For all of President Trump’s rhetoric and ramblings about “keeping America safe,” the sentiment that he’s possibly itching for further terror on American soil is palpable. It almost feels wrong to think this, because the seat he fills used to warrant our respect despite our criticisms. It feels accusatory and cynical, because Trump is many things, all of which are abhorrent, but would he really wish physical harm to his country’s citizens? Maybe it’s the careless and unsympathetic nature of his demeanor. Or maybe it’s that he’s a racist and uses proposals like walls and nonsensical travel bans to feign a desire to keep us safe when really he just wants to appease his beloved “base.” Or maybe it’s his actual words. (Spoiler: it’s all three).
Buried in a Washington Post article earlier this week was an insinuation by the president that, amid concerns that Democrats will sweep the government during midterm elections this year, he believes a terrorist attack could help save the GOP:
In private conversations, Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting. He has referenced the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.
The idea that Trump would welcome such an event is not new. Last February, The New Yorker ran an article titled “How President Trump Could Seize More Power After a Terrorist Attack.” The article highlights the power the president would have in the wake of a large-scale terrorist attack (or the power he would assume to have). This discussion is still (if not more) relevant today, but it now also encapsulates the idea that a terrorist attack would be useful for keeping Republicans in power.
So how is this actively dangerous for the United States? Aside from the mere musings of an unbridled narcissist, would Trump allow a terrorist attack to happen even if he had prior knowledge of it? Democratic Coalition co-founder Scott Dworkin poses that very question: “If [Trump] knew of an incoming terrorist attack, would he let it happen to help the GOP?” Dworkin thinks yes.
Let’s say Trump is willing to turn a blind eye to an incoming terrorist attack to advance his own interests — would he be willing to go even further? A false flag attack is a term used to describe an attack orchestrated from within one party of government, but framed as though it came from elsewhere. One event in particular that has been theorized to be a false flag attack occurred on February 27, 1933, when the German parliament building burned down due to arson. Although the origin of the fire remains unclear, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party framed the attack as an effort by the Communists to overthrow the state, and subsequently exerted more power because of it. The event led to what is referred to as the Reichstag Fire Decree, in which freedom of speech was wholly restricted and wide-sweeping arrests were made on political opponents.
Given the president’s ongoing rhetoric and behavior, it is worth asking what he could potentially be capable of. We already know democracy was the last thing on his mind when his presidential campaign was in cahoots with the Russians during the 2016 election, so is it possible he would see a threat like a terrorist attack as nothing but beneficial to preserving his own power? Even without hard evidence to support this theory, the fact that we are asking these questions about the President of the United States is in itself alarming.