In our last editorial on Trump’s refusal to concede, we wrote that nothing good was ever going to come out of debunkable claims of electoral fraud and frivolous lawsuits, rather electoral integrity would be undermined. The attack on the Capitol by white-supremist rioters is the result of that undermined electoral integrity.
President Donald Trump called a rally in the Washington Mall area on the day President-Elect Joe Biden’s election was to be confirmed and on the day Democrats’ fate over US Senate control was to be decided, and incited his army of cult followers to march on the Capitol. Trump said, “I’ll be there with you”, but he wasn’t. He watched from a safe distance what was hopefully the final act in his presidency-spanning performance.
Thousands of rioters broke past barricades, windows and doors, attacked Capitol Police officers, looted public assets and occupied the citadel of democracy for hours to terrorize the legislative arm of the government and interrupt it from doing its constitutional duty of counting electoral votes. Ballot boxes were moved away securely for fear of being stolen, though many had placards saying “Stop the Steal”, referring to the President’s irresponsible allegation that the election had been “stolen” from him.
Bret Stephens in the NYT has called him “America’s willful arsonist, the man who lit the match under the fabric of our constitutional republic.” Trump isn’t complicit in the violence, he is “wholly, undeniably and unforgivably responsible” for it. The mob of white supremists he incited were not unlike the mob which brought down the Babri Masjid or the far-right protesters who tried to force their way into Reichstag, the German Parliament, last August. These mobs are sent to do what cannot be achieved through democratic means and instruments.
Inciting a mob to storm the Capitol cannot, of course, go unpunished. One way of going about ensuring comeuppance would be to invoke the 25th Amendment. It says that the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can transfer power to the vice president by declaring the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Though the Democrats have been pushing for this, aside from calling Trump to resign immediately, both scenarios are highly unlikely.
At the time of going to print, the Democrats had been planning to initiate one article of impeachment charging the President with “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol” This article, and others, could be introduced as soon as Monday. Given the brevity of time, the House must act fast to impeach Trump (for a second time), triggering a Senate trial that could take place even after Trump’s term ends. If the Senate convicts Trump, it may even bar him from holding public office in future, with an additional vote.
Impeachment proceedings would also pressure the Republican lawmakers to expressly declare their belief in fundamental principles of democracy, something that their actions have failed to do in the last four years. As for Trump, the ultimate strategy to get rid of him forever and completely would be to render him irrelevant. Take him neither seriously, nor literally. Take away his toys.
In September last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020 (DTPA) to better analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity. The Section on “Findings” of the Congress states: “White supremacists and other far-right-wing extremists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States.” President-Elect Biden has called the Capitol rioters “domestic terrorists”. It is hoped that the incoming Biden administration, which now has a razor thin majority in the Senate, will bring a companion bill for the Senate.
This editorial titled ‘Simon Says…Attack The Capitol: On Trump’s Final Act‘ has been written by Tushar Kohli and represents the collective view of the Editorial Team
Photo Credits: The caricature of Trump used in this image has been designed by Miguel Bayon, El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico.