Scenario 3: Trump has no plan but is lashing out in anger and disbelief that he could have lost an election.
In this scenario, the Pentagon purge is a settling of scores against people he resents and a frantic effort to declassify intelligence he thinks will burnish his image. McConnell and others are just playing along until his rage burns out. Barr’s memo is intended to appease the president, worded carefully to preclude any action. The court filings in battleground states are pathetic efforts to assuage a wounded ego, pursued by second-rate lawyers, with no hope of success.
Of course, the three scenarios might be less in conflict that they seem. If the election had been closer — if it had come down to just the late-arriving ballots in Pennsylvania, say — then overturning the results might have been plausible, and a friendly Supreme Court might have come into play.
Now that Trump has lost so definitively, he might be going through the motions of a coup — because, why not try? — but with an eye toward life in exile. And he might be doing so with more angry improvisation than careful forethought.
One thing is sure: Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat is harming American democracy.