Fiona Hill: Yes, It Was a Coup. Here’s Why.

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Fiona Hill describes herself as an American by choice. Born in England, she is a foreign affairs specialist and academic, former National Security Council official, and witness at the November ’19 impeachment hearings. — editor’s note.


Since last Wednesday, people have been arguing what to call what happened at the U.S. Capitol — was it a riot? An uprising? An insurrection? I’ve been public in calling it a coup, but others disagree. Some have said it’s not a coup because the U.S. military and other armed groups weren’t involved, and some because Donald Trump didn’t invoke his presidential powers in support of the mob that broke into the Capitol. Others point out that no one has claimed or proved there was a secret plan directed by the president, and that Trump’s efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election could never have succeeded in the first place.

These observations are based on the idea that a coup is a sudden, violent seizure of power involving clandestine plots and military takeovers. By contrast, Trump’s goal was to keep himself in power, and his actions were taken over a period of months and in slow motion.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a coup attempt. Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent. He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them.


See the rest of the historical comparisons of what Ms. Hill calls Trump’s self-coup here at Politico. You’ll be glad you read it.