Much of the current US government shutdown has played out as a bitchy back-and-forth between President Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It’s like “Dynasty,” except hundreds of thousands of livelihoods hang in the balance, and Joan Collins has the nuclear codes.
As part of this, Speaker Pelosi acted on her constitutional prerogative to invite the president to deliver the State of the Union by dis-inviting him from delivering the State of the Union, at least in a joint session of Congress, because of security concerns.
Trump retaliated by invoking his role as commander-in-chief to cancel the military flight Pelosi and a small group of Democratic House members were going to use on a congressional delegation (CODEL) to Brussels and Afghanistan.
Naturally, the small cadre of die hard QAnon acolytes who haven’t walked away or gotten locked out of their AOL accounts saw all of these events not as a power struggle, but as a coup attempt playing out in public, a game of moves and counter moves designed to get rid of Trump and Mike Pence, and install Pelosi as president, thanks to her role as the next successor to the presidency after Pence.
As the conspiracy theory goes, Pelsoi and a delegation of other Democrats and family members (usually pegged at 93 people in total) were about to flee the country, with Pelosi assuming the role of designated survivor as the highest ranking cabinet member to not attend the SOTU.
Then, with Pelosi gone and security at the SOTU compromised due to Pelosi keeping the government shut down, Trump and Pence would be eliminated. After this unthinkable event, Pelosi returns (after meeting with NATO, the Muslim Brotherhood, and exiled elements of the Deep State), and assumes the presidency, as second in the line of succession.
And the only reason we know about it is that Democratic operative Donna Brazile spilled the beans with a tweet touting “President Pelosi.”
But it was all foiled thanks the the divinely-touched Trump shutting down Pelosi’s congressional trip and publicly humiliating her. Coup averted, Trump went right back to the business of running the country into the ground.
As nuts as this sounds, there are a non-zero number of people who believe it. A Twitter thread by conspiracy theorist Greg Rubini got over 6,000 retweets laying out exactly how this “coup” was supposed to proceed.
Similar tweets and threads got almost as much viral exposure, and multiple YouTube videos laying out the accusations got five figures in views. An InfoWars story about essentially the same topic got over 10,000 shares on Facebook. Not huge, but too much – and right where the boomer/Trump fanatic nexus of QAnon believers gets their news.
This is a conspiracy theory that gets a number of very basic facts right, but puts them together in a way that is hilariously, tragically wrong. It’s also full of irrelevant or unconfirmable details taken as both extremely relevant and definitely true, breathtaking leaps in logic, and blind Trump worship.
To start with, the State of the Union address is currently scheduled for January 29th. Pelosi’s CODEL to Brussels (to meet with NATO leaders rattled by Trump’s rhetoric) and Afghanistan (because, you know, we have troops there) was meant to leave on January 18th and likely would have gotten her back home long before the State of the Union.
Beyond that, it’s Trump and his staff who will be choosing the designated survivor. While the administration is detached from reality, they’re not so detached as to stumble into picking the executor of a coup against them to survive that coup.
The highest ranking person to ever sit out a presidential address (other than George W. Bush’s post 9/11 speech, which Dick Cheney watched in his Undisclosed Location), is the Attorney General. The Speaker will always be there, sitting behind the president, and trying not to throw up too much.
Much of the other mythology behind this is simply made up. Despite the President’s assertion, the CODEL was never intended to go to Egypt. And the “93 family members on the CODEL” claim, often tied into some numerological bullshit to go with Flight 93, appears to have originated with a QAnon fan’s twitter account, then filtered up to fringe conservative blogs, then mainstream conservative media.
Even if it were all true, Pelosi and the other House members travelling with her ended up not going on the CODEL. If they truly had the intent to pull off the coup of a lifetime, would they really be dissuaded by a letter from their target? Wouldn’t they go anyway?
These are the kind of allegations QAnon folks love. They have just enough of a factual basis to sound true, and paint their beloved president as the perpetual victim of a deep state that can’t quite get anything right.
But in this case, the “coup” was simply a case of two politicians marking territory during a ridiculous shutdown for a border wall that will never be built.