Fact Check

Does a Photo Show Trump Planning a Military Coup?

A Facebook post posited that a photograph showed Trump video conferencing with the military in order to stage a coup and take back the White House.

Published Feb 7, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: President Donald J. Trump stops to talk to reporters as he walks to board Marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Image Via Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
While in Mar-a-Lago, former U.S. President Donald Trump participated in a video conference with the American military to plan a coup so he could retake the White House.

On Feb. 2, 2021, a picture was shared on Facebook that showed former U.S. President Donald Trump sitting at a desk while video conferencing. The Facebook user who shared it hinted that the photograph depicted Trump planning a military coup to take back the White House subsequent to moving to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, after his term in office expired on Jan. 20.

The text accompanying the photograph in that Facebook post read: "This is Trump’s office in Mar-a-Lago. Look who he’s talking to." Another commenter said of the picture, "The military is in control and we know who the real POTUS is and that he'll be back!":

donald trump military coup president mar-a-lago mar a lago video conference military US U.S. american army navy air force marines coast guard
Photo via White House

On Jan. 17, the same Facebook user also posted that the U.S. military was "occupying certain cities":

He now has all the evidence ... iron clad evidence, and Trump handed control over to the military.

Did anyone really think that Trump would just roll over and accept this massive fraud?

He's coming for all of them.

Notice the military occupying certain cities?

Game set. Match.

That Facebook user also posted false information about "election fraud" and said that the former president won in a "landslide" victory.

All of these ominous headlines and comments suggesting hinting that the military would take part in a coup to help get Trump back into the White House were false and misleading, though. The photograph of Trump in Mar-a-Lago had nothing to do with the 2020 election or a 2021 military coup, as it was taken on Christmas Eve in 2017 and captured President Trump's extending Christmas greetings to the U.S. armed forces. The White House tweeted the picture at the time with a caption stating that Trump spoke with "all five branches of the military":

On the same day, the Associated Press documented the president's 2017 Christmas Eve activities:

President Donald Trump's first Christmas Eve in office was a busy one that unfolded like this: tweet against perceived adversaries, cheer U.S. troops spending the holidays overseas, play golf, chat with children anxious to know when Santa will bring their presents, eat dinner with the family and attend a church service.

donald trump military coup president mar-a-lago mar a lago video conference military US U.S. american army navy air force marines coast guard
US President Donald J. Trump speaks to the media as he participates in a video teleconference call with military members on Christmas Eve in Palm Beach, Florida on December 24, 2017. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

"Today and every day, we're incredibly thankful for you and for your families," Trump told the troops via video hook-up from his Florida estate, where he is spending the holidays with his family. "Your families have been tremendous. Always underappreciated, the military families. The greatest people on Earth."

Trump briefly addressed members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard stationed in Qatar, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

In sum, a picture taken in 2017 did not show Trump planning a military coup in 2021. For that reason, we rate this claim as being miscaptioned.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.