who are charged with or died engaging in jihadist terrorism or related activities inside the United States, and Americans accused of such activity abroad.” Eighty-three per cent of these individuals were American citizens or permanent residents. (Seventeen per cent were non-residents or had an unknown status.)

And yet, for more than two weeks, President Donald Trump and his top White House aides have been obsessed with highlighting a threat that does not exist: jihadist refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

It’s true that both worldwide terrorist attacks and terrorism-related cases against plotters in the United States have spiked since 2013, an increase largely attributed to the fallout from the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State. I talked to several counterterrorism experts this week, and they all believe that there will be another attack.

“I do believe the world faces a serious and growing terrorist threat,” Evan McMullin, the former C.I.A. officer and Republican who ran for President as an independent candidate against Trump, said. “But Trump, either by ignorance or malice, is distorting the nature of that threat by targeting very well-vetted immigrants, including legal permanent residents and refugees. He simply does not have a strong national-security case to make against these people, which is why it is reasonable to wonder if he has some ulterior motive for taking such extreme steps against them.” [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “How Trump is likely to seize more power after a terrorist attack

  1. hquain

    More broadly, Bannon & Trump need a state of emergency to establish their rule-by-decree mode of government. They’ve got to eliminate the role of the judiciary. “Terrorism” is a first attempt. Right now, it appears that we have a bunch of autocrats in the WH poking the buttons to see what happens, wondering why their commands are not instantly obeyed.

    They’ve started out like the pirates in your metaphor who have taken over the tanker and can only operate the radio. But they’ll figure it out, more or less, eventually, especially with the support of the Republicans controlling Congress. Are there grounds for anything but pessimism?

  2. Paul Woodward

    I’m not sure whether I’d call these grounds for optimism, but I think Trump (and probably Bannon) remain afraid of the legal system. Certainly they want to test the limits of their power, but they also know that if they push their luck too far they may end up getting put in shackles and personally escorted out of the White House by Comey.

    The rule of politics in Washington still applies: no one is trustworthy. Everyone is a potential backstabber.

    For Trump, the psychological pressures are now immense. He’s gone from a situation where he was getting a daily fix of the adulation he craves to now being trapped inside the White House surrounded by aides most of whom he probably doesn’t know and many of whom feel driven to talk to the press.

    How does this end? Of course I have no idea, but I can picture it ending with Trump rushing onto the White House lawn in the early hours, sans bathrobe, crying out that he’s under attack and then getting bundled off, under sedation, to a secret location while Pence and Ryan negotiate a smooth transfer of power.

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