THICK AS THIEVES: THE CONTINUING PLOT TO MAKE TRUMP THE FIRST
by Michael R. Burch
October 21, 2023
Trump’s attempted coup was easy enough to predict, since it's clear from
the evidence below that he lusts after dictatorial power.
What happens when a wannabe dictator acquires a cult? The cult serves its
master’s whims. Once Trump expressed his desire to remain president despite
losing the 2020 election, his disciples began competing to see who could commit
the most felonies in the process of obliging him.
And we’re not out of the woods just because the first attempted coup failed.
Trump is planning something similar, but much more far-reaching, if he wins the
2024 presidential election. At the New York Times, Jonathan Swan,
Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman have created a report with frank admissions
from various Trump associates that he’s planning a political purge of the entire
federal government, “in order to bend it to his will.”
Trump is intent on creating the first American dictatorship. The report begins: “Donald J.
Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power
over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in
2025, reshaping the structure of the executive branch to concentrate far greater
authority directly in his hands.”
And this is being done in the open: “Trump and his advisers are making no secret
of their intentions — proclaiming them in rallies and on his campaign website,
describing them in white papers, and openly and publicly discussing them.”
Trump has long believed that being president gives him the “right” to do whatever he
In 2019, he told a cheering crowd of cultists, “I have an Article 2, where I
have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
That was wishful thinking, but Trump now has a plan to take total control of the federal government, if he
wins the 2024 election. Early in Trump’s presidency, his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, promised a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Now there’s a
plan to make it happen.
How do we know Trump longs to be an all-powerful dictator like his heroes
Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, Saddam Hussein, Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Mohammed Bin Salman and Xi Jinping?
Because he has told us so, repeatedly...
Trump “fell in love” with the murderous North Korean despot Jong-un:
“And then we fell in love, okay? No really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters.
We fell in love.”
Trump said this about Jong-un during an interview with Steve Doocy of Fox News:
“He's the head of a country and he's the strong head. Don't let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
Trump has expressed admiration for Jong-un’s “great character” but as Human Rights Watch
observed: “A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without
parallel in the contemporary world. They include extermination, murder,
enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual
violence. North Korea operates secretive prison camps where perceived opponents
of the government are sent to face torture and abuse, starvation rations, and
forced labor. Fear of collective punishment is used to silence dissent. There is
no independent media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom.”
Thus Trump "fell in love" with a cruel tyrant.
Trump bragged on tape to Bob Woodward about “saving” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed
Bin Salman from Congressional retaliation after the CIA concluded that he was
behind the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has talked about killing drug dealers like his hero Duterte, who has murdered thousands without bothering with trials:
According to Axios, Trump wants the death penalty for American drug dealers,
with one senior White House official telling the outlet: “He often jokes about
killing drug dealers... He'll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t
have a drug problem. They just kill them.’”
Trump has praised Duterte for his extrajudicial murders of drug dealers more
than once. And those murders have been estimated at 7,000 or more.
Trump also praised Saddam Hussein's efficient killing of terrorists, also without trials.
Trump favors a China-like dictatorship for the US. This is what he said
regarding Chinese president Xi Jinping during a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago,
according to CNN:
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look,
he was able to do that [abolish term limits]. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Trump did, indeed, “give that a shot” with his attempted coup, which left seven
people dead and 138 police officers injured. And now Trump’s gearing
up for another shot.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump said of Jinping:
“He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.”
Trump tends to repeat himself when fawning over powerful dictators.
Trump also expressed deep admiration and liking for Egyptian dictator
“I will tell you, President al-Sisi has been somebody that's been very close
to me from the first time I met him. I met him during the campaign, and at that
point there were two of us, and we both met. And hopefully you like me a lot
more. But it was very long. It was supposed to be just a quick brief meeting,
and we were with each other for a long period of time. We agreed on so many
things. I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we
are very much behind President al-Sisi. He's done a fantastic job in a very
Tapes from Bob Woodward’s book Rage reveal Trump saying he gets along
better with foreign autocrats the “meaner and tougher” they are. “The easy
ones,” Trump said, referring to America’s allies, “I maybe don't like as much or
don't get along with as much.”
Trump said he'd rather be a dictator than a “dumb person” while bragging about
“acing” a cognitive test for dementia. May I state the obvious: that Trump
doesn’t set the intelligence bar too high for himself, despite claiming to be a
"stable genius," and probably not for the murderous dictators he hero-worships.
I have read several articles in which journalists have mentioned Trump’s
“dictator envy.” It’s common knowledge, plain to see as his overlarge ties. Historians agree. Philip Rucker, writing for the Washington Post,
observed that historians say “no U.S. president has been as free in his
admiration of dictators and absolute power as the 45th.”
“Trump has dictator envy,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at
Rice University. “You start being more attracted to people like Kim and Putin
because they look like they could be presidents for life. And if they have
enemies, they don’t have to resort to Nixon keeping an enemies list. You just
destroy your enemies’ lives with a phone call. That’s attractive to Trump.”
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has also mentioned Trump’s disturbing
dictator “envy,” calling it “depraved.” In an interview on Closing Bell,
Summers said, “What’s tragic is that we’ve got a president who reaches out,
admires, envies, celebrates and seeks to foster closer relationships with
dictators while at the same time dissing, disregarding ... and failing to build
relationships with America’s traditional allies.”
“Trump has been remarkably consistent as long as he’s been on the public stage
in exhibiting authoritarian instincts,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard
University professor who recently co-authored the book How Democracies Die.
Hell, Trump even expressed admiration for Putin when he invaded Ukraine and
began mass-murdering Ukrainian children and their mothers. Trump lavished praise
on Putin, calling him a “genius” and “savvy.” Trump even called Putin’s excuse
for invading Ukraine “wonderful.” Of course Putin’s excuse (“Nazis”) was
Trump also called Hezbollah “smart” for attacking Israel from the north, after
Hamas attacked from the south.
Trump has displayed other dictatorial tendencies:
(1) Trump is like his strongman heroes when it comes to wanting to control the
press. In June 2018, Trump declared the media to be “our country’s biggest
enemy” and he has repeatedly voiced his desire to punish journalists who
criticize him. During a trip to Singapore, Trump noted how positive a female
news anchor was toward Kim Jong-un on North Korea’s state-run television, and he
whined that Fox News was not as lavish in its praise of him. Trump is galled not
only by criticism, but by praise of him not being lavish enough. Thus one might
conclude the press is not the country's enemy, but Trump's nemesis.
(2) Trump condoned violence against protesters during his campaign rallies, and
sometimes called for it. As president Trump advocated jailing his political
opponents, including Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey.
(3) Trump used his presidential clemency powers to help loyalists such as Roger
Stone, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.
(4) Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush,
said Trump “has classic traits of the authoritarian leader. The one that’s
always struck me most is this visceral instinct of people’s weaknesses and a
corresponding desire to be seen as strong and respected and admired.”
(5) Trump has repeatedly praised murderous strongmen. For instance, he called
Jong-un a “very talented man,” a “smart guy” and a “very good negotiator.” He
even complimented Jong-un’s “great personality” and went so far as to say they
“fell in love.” But who falls in love with a man who starves his own citizens, sends
political opponents to labor camps and assassinates family members? During
an interview with Fox anchor Bret Baier, Trump called Xi Jinping “an incredible
guy,” and celebrated his consolidation of power that resulted in him becoming
China’s dictator-for-life. And I don’t believe Trump has ever said an unkind
word about Putin, a warmonger, mass-murderer, and notorious poisoner of his
(6) It's obvious that Trump has no regard for American values or ideals. “There hasn’t
been a president who’s really disavowed the values side so much,” said Thomas
Wright, a senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at
the Brookings Institution in Washington.
(7) Trump is a fascist in the way he worships strength and disdains justice. He
subscribes to the theory that “might is right” according to Amy Zegart, the
director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford
University, who says Trump’s embrace of authoritarians “is a jagged and
dangerous departure” from prior American foreign policy. For example, this is
Trump praising China for its brutal attacks on peaceful protesters: “When the
students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it.
Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.”
Trump's admiration for dictators who squash peaceful protests by murdering the
protesters seems obvious.
(8) Trump goes out of his way to kowtow to the strongmen he admires. Topping
this list is Putin. Alexander Vindman, the former Director of European Affairs
for the National Security Council, called Trump a “useful idiot” and an
“unwitting agent” of Putin. “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something
you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you,” Vindman told Atlantic
editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. “This is what the Russians have in Trump: free
chicken.” A good (or bad) example of Trump being an “unwitting agent” of Putin
occurred at the 2018 Helsinki summit, where Trump infamously sided with Putin
over US intelligence regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. In
defense of his preference for Putin, Trump tweeted that American intelligence
officers were “slime” and “lowlifes” and “misfits.” Never, not even once that I can
remember, has Trump used such expletives in reference to his friends among the
(9) Dictators have to be master manipulators, and no one is more manipulative
According to a Forbes article by Andrew Solender, “Trump may have his
own dictatorial ambitions, having repeatedly mused at recent rallies about
negotiating for a change to the Constitution so that he can run for a third
term, which he said he feels ‘entitled’ to.”
And so Trump’s attempted coup was no surprise. He admires totalitarian strongmen
to the point of hero worship. He prizes strength over justice. He wants to
control what other people say about him, the antithesis of democracy. He wants
government officials to be loyal to his person, rather than to their country,
countrymen and Constitution. He loves displays of power, regardless of who gets
hurt or how unjustly. He wanted to remain in power like his heroes. And absolute
power tops his wish list.
Trump made his desires known and his cultists did what cultists do: they served
The American founding fathers risked life and limb to gain independence from
King George the Third. A cult of dumbed-down right-wingers were willing to
enthrone King Gorge the Turd, and did their damnedest to make it happen. Those
who are not in jail or facing jail terms continue the attempts.
Anyone could have predicted what Trump would eventually attempt back in 2016
when he announced his candidacy for president. I noted at the time that Trump
sounded like a Mafia don. What happens, I asked, if a Mafia don ends up in the
White House? A Mafia don would get rid of everyone not unconditionally loyal to
the don himself, by replacing naysayers with yes men and yes women. And that’s
exactly what Trump did, by getting rid of James Comey, Rex Tillerson, General
John F. Kelly, and everyone else who stood up to him. By the time the coup was
launched, there was no one left in the White House to stand up to Trump.
What Trump said and did was no surprise to anyone who saw him for what he
is: an Al Capone with less personal courage and less loyalty to his lieutenants.
However, the extent of the capitulation has been a surprise. My former party, the
GOP, has shown remarkable disdain for the Constitution, for the right of voters
to elect their leaders, for American democracy, and for their country and
countrymen. All that can be thrown away, like so much garbage, to serve the
whims of a cowardly, lying, two-bit con man whose real ambition is not to serve
as president, but to rule as Emperor.
As Trump would say, “So sad!”