Trump's talk of martial law could be taken by far-right groups as a violent call to action, former DHS official says

  • President Donald Trump has recently toyed with the idea of using the military to overturn the election results, according to multiple reports.
  • The idea alarmed many, including Elizabeth Neumann, a former official in the Trump-era Department of Homeland Security.
  • Neumann argued that the right-wing extremists could interpret such talk as a signal from Trump to enact violence.
  • Such groups "look at this as a dog whistle" she said on CNN.
  • Trump's enthusiasm for using his emergency powers to reverse his loss to Joe Biden has rattled even some of his usual allies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump's reported interest in a wild plot to subvert the election by declaring martial law could inspire far-right extremists to commit violence, a former official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned. 

Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary in the DHS under Trump, addressed the topic while speaking on CNN's "Reliable Sources" show on Sunday.

Her intervention was prompted by reports that in an Oval Office meeting Friday Trump had spoken approvingly of a plan to deploy the military and re-run elections in battleground states. 

"In the conspiratorial conservative base of supporting Trump, there are calls for using the Insurrection Act to declare martial law," Neumann told host Brian Stelter. 

Under the Insurrection Act, the president has broad powers to deploy military resources to tackle what he deems to be a national emergency. 

"When they hear that the president is actually considering this, there are violent extremist groups that look at this as a dog whistle, an excuse to go out and create violence," she said.

In the interview, she referred to the "accelerationist" ideas of some white nationalist groups, which seek to hasten the collapse of liberal society and provoke a race war through acts of violence. 

"So when they hear that the president is open to this idea of martial law, we may see certain groups mobilizing to commit acts that, in their minds, a justification for the use of the Insurrection Act," Neumann said.

The mass shooter who murdered 51 people in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 referred to such an idea in his manifesto. 

Neumann left the DHS in April 2020. In an interview in September she accused Trump of pouring "fuel on the fire" of domestic extremism, and failing to confront the growing threat of white nationalist violence. 

In a statement to NPR at the time, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah described Neumann as a "disgruntled employee."

"This sounds more like a case of this former disgruntled employee being ineffective at their job, than an indictment of the career professionals who swear an oath to work every day to protect our country from threats foreign and domestic," said Farah. 

When she spoke on Sunday, Neumann said that a large number of Trump supporters now believe in his conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from him as a result of mass voter fraud. 

In recent months, so-called militias and other far-right groups have been involved in a series of violent plots against perceived enemies of the president, and have menaced election officials whom Trump has accused of plotting to steal the election from him. 

A group of far-right extremists in October were arrested and accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Megan Whitmer. 

The Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in a recent report found that white supremacists and other far-right extremists were responsible for 67% of terror attacks and plots in the US this year. 

Former White house national security advisor Michael Flynn first floated the idea of Trump using his emergency powers to overturn the election last week in an interview with Newsmax. 

Flynn is regarded as a hero by the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory movement, which holds that a cabal of "deep state" officials is plotting against Trump. 

Flynn was present in the White House meeting last Friday where the president raised the idea, reported The New York Times. According to reports, Trump's embracing of ideas by extremists and conspiracy theorists is even alarming usually staunch advisors and aides.

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