Advocating a ‘Coup’ Against Trump Is Against the Law

February 2, 2017 11:57 am Last Updated: February 2, 2017 7:10 pm

After Donald Trump won the election last November, there have been attempts to de-legitimize his presidency—with some even calling for a military coup.

Maybe some of these comments are in jest or halfway serious, but there are laws against “advocating the overthrow of the government” of the United States.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 2385, Advocating overthrow of Government, “Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government” could face charges.

This week, left-wing filmmaker and Trump critic Michael Moore warned that the United States is in the middle of a “coup” by Trump and his administration. “If you’re still trying to convince yourself that a 21st century coup is not underway, please, please snap out of it,” he wrote on Twitter, without elaborating or calling for action.

Actress and comedian Sarah Silverman went even further, calling for the overthrowing of the U.S. government.

“WAKE UP & JOIN THE RESISTANCE. ONCE THE MILITARY IS W US FASCISTS GET OVERTHROWN. MAD KING & HIS HANDLERS GO BYE BYE,” she wrote on Twitter.

And a former Obama administration official, Rosa Brooks—a law professor at Georgetown University who was the counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy and previously served as a senior advisor at the State Department—appeared to suggest that a coup attempt against Trump might be inevitable, but she stopped short of calling on officials to instigate a coup.

Brooks, in her piece for Foreign Policy, titled “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020,” wrote: “The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.”

She also writes there are other ways to get Trump out of office, including electing him out of office after four years, impeachment, or utilizing a claim of mental instability and invoking the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which could get Trump removed if the “president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

On Twitter, there have been a number of calls for Trump’s assassination throughout the campaign and Election Day, leading to U.S. Secret Service investigations.

18 U.S. Code § 2385 reads in full:

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; July 24, 1956, ch. 678, § 2, 70 Stat. 623; Pub. L. 87–486, June 19, 1962, 76 Stat. 103; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(N), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)