“The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election,” a bombshell Time article released just days before the Senate impeachment trial, appears to have provided some of the best evidence the Trump “incitement” narrative was birthed as far back as nine months ago.
It is important to bear in mind that it has been the mission of Trump’s political enemies in the Democratic Party to see him impeached and convicted before he even took a step in office. In fact, House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin called for Trump’s impeachment two days before he was even sworn into office.
The Democrats had impeached Trump before. It was based on trivial “whistleblower” testimony that was ultimately second-hand information. We’re not talking about the most high-minded and intellectually honest political actors here.
In fact, the Democrats have been searching for narratives to impeach the president and convict him for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for years. The argument Trump would “incite” a protest, now called an “insurrection,” was predicted several months in advance. The now-resigned Capitol Police chief explicitly warned the Congress about it days before it happened.
The Capitol riot was ready-made for the Democrats to weaponize. There were masterminds who wargamed it, predicted it, and prepared for it. We now have a mountain of potential evidence this is the case, thanks in part to the Time article‘s revelations.
The “Architect” of the Democrats’ shadow campaign to “fortify” the 2020 election results was John Podhorzer, senior adviser to the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union federation. He led a Trump resistance cabal consisting of a massive network of big tech companies, corporate giants, labor unions, and radical activist groups.
The shadow cabal’s meetings were driven by the ostensibly shaky premise that there was a high likelihood of a contested election. Although contested elections are not rare — the Democrats themselves contested elections in 2000, 2004, and 2016 — it seems like a heavy expenditure of resources resting upon a thin reed of speculation. It all began in March of last year:
On March 3, Podhorzer drafted a three-page confidential memo titled “Threats to the 2020 Election.” “Trump has made it clear that this will not be a fair election, and that he will reject anything but his own re-election as ‘fake’ and rigged,” he wrote. “On Nov. 3, should the media report otherwise, he will use the right-wing information system to establish his narrative and incite his supporters to protest.”
Let’s read that again: Trump “will use the right-wing information system to establish his narrative and incite his supporters to protest.” Although the three-page memo is withheld as confidential, this is a direct quote of Podhorzer from Molly Ball’s article. We’d all love to see the rest of the three-page memo.
The Podhorzer memo reportedly indicates that the stage in their action plans was countering “efforts to reverse the results of the election”:
The memo laid out four categories of challenges: attacks on voters, attacks on election administration, attacks on Trump’s political opponents and “efforts to reverse the results of the election.”
The Time article gives us a good idea of the key players.
Suddenly, the potential for a November meltdown was obvious. In his apartment in the D.C. suburbs, Podhorzer began working from his laptop at his kitchen table, holding back-to-back Zoom meetings for hours a day with his network of contacts across the progressive universe: the labor movement; the institutional left, like Planned Parenthood and Greenpeace; resistance groups like Indivisible and MoveOn; progressive data geeks and strategists, representatives of donors and foundations, state-level grassroots organizers, racial-justice activists and others.
It is worth noting here how the shadow cabal operated: On zoom calls.
In April, Podhorzer began hosting a weekly 2½-hour Zoom. It was structured around a series of rapid-fire five-minute presentations on everything from which ads were working to messaging to legal strategy. The invitation-only gatherings soon attracted hundreds, creating a rare shared base of knowledge for the fractious progressive movement. “At the risk of talking trash about the left, there’s not a lot of good information sharing,” says Anat Shenker-Osorio, a close Podhorzer friend whose poll-tested messaging guidance shaped the group’s approach. “There’s a lot of not-invented-here syndrome, where people won’t consider a good idea if they didn’t come up with it.”
The summer uprising had shown that people power could have a massive impact. Activists began preparing to reprise the demonstrations if Trump tried to steal the election. ‘Americans plan widespread protests if Trump interferes with election,’ Reuters reported in October, one of many such stories.
Now, recall the report that the 2020 election was secretly “war-gamed” out. A Boston Globe report from July called, “A Bipartisan Group Secretly Gathered To Game Out A Contested Trump-Biden Election. It Wasn’t Pretty,” puts it vividly:
On the second Friday in June, a group of political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics quietly convened online for what became a disturbing exercise in the fragility of American democracy.
The group, which included Democrats and Republicans, gathered to game out possible results of the November election, grappling with questions that seem less far-fetched by the day: What if President Trump refuses to concede a loss, as he publicly hinted recently he might do? How far could he go to preserve his power? And what if Democrats refuse to give in?
“All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse,” said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organized the group known as the Transition Integrity Project. She described what they found in bleak terms: “The law is essentially … it’s almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.”
This is what this secret “bi-partisan” group found:
But, as they finalize a report on what they learned and begin briefing elected officials and others, they insist their warning is serious: A close election this fall is likely to be contested, and there are few guardrails to stop a constitutional crisis, particularly if Trump flexes the considerable tools at his disposal to give himself an advantage.
The question is: How were they so sure there would be Electoral College challenges? Biden was a weak candidate with a divided base who did a no-show campaign that would result in numerous election oddities.
Trump was an incumbent president who had presided over a strong economy and there were pandemic conditions that worked against a risky “change” election. The analysis is a bit too sure of its results.
There is another important confession in the Time article. On January 6th, “judgment day,” there was coordination between the shadow cabal and radical activist groups:
The conversation that followed was a difficult one, led by the activists charged with the protest strategy. “We wanted to be mindful of when was the right time to call for moving masses of people into the street,” Peoples says. As much as they were eager to mount a show of strength, mobilizing immediately could backfire and put people at risk. Protests that devolved into violent clashes would give Trump a pretext to send in federal agents or troops as he had over the summer. And rather than elevate Trump’s complaints by continuing to fight him, the alliance wanted to send the message that the people had spoken.
So, when the American people were denied the ability to witness the electoral college objections were Trump’s complaints simply being “de-elevated”? It was all due to an ensuing riot that the Capitol Police and National Guard did nothing to stop. There also was a purported “stand down” order (or was it a “standy by” order?).
So the word went out: stand down. Protect the Results announced that it would “not be activating the entire national mobilization network today, but remains ready to activate if necessary.” On Twitter, outraged progressives wondered what was going on. Why wasn’t anyone trying to stop Trump’s coup? Where were all the protests?
Podhorzer credits the activists for their restraint. “They had spent so much time getting ready to hit the streets on Wednesday. But they did it,” he says. “Wednesday through Friday, there was not a single Antifa vs. Proud Boys incident like everyone was expecting. And when that didn’t materialize, I don’t think the Trump campaign had a backup plan.”
So there was a plan. Everybody knew. The radical left had been planning for months for the January 6th Electoral College challenges.
It all turned out just as it was scripted. What a remarkable coincidence.
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Editor’s note: This article corrects the date of the Capitol riot: January 6th.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.