In November 2020, I heard from Len Colodny, a journalist, author, and old friend (now deceased), about something the GOP operative Roger Stone had told him. Both he and I knew Stone, and I was aware that Stone, who has a reputation for exaggeration, tended to be right often enough in his claims not to dismiss them.
Colodny described a 20-minute meeting he had with Stone back in mid-October of 2016, while both were attending a conference in New Orleans. Stone told Colodny how Donald Trump’s campaign was prepared to contest the election if he lost. And not only question it — they were going to carry out widespread acts of civil disobedience to grind the country to a halt.
Colodny brought this up to me in 2020, wondering if he had ever shared the anecdote with me before. We were approaching another election, and, given the tenor of the campaign, with Trump warning of attempts to steal the White House from him, Colodny was worried.
I shared his concern. With the very real possibility that Trump could actually lose this time, the threat seemed palpable and formidable. I reached out to Stone, who confirmed it. Trump’s team in 2016 had been ready to block bridges and tunnels, among other things. Whatever it took.
It’s important to remember that this kind of thing came out of Stone’s playbook. During the nail-biter 2000 election vote-counting seesaw between Al Gore and George W. Bush, as Bush’s margin in the key state of Florida shrank to a mere few hundred votes, a crowd of lawyers and GOP operatives in blazers and khakis, many from Washington, poured into Miami-Dade county vote counting centers, pounded on the windows, generally harassed people, and vamped for the media until they managed to halt a critical recount. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that resuming the recount was unconstitutional, and Bush was declared the winner.
Stone makes a claim, disputed by others, to have led the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot” — and also says he used Cuban radio stations to turn out locals to halt what he called a “left-wing power grab.”
Twenty years later, Stone was engaging with the Oath Keepers militia on January 6 at the Capitol — and is currently under investigation for his role in the “Stop the Steal” events, as well as for raising money to pay for “security” at the rally that became a riot and insurrection.
By most accounts, the 2000 “riot” may have changed the election and history. “We got some blowback afterwards, but so what? We won,” one of the organizers told The Washington Post years later. “I became a member of [George W. Bush]’s senior staff. That’s hardly a job for a thug.”
I thought, based on what happened in the Bush-Gore contest, the news that Republican operatives were planning a major effort to ensure that Trump became president in 2016, no matter what the vote count said, should have garnered serious attention from the news media four years later. So, based on Colodny’s account and Stone’s confirmation, we published a short piece on this in WhoWhatWhy on November 3, 2020.
I also sent a link to someone at CNN’s Reliable Sources, with the note, “In case you didn’t see this. … It could be the other shoe waiting to drop, in a worst case scenario” — because I assumed they’d be interested. I didn’t hear back.
Well, the day passed, and, as we all know, the vote-counting turned into a marathon until it finally went Joe Biden’s way. Trump supporters began contesting it, and the resistance grew wilder and more intense, climaxing with the violent insurrection on January 6 at the Capitol.
Could this turn of events have been anticipated? Could something have been done to avert it? Should the country have been alerted to a potential threat to the very core of our democratic process?
And shouldn’t the committee investigating January 6 take a closer look at this possible precursor to the ongoing effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election?