Is President Trump staging a coup?

Hundreds gathered for a Defend Our President rally held at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

Hundreds gathered for a Defend Our President rally held at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

Gustavo Huerta, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Despite President-elect Joe Biden's election victory Saturday, President Donald Trump and several Republican leaders still refuse to acknowledge the win. An awkward moment occurred during recent a press conference when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to half-joke power wouldn't pass to Biden.

"There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," Pompeo said.

One of the most abrupt moves the White House has made in recent days was President Trump's ousting of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, which Trump announced in a tweet on Monday. Trump also replaced the heads of intelligence and policy inside the the Pentagon with the Pentagon with Michael Ellis installed as a general counsel of the national security agency, according to the New York Times' Julian Barnes.

TRANSITION OF POWER: What happens if President Trump refuses to leave the White House?

“What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’état,” said Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University specializing in authoritarianism, on Twitter. “Poorly organized though it might seem, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail."

Chron talked to University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus if it's possible that Trump is staging a coup and the likelihood of a coup unfolding in America.

Some Americans are concerned that President Trump might stage a "soft coup" after the firing of Pentagon chief Mark Esper. How concerned should Americans be?

Rottinghaus: There's definitely a danger in making personnel changes with politics only in mind, especially at such a sensitive time in the political transition in this country. It is not a "sky is falling" situation, but it is certainly worrisome that we would put politics with personnel in the national security state. The good news is that there is a larger apparatus around these institutions that protects all of it with a hardened shell. There is a larger thorax around the national security state that can protect changes within it. No one change will completely disrupt the operation of national security.

Does the new shift in power at the Pentagon present a worrisome scenario, regarding military backing President Trump, should he not refuse to leave the White House? 

There are multiple fears that people have, because of the unprecedented nature of this. There are firm rules and orderly processes in place that prevent an internal coup from occurring. It would be very difficult to move that forward in any significant way. He may find a handful who would believe and another handful who would go along with it. But the full military industrial complex would not follow such an outrageous tactic.

Any thoughts about the next step in the Trump campaign's strategy?

I don't see a real strategy from them. I guess if they had something more organized from them, I would be more worried. But at this point, it's just grousing, which is just sour grapes in an unbecoming way.