Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

The Government Isn't Ready for the Violence Trump Might Unleash

| Apr. 07, 2024

The Biden administration should be preparing for the worst.

No one in law enforcement should be caught off guard if trouble breaks out before, during, or after the November presidential election, because Donald Trump keeps talking as if addressing differences through violence is a normal part of the American political process. The presumptive Republican nominee recently promised forgiveness for the January 6 insurrectionists, posted a video involving a fake image of President Joe Biden hog-tied in the back of a truck, and riled up his supporters by claiming that "if we don’t win this election, I don't think you're going to have another election in this country."

Trump could well prevail, polls suggest, but the former president is already making plans to undermine the result should he lose. In 2021, his refusal to admit defeat led to a bloody riot at the Capitol. As a candidate for reelection, Biden has every reason to warn voters about his Republican opponent's dangerous assault on democratic norms. But as the president of the United States, Biden should also be pushing executive-branch agencies to protect the casting and counting of votes against violent interference and to ward off attempts to interfere with the certification of November's outcome. He is obliged, in other words, to make sure that, regardless of whether he or Trump wins, the victor will be able to take office peacefully.

The January 6th Committee is best remembered for its damning account of what happened that day, and of the forces that led up to those events. But the committee's report points to some of the preparations that urgently need to be made. The panel highlighted gaps among federal agencies in their protocols for sharing intelligence about extremism and other domestic threats to our democracy. The report recommended prioritizing election-related intelligence-sharing efforts so that public-safety officials are ready. It also recommended paying greater attention to getting the District of Columbia ready for the certification of electoral votes, and urged the president to designate the joint session of Congress during which the election will be certified as a "National Special Security Event." This designation, which is also applied to the inauguration and the State of the Union address, requires elaborate planning and expanded security measures to protect an event of national significance. Biden should take the committee's advice.

The executive branch alone can't enact every proposal recommended by the January 6 committee. The panel called for enhanced penalties in criminal statutes prohibiting threats to election workers and attempts to overthrow elections. This would require congressional approval, which the Department of Justice can still seek....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Government Isn't Ready for the Violence Trump Might Unleash.” The Atlantic, April 7, 2024.

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