Here is what has happened. US president Donald Trump asserted for months, without evidence, that he could not be defeated in a fair election. He duly attributed his defeat to a rigged election. Four in five Republicans still agree. The president pressured officials to overturn their states’ votes. Having failed, he sought to bully his vice-president and Congress into rejecting the electoral votes submitted by the states. He incited an assault on the Capitol, to pressure Congress into doing so. Some 147 members of Congress, including eight senators, voted to reject the states’ votes.

In brief, Trump attempted a coup. Worse, the great majority of Republicans agree with his reasons for doing so. A huge number of federal legislators went along. The coup failed, because courts rejected evidence-free cases, and state officials did their jobs. But 10 former defence secretaries felt the need to warn the military to stay out...

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