President Barack Obama's time in office has been fodder for conspiracy theorists since he stepped into the White House eight years ago, with critics questioning his place of birth and religion, among other things. Now that Republican Donald Trump will be filling Obama's seat in the Oval Office, some conspiracy theorists are certain the president will declare martial law to extend his own term and keep Trump out of office. And some anti-Trump Americans are applauding the idea.
Martial law refers to government control through the use of military force. The conspiracy developed from those who perceived Obama's occassional use of executive orders as an overreach of his power. The president doesn't need approval for executive orders and they can't be overturned by Congress. Obama has signed 256 executive orders as of October, compared with George W. Bush's 291 and Bill Clinton's 634. His orders have never created martial law.
In September 2012, Texas Republican Rep. Kay Granger posted a statement on her website alleging that Obama signed an executive order that declared martial law. In July 2016, a theory circulated on the internet claiming that Obama said America would be better off under martial law in an interview with the Washington Post. No such interview exists.
Obama addressed the conspiracy theories that have plagued his presidency in a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 13, calling it "a swamp of crazy." He denounced Trump's acceptance of many of the theories.
"They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years," he said of Republicans. "If somebody completely denies climate change, or is filled up with all kinds of conspiracy theories about how me and Hillary started ISIL, or that we were plotting to declare martial law and take away everybody’s guns."
After Trump was elected as the nation's next president, many of his supporters alleged that Obama would use his victory as an excuse to declare martial law and extend his presidency. The president's supporters, on the other hand, have joked that such a move might save the country. Starting at around 8 p.m. on election night, Google saw a spike in searches for the term martial law.
Obama, for his part, said he hoped Trump would be successful as president. "Everybody is sad when their side loses an election," he said in a speech Nov. 9 in the White House's Rose Garden. "But the day after, we have to remember that we're actually all on the same team." He went on to say he'd root for his successor.
"We all want what's best for the country," he said. "That's what I heard in Mr. Trump's remarks last night. That's what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that."