Bob Sheak, Jan 15, 2021
In this post, I review evidence of Trump’s false claims that the election was rigged and stolen from him and how he tried to override the election results to favor him. I then consider the answers to some questions. Why so many Americans were willing to accept Trump’s claims? How thousands were mobilized to travel to Washington D.C. with the purpose of disrupting the Joint-Session of the U.S. Congress as it was in the process of counting the already certified electoral votes? What were they told by Trump at the March to Save America rally on January 6? What did the crowd do, once it reached the Capitol building grounds? And, in concluding thoughts, I raise a series of questions that have become relevant since the attack on the U.S. Congress, while also discussing the impeachment of Trump by the U.S. House, and closing with some wise statement from Richard Heinberg, author and senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.
In the weeks before and after the presidential election
Advancing the “big lie” that the election was rigged
Trump’s efforts to win the 2020 presidential election by any means began well before the election itself, when he repeatedly said that millions of mailed-in ballots were fraudulent. Then after the election, Trump claimed that he had won the election by millions of votes – that the election was fraudulent, that millions of votes cast for Biden were invalid, that millions of votes for him were not counted, and, absurdly, that Biden must prove to him that the 80 million plus votes he received were indeed valid votes before he concedes. Susan B. Glasser writes in an article for The New Yorker on January 7th that the country “had to brace for an alarming confluence of virus denialism and election denialism between November 3rd and January 20th.” Glasser continues: “As devastating as it is for American democracy, it is no longer news that the President insists, as he did in a tweet the other day, that he is the victim of the ‘greatest Election Fraud in the history of the United States.’” Then, in the days immediately following the election, “Trump said that his goal was to ‘STOP THE COUNT,’ ‘stop the steal,’ or to demand recounts, or to discover evidence of fraud’” (https://newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trump-washington/its-not-just-trumps-war-on-democracy-anymore). Glasser further writes:
“Trump has escalated and escalated, culminating on Wednesday [Nov 9] with a single-word tweet announcing his new goal: not to win the election but to ‘#OVERTURN’ the results.” Even more strikingly, while his lawyers lost 64 court cases since the election, Trump has told millions of Americans through his Tweet account to believe that the election was rigged against him—seventy-seven per cent of Republicans now say mass fraud occurred, according to a… Quinnipiac poll out Thursday [Nov 10]—and enlisted virtually the entire national leadership of the Republican Party in his concerted attack on the legitimacy of the results.”
Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey report that “Trump has been fixated on overturning the election for weeks, making hundreds of calls to allies, lawyers, state legislators, governors and other officials and regularly huddling with outside lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others.” And Trump fed “his base through twitter that the election was rigged against him, even before he lost the election on November 3. He asked his right-wing supporters to come to Washington for a rally on December 6, when a joint-session of Congress was convening to take the final step to sanctify Biden’s victory. It was at this rally, including an assimilate of some 30,000, that told the crowd to march to the US Capitol building” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-capitol-building).
Republican Party leadership delay acknowledging Biden’s victory
Glasser offers the following examples of the Republican Party’s support of Trump’s failed presidential candidacy and his baseless claims of electoral fraud. Not only had both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to recognize his win for weeks after the election; they both voted against a ceremonial motion of the committee organizing the January 20th handover of power to ‘notify the American people’ of plans to inaugurate Biden. In the immediate aftermath of the election, McConnell said that Trump ‘has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.’ When Trump lost the recounts and lost the lawsuits, after the votes had been certified by the states’ electors, and long after Trump had demanded the certified votes in swing states be rejected, McConnell remained silent,” or was so until Dec 15 when he finally relented to and announced the extraordinarily well-documented fact that Biden had won the election.
Trump’s efforts to sway certified vote in Georgia
After the election, Trump also spent time trying to intimidate electoral officials in Georgia to “recalculate” the state’s votes in his favor. Both Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state and Ryan Germany, the chief counsel for Mr. Raffensperger’s office, refuted Trump’s claims about electoral irregularities in the state’s presidential election and refused to change the already legally certified votes (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/us/politics/fact-checking-trump-georgia.html).
Rallying and inciting his followers to disrupt Joint-Session of the U.S. Congress on January 6
After failing there, Trump turned his attention to the final official step in the certification process of Biden’s victory, that is, when a Joint-Session of Congress is mandated by the constitution (the 12th amendment) to convene and count the electoral votes, already certified by the 50 states and Washington D.C. and delivered to vice-president Mike Pence by December 23 and to be counted on Jan. 6. According to Scott Bomboy, “Any objections at the session must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours,” following a process established by the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and as interpreted by the Congressional Research Service. “The two houses vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded” ((https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/explaining-how-congress-settles-electoral-college-disputes).
Scott Bomboy provides some further details, referring to how the process of counting the electoral college votes from the states may be challenged (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2021/politics/congress-electoral-college-count-tracker). According to Bomboy, if legislators from a state present an “alternative” slate of electors, one that is different from the slate already certified by the Electoral College, or if a slate is challenged without an alternative, the vice president, whose role is “to preserve order,” may allow alternative slates or the elimination of slates to be considered. This would require the two houses of the US Congress to meet separately as already described. This eventuality would open up the possibility that the duly certified slate a state’s electors could be replaced by the alternate slate or that a slate of electors from a given state could be eliminated. Either situation would change the overall electoral vote count in ways that could favor Trump. As it turns out, there were objections from 8 Senators and 139 House members based on the assertion that there should be an additional audit of the ballots in six swing states that had voted in favor of Biden.
The riot/insurrection, then Congress certifies Biden’s win
On January 6, while in the process of counting the votes from the states, rioters breached the Capitol just after 2 p.m. After terrifying members of the Congress and their staffs, vandalizing the building, killing one capitol policeman and injuring 50 or more others, the capitol was only secured by 5:34 p.m. In the end, five died during this what has been called an attempted insurrection. The joint-session of Congress resumed its deliberations at 7:00 p.m. After many hours of considering the objections, first of Arizona, then of Pennsylvania, the objections failed and Biden was declared president-elect just before 4 a.m. on January 7 (https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021/01/06/how-pro-trump-mob-stormed-us-capitol).
Why did Trump’s followers do his bidding?
Why did tens of thousands of Trump believers decide to converge on D.C. on January 6 with the intention of disrupting the proceedings of a joint-session of the US Congress and then, after being incited by Trump to march to the Capitol, some would breach the understaffed Capitol police force at the Capitol, killing one and injuring 50 or more of them, occupying, roaming through, and vandalizing the building, entering vacated offices of Congress members, and in some cases looking for opportunities to harm members of the Congress? They came because Trump urged them through his twitter account to come. They came because of hearing Trump for years rant about the “dark state” and the bureaucratic swamp in Washington, about the globalists who took away American jobs, about immigration policies that threatened white supremacy. Indeed, Dan Barry and his colleagues write: “For years, he had demonized political opponents and the media and egged on thuggish behavior at his rallies. But they felt a new urgency when Trump advanced his “big lie” that he, not Biden, had won the November election. The election, trump repeated over and over again, had been rigged against him, at least in six battleground states (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/us/capitol-rioters.html).
In a column for The New York Times, journalist and academic Thomas B. Edsall queries experts on “how racism, grievance, resentment and the fear of diminished status came together to fuel violence and mayhem on Jan. 6” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/opinion/capitol-riot-white-grievance.html). Edsall posits: “There is no question that out-and-out racism and a longing to return to the days of white supremacy were high on the list of motivations of the pro-Trump mob that ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.” Here is what one of the experts said. “Bart Bonikowski, a professor of sociology at N.Y.U., was forthright:
“Ethnonationalist Trump supporters want to return to a past when white men saw themselves as the core of America and minorities and women ‘knew their place.’ Because doing so requires the upending of the social order, many are prepared to pursue extreme measures, including racial violence and insurrection. What makes their actions all the more dangerous is a self-righteous belief — reinforced by the president, the Republican Party, and right-wing conspiracy peddlers — that they are on the correct side of history as the true defenders of democracy, even as their actions undermine its core institutions and threaten its stability.”
Mobilizing supporters for Trump’s “March to Save America” rally
Getting the “big lie” out
There was plenty of advance publicity for Trump’s rally. Dany Barry and his colleagues at The New York Times report the “advance publicity for the ‘March for America’ had been robust (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/us/capitol-rioters.html). They continue: “Beyond the repeated promotions in tweets by the president and his allies, the upcoming event was cheered on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But woven through many of the messages to stand up for Mr. Trump — and, if possible, block the congressional certification of the election he claimed he had won — was language that flirted with aggression, even violence. For example, the term ‘Storm the Capitol’ was mentioned 100,000 times in the 30 days preceding Jan. 6, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights company. Many of these mentions appeared in viral tweet threads that discussed the possible storming of the Capitol and included details on how to enter the building.” These were messages that resonated with “the convoluted collection of conspiracy theories” of QAnon “that falsely claims the country is dominated by deep-state bureaucrats and Democrats who worship Satan, the word.” Adherents Barry et. al. write, “have often referred to a coming storm, after which Mr. Trump would preside over a new government order.” The reporters did not find clear evidence of “any big money or coordinated fund-raising…though some Trump supporters appear to have found funds through opaque online networks to help pay for transportation to the rally.”
The mob included extremist, violent-advocating groups
Alex Newhouse, the Research Lead at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, where he focuses on right-wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, online extremism and terrorism, and terrorist propaganda, provides further details on the mobilization ((https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/09/far-right-activists-social-media-telegraphed-violence-weeks-advance-attack-us). Newhouse’s account goes as follows. “Since the election in November, Trump and his allies had spread baseless conspiracy theories alleging that Democrats, some Republicans and ‘ had committed widespread voter fraud to elect Biden. In this myth, Trump had won the election in a landslide, and only corrupt politicians stood in the way of his victory. These conspiracy theories sparked fury in all corners of the right-wing ecosystem, and the certification process for the Electoral College votes became a symbol of both corruption and opportunity.” Following a tweet from Trump posted on Dec. 18, ‘Big protest in D.C. on Jan. 6. Be There, will be wild!,’ right-wing groups began organizing for a large-scale protest in Washington, D.C. As a part of his research on far-right extremism, he found on “Facebook, Twitter, Parler and other platforms, influencers, politicians, activists and ordinary people focused on Jan. 6 as their final opportunity to prevent what they claimed was corruption on a monumental scale” and that January 6 was their last chance “to force Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence to nullify the election results and declare Trump the victor.” There were hints of violence, especially on Parler, a social media site that
“has attracted millions of new conservative users in the past year, has positioned itself as a bastion for right-wing conspiracy theories and organizing efforts.” Newhouse found from his research that “hundreds of Parler users expressed their sincere belief, and even desire, that the demonstrations would spark a physical battle, revolution or civil war.”
Trump’s allies in the U.S. Congress spread the word long before the January 6 rally
Republican lawmakers using “bellicose language” spreading the false view of the election being rigged against Trump in the days and weeks before Trump’ January 6 rally and subsequent riot. Catie Edmondson and Luke Broadwater document this point. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/us/politics/republicans-capitol-riot.html). They report: “…a handful of Mr. Trump’s most loyal allies in the House had gone even further in the days and weeks before the riot, urging their supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to make a defiant last stand to keep him in power. They linked arms with the organizers of the protest and used inflammatory, bellicose language to describe the stakes.” The journalists continue: “Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, first-term lawmakers who ran as outspoken defenders of Mr. Trump, referred to the day as Republicans’ ‘1776 moment.’ Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, who for weeks promoted the Jan. 6 protest and other ‘Stop the Steal’ events across the country more than a dozen times, repeatedly referred to Mr. Biden as an ‘illegitimate usurper’ and suggested that Mr. Trump was the victim of an attempted ‘coup.’” And: “Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House,” Mr. Gosar wrote in an op-ed titled ‘Are We Witnessing a Coup d’État?’”
Republican Support in the U.S. Congress to postpone and reject final validation of Biden’s already certified victory
Edmondson and Broadwater remind us that “[e]ven after the tear gas cleared and the Capitol was secured, more than 135 House Republicans, including the party’s two top leaders, ultimately voted to throw out millions of lawfully cast votes, fulfilling the rioters’ demands and answering Mr. Trump’s call for Congress to subvert the election results in his favor.”
Dark money groups were involved
Brian Schwartz’s investigations uncovers that interlinked “Pro-Trump dark money groups organized the rally that led to deadly Capitol Hill riot,” signed the permit for the rally, promoted the rally, and hired the vender to put up the stage (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/09/pro-trump-dark-money-groups-organized-the-rally-led-to-deadly-capitol-hill-riot.html). Specifically, Schwartz writes, “The rally, officially known as the ‘March to Save America,’ was largely organized by a 501(c)(4) group known as Women for America First, an organization certified by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit that can engage in limited political activities. These groups are known as dark money organizations as they do not [ordinarily] publicly disclose their donors.” Amy Kremer chairs Women for America First and is “a longtime political operative that was once the head of the Tea Party Express, an organization that was created to support the conservative Tea Party movement.
Schwartz found that Women for America First received a contribution of $25,000 in 2019 from a pro-Trump policy advocacy dark money group called America First Policies, a pro-Trump policy advocacy dark money group. America First Policies, which is also a 501(c)(4), is chaired by Linda McMahon, a longtime Trump ally and former head of the Small Business Administration. The Washingtonian obtained a copy of the permit and the executive director of a third group, Women for Trump. Kylie Jane Kremer, the executive director of the third group is named on the rally’s permit as the person in charge.
According to Schwartz, “Women for America First’s Facebook pages show they were calling on supporters to be part of what they described as a ‘caravan’ to Washington for the event.” In a recent post, the group calls on Facebook followers “to meet at an address in Virginia on Jan. 5, the day before the now infamous rally, to ‘join the caravan to D.C.’ There’s a picture of a bus with their logo on it and, though it notes they are not providing transportation, they encourage people to follow the bus.” Women for America First’s executive, Amy Kremer, “promoted the rally through a Twitter post that has been retweeted over 16,000 times and, she notes that it was shared by the president himself. Trump had over 80 million followers before he was permanently banned from Twitter on Friday, Jan 8.
The “woman” groups did more than arrange for the rally’s venue and promote the rally. They were additionally engaged from Jan. 2 through Jan. 5 in “setting up lighting, tents, flooring, bike racks, chairs and decor, all for Trump’s speech on Jan. 6.” A production vender, Event Strategies, was also involved. Event Strategies “was founded by Tim Unes. On the company website, Unes is credited with producing Trump’s 2015 ‘campaign announcement tour’ and later joined the campaign as a deputy director of advance.”
One other interesting point. Schwartz writes: “According to video obtained by CNBC, those backstage included the president, Donald Trump Jr., his girlfriend and Trump campaign advisor Kimberly Guilfoyle, his brother Eric Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Many behind the scenes were laughing and dancing before the festivities ensued.”
Trump’s crowd arrives
On Tuesday night, Jan. 5, early arrivers were stirred up
Dan Barry, Mike McIntire and Matthew Rosenberg report: “A few thousand arrived for an earlier rally on the previous night of January 5 and gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington for ‘The Rally to Save America’ event, permitted as ‘The Rally to Revival’(https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/us/capitol-rioters.html). The early arrivals were addressed by “well-known evangelists, alt-right celebrities (Alex Jones of Infowars) and Trump loyalists, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the self-described Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, both of whom he [Trump] had pardoned. The speakers repeatedly encouraged the attendees to see themselves as foot soldiers fighting to save the country. Americans, Mr. Flynn said, were ready to ‘bleed’ for freedom.” One speaker declared “It is time for war.” The journalists add: “As the audience thinned, groups of young men emerged in Kevlar vests and helmets, a number of them holding clubs and knives. Some were aligned with the neofascist Proud Boys; others with the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group.”
Wednesday, Jan. 6: The “Save America” Rally and March – an incitement to commit violence?
Before the rally on Jan. 7, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey that “some aides worried that if Trump spoke at the event not far from the Capitol, it could stoke the crowd and create a volatile scene, a senior administration official said. But Trump, the official said, was determined to do it” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-capitol-building). Then, once in front of the crowd, they report some of Trump’s fiery words as follows. “‘We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,’ Trump told the crowd to whoops and loud cheers, falsely claiming that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was based on fraudulent vote counts. ‘We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.’” Gearan and Dawsey report Trump also told the crowd that “Republicans had to keep fighting and urged a crowd of aggrieved supporters to mount an insurrection against constitutional order on Wednesday, encouraging what quickly became a mob assault on the U.S. Capitol carried out in his name. The fabrications were familiar, but this time, Trump’s angry rant amounted to a call to arms.” Later Wednesday, after the crowd had become an insurrectionary mob, “Trump appeared to sympathize with the mob and to explain away the violence as the natural consequence of his election loss to Biden. He also edged close to celebrating the day’s events in a tweet with these words: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” adding, after the mayhem at the Capitol was going on, “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” Twitter then decided to lock Trump’s account.
Charlie Savage analyze’s what Trump told the assembled crowd at the rally and asks the question whether Trump’s words constituted an incitement to riot. The implication of what he writes is that Trump’s statement did represent an incitement. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/us/trump-speech-riot.html). As already noted, Trump “had urged supporters to come to Washington for a ‘Save America March’ on Wednesday, when Congress would ceremonially count President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win, telling them to “be there, will be wild!.” He identifies five parts of Trump’s diatribe at the rally.
First, “Trump urged his supporters to ‘fight much harder’ against ‘bad people’ and ‘show strength’ at the Capitol.” For example, Trump told the crowd this: “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. It’s like a boxer. And we want to be so nice. We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.” At the same time, he made only a passing suggestion that the protest should be nonviolent, saying, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Second, “Trump told the crowd that ‘very different rules’ applied,” as when he said: “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike [vice-president Pence] has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs [moderate Republicans] and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”
Third, “Trump insinuated that Republican officials, including Pence, would endanger themselves by accepting Biden’s win.” With respect to this point, Trump hoped that Pence would have the courage to support alternative slates of electors, thanked the “courageous” members of the Senate who were supporting his position, and said that the vice-president and senators who did not support him that it would safer to go along with what he wanted.”
Fourth, “Trump suggested that he wanted his supporters to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral win, not just protest it.” For example, Trump said that “we will stop the steal,” or the country “will have an illegitimate president” and “we can’t let that happen” and “we will fight like hell” to keep it from happening.
Fifth, “As he dispatched his supporters into what became deadly chaos, Trump falsely told them that he would come, too.” Here’s what he said: we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. … We are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote, but we are going to try — give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re try — going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
The criminal incursion of the Capitol by a violent insurrectionary mob – a rough timeline
Sandhya Kambhampati and her colleagues at The LA Times provide a detailed time-line and the context of the mob’s attack on January 6 on the nation’s capital, interrupting the electoral college vote count (https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021/01/06/how-pro-trump-mob-stormed-us-capitol). They write: “The rioters, fueled by Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, breached the building and ran freely through its historic halls before being forced out.”
Trump supporters gathered between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. to hear Trump repeat his claims of how the election has been stolen from him and that they should protest the ratification by the Joint Session at the capitol building. By 1:00 p.m., his supporters are advancing toward the capitol. At 1:13 p.m. Trump finishes his speech, closing with this: “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Ave … and we’re going to [try] to give our Republicans – the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help – we’re to try and get them kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country.” By 1:20 p.m., Trump’s crowd, now a violent, insurrectionary force, forms outside the Capitol building, while some try and successfully break past police barriers.” At 2:16 p.m., rioters breach the building, despite it being on lockdown.
By 2:20 p.m., disregarding guards, Trump’s supporters are banging on doors and breaking windows and are entering the building, storming into the Capitol Rotunda by 3:00 p.m.
Reporters from The New York Times, add further details about this criminal invasion (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/06/us/trump-mob-capitol-building).
- “Shouting demonstrators mobbed the second-floor lobby just outside the Senate chamber, as law enforcement officers placed themselves in front of the chamber doors.”
- “The President’s supporters swarmed the western and eastern sides of the Capitol’s exterior….
- “The mob also broke through the main doors on the east side of the Capitol’s central building, which leads into the Capitol Rotunda,” some vandalizing the statutes ringing the area.”
- The mob gathered outside the door of the main House chamber, while lawmakers “were given masks and evacuated”
- Police arrested “at least 13 people, while dozens of others were allowed to go free”
- Meanwhile, rioters invaded and roamed freely in the Senate chamber. Speaker Pelosi’s suite of offices was breached.
The LA Times reporters continue the story.
4:06 p.m.: “President-elect Joe Biden makes a speech in Delaware, saying ‘our democracy is under unprecedented assault.”
4:18 p.m.: “Trump tweets a video repeating his false claims of election fraud and praising his supporters, although he encouraged them to go home.”
5:34 p.m.: “Capitol building is announced as secure.”
6:00 p.m.: Curfew starts in Washington
7:00: p.m.: Preparation for the Joint-Session of Congress to resume and continue to count the electoral college results
Trump has second thoughts
At 4.54 p.m. on January 7, Trump switched gear and, in a video, condemned the mob violence he had unleashed. Dave Nemetz reports: “Trump began the video by addressing the ‘heinous attack’ that took place on Wednesday when a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in at least four deaths [now 5] and several dozen injuries [over 50]. After facing intense criticism for inciting his supporters and justifying the siege, Trump now says he is ‘outraged’ by it: ‘The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol has defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay” (https://tvline.com/2021/01/07/trump-concession-speech-video-concedes-election-watch).
Trump’s belated concession
According to a report by Darragh Roche, “White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino shared Trump’s statement on Twitter. The president is not currently able to send tweets from his account” (https://www.newsweek.com/did-donald-trump-concede-president-statement-sparks-debate-1559597). The statement read as follows: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
There is now a debate about whether Trump’s statement meant. He refers to an “orderly transition,” but also suggests the election results illegally denied him the presidency. And, in conceding the election, he does not mention Biden by name. Roche adds: “Many social media users were quick to suggest that Trump’s statement stopped short of conceding that Biden had defeated him, while others claimed it was as close to a formal concession as the president would offer.”
Reports on the mayhem – some examples
Amy Davidson Sorkin, reporting for The New Yorker, describes what she witnessed (https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-mob-is-gone-but-the-crisis-of-the-republican-party-has-only-begun).
“Many of the Trumpists had displayed, for the cameras, a thuggish air of territorialism, as if it hadn’t occurred to them that battering through the windows of the Capitol; assaulting police officers; trying to hunt down the Vice-President, Mike Pence; physically threatening legislators; or vandalizing the Speaker’s office might carry with it legal liability. It’s not known how many may have had guns or other weapons. There had been no effective effort to repel them and, in the immediate wake, few arrests. (A woman died after being shot by the Capitol police; three people died of what authorities described as medical emergencies [a capitol police officer later died from an assult by an insurrecetionists].) Those circumstances will require an urgent and profound inquiry in the days to come—how much is attributable to a security failure, to the mis-deployment of law-enforcement, to a sense of impunity encouraged by Donald Trump, to a strain of violence in our political culture, or to, as Lamb [Democratic representative from 17th Disrict, Pa] suggested, racism? (Some of the rioters carried Confederate and white-supremacist symbols, as well as ‘TRUMP’ flags.)
Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey report that Most of the rioters shown on television smashing their way into the Capitol were wearing Trump regalia. Many shouted his name or proclaimed the conspiracy theories he has told them about unsubstantiated election fraud, saying it robbed him of a victory in the Nov. 3 election” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-capitol-building).
Dan Barry, Mike McIntire and Matthew Rosenberg write about what they saw (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/us/capitol-rioters.html). “People surged past a few Capitol Police officers to bang on the windows and doors. Many eyewitness accounts and videos have since emerged that convey the pandemonium as hundreds of people overwhelmed the inadequate law-enforcement presence. In several instances of role reversal, for example, rioters are seen firing what appeared to be pepper spray at police officers trying to prevent mobs from getting closer to the Capitol Building. After a few minutes, the crowd broke through and began streaming into an empty office. Glass shards crunched under people’s feet, as the scene descended into chaos. Some stood in awe, while others took action. As one group prepared to break through an entryway, a Trump supporter raised a wine bottle and shouted, ‘Whose way?’ To which the crowd responded, ‘Our way!’”
Katie Shepherd reports on a video, first shown by CNN on Sunday, Jan. 10, showing a mob dragging a police officer down stars” and “one rioter beating an officer with a pole flying the U.S. flag” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/01/11/police-beating-capitol-mob). Shepherd describes the videoed scene further: “one man in a white hat and backpack grabbed a police officer by the helmet, dragging the officer down the stairs. Soon, other rioters kicked and punched the officer, and one man even bashed the prone figure repeatedly with a pole flying an American flag.” The people around the officer chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” “and a man shouted ‘Take him out,’” while others “threw flagpoles, metal crutches and other projectiles at police standing just inside an archway, trying to prevent the mob from entering the Capitol.”
The rioters seem to know where to go in the labyrinth spaces and offices of the Capitol building. There is some evidence that they may have been assisted by Congress members or some of the capitol police. Sharon Zhang reports that on the day before the pro-Trump mob violently breached the Capitol, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey) “saw some members of Congress leading groups on what she termed ‘reconnaissance’ tours of the [locked down] building” (https://truthout.org/articles/gop-reps-accused-of-giving-reconnaissance-tours-of-capitol-before-mob-attack). There are other similar claims. ‘One video appears to show members of the violent mob discussing the Capitol floor plan in detail on the day of the breach and planning things like breaking windows in order to ‘take this building.’ Zhang continues: “One of the organizers of the violent attempted coup, Ali Alexander, claimed in a now-deleted video that he specifically had help from members of Congress in planning the breach that killed five people. Alexander names three Trump-friendly Congress members who he says helped him plan the “Stop the Steal” mob: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona).” Their goal, according to Alexander, was to put “‘maximum pressure on Congress’ while they were certifying the Electoral College vote and ‘change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.’ There may have been more than just a few people involved. Acccording to Zhang, “At least a dozen officers are under investigation for their involvement in the breach, and several Capitol Police officers have been suspended. One had taken a selfie with a member of the mob, and one, donning a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, helped in directing the far right militants around the Capitol during the breach. Investigators in another case found messages from officers in support of the extremist coup and bolstering Trump’s fraudulent claims about the election. The Capitol Police chief resigned on Sunday.”
Matthew Rosenberg and Ainara Tiefenthaler capture the “far-right symbols at the Capitol riot” representing various extremist groups (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/video/extremist-signs-symbols-capitol-riot.html). They saw Militiamen [who] showed up proudly bearing the emblems of their groups — American flags with the stars replaced by the Roman numeral III, patches that read ‘Oath Keepers.’ Alt-right types wore Pepe the Frog masks, and QAnon adherents could be seen in T-shirts urging people to ‘Trust the Plan.’ White supremacists brought their variant of the Crusader cross.” Additionally, “there were thousands of Trump supporters with MAGA gear — flags, hats, T-shirts, thermoses, socks. One flag portrayed President Trump as Rambo; another featured him riding a Tyrannosaurus rex and carrying the kind of rocket-propelled grenade launcher seen on the streets of Mogadishu or Kandahar.” Among the right-wing militias were “the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, whose symbol, the Roman numeral III, could be seen on patches and flags. Both groups are anti-government, pro-guns and, nowadays, devoted to Mr. Trump.” The Boogaloos showed up wearing “their signature Hawaiian shirts” and the Proud Boys in their orange hats, both groups “include racists and anti-Semites, though the outright white supremacists tend to keep a lower profile.” QAnon members were there, wearing shirts with the letter “Q.” This is a group that “falsely claims that there is a cabal of Democrats, deep-state bureaucrats and international financiers who use their power to rape and kill children, and that Mr. Trump was elected to vanquish them.” Rosenberg and Tiefenthaler that these and other far-right groups reveal “an alternate political universe where violent extremists, outright racists and conspiracy theorists march side by side with evangelical Christians, suburban Trump supporters and young men who revel in making memes to ‘own the libs,’” They are united by their “loyalty to Mr. Trump and a firm belief in his false and discredited insistence that the election was stolen.”
U.S. military leaders condemn the Capitol riot (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-elections-capitol-military). Idress Ali writes: “The U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the uniformed leaders of the military branches, on Tuesday put out a rare message to service members saying the violent riots last week were an assault on America’s constitutional process and against the law.” In an internal memo to troops, the seven generals and one admiral said: “The violent riot in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process,” adding that “the military remained committed to protecting and defending the Constitution.” They said “that President-elect Joe Biden would be inaugurated on Jan. 20 and become their commander in chief.” In addition, Ali reports, “The Army told Reuters on Tuesday that it was working with the FBI to see if any attackers were current service members and with the Secret Service to see if any of the nearly 10,000 National Guard troops securing Biden’s inauguration would need additional screening.”
There are many questions still to be answered about the January 6 riot/insurrection. Why was security of the Capitol building so lax? Will the Republican Party continue to be dominated by Trump? Will a large number of Republicans in the U.S. Congress continue to say that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump and do their best to de-legitimize Biden’s administration? How many of the rioters will be brought to justice? Will Trump pardon any of the insurrectionists? Will Trump’s base remain blindly loyal to him? Will Trump and his supporters find ways to use social media to transmit their anti-constitutional views? With or without Trump as leader, will this right-wing base continue to believe that Biden’s victory was stolen? How many of the base are geared up to continue terrorizing government officials? Will journalists and other citizens, especially Black and Brown people and other with whom they disagree, be terrorized? Will the country become like a war zone? How will law enforcement respond? Will the mega-corporations and banks continue to support the extremist Republicans in the Congress and move against Biden? What will the radicalized Trump supporters do to protest Biden’s Inauguration on January 20 in Washington, D.C., and in the fifty state capitols?
Because of all that Trump has done and what he represents, he must be – should be – removed from ever again holding political office. The process of achieving this end has begun with the U.S. House voting to impeach Trump (for the second time on January 13. Wikipedia provides a succinct account of the steps leading up to Trump being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The second impeachment of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, occurred on January 13, 2021, one week before his term was due to expire. Trump‘s impeachment by the House of Representatives came after his attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election; the adopted article of “incitement of insurrection” cited his January 2 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and alleged that Trump incited the storming of the United States Capitol one week prior. He is the only U.S. president and the only holder of any federal office to have been impeached twice, the previous time in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would impeach Trump for instigating “an armed insurrection against America” if his Cabinet did not strip him of his powers and duties using the 25th Amendment. On January 11, Pelosi gave Vice President Mike Pence an ultimatum to invoke the 25th Amendment within 24 hours or the House would proceed with impeachment proceedings. On January 12, in a letter to Pelosi, Pence made it clear that he would not invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, arguing that doing so would not “be in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution”. Nevertheless, a majority of the House of Representatives, including one Republican, passed a resolution urging Pence to either invoke the 25th Amendment or have the House majority impeach Trump.
On January 11, 2021, an article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” against the U.S. government and “lawless action at the Capitol” was introduced to the House of Representatives. The article was introduced with more than 200 co-sponsors.
‘Trump’s impeachment marked the fourth impeachment of a president in U.S. history, the first being the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, and the second being the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999. With ten Republican representatives voting support, the resolution received the most pro-impeachment votes ever from the president’s party and is thus the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history. This was also the first presidential impeachment in which all members of the majority caucus voted unanimously for impeachment. If the Senate holds a trial and a two-thirds majority of senators vote to convict Trump, he would be either the first president in U.S. history to be removed from office by impeachment or the first former president to be convicted by the Senate. Either result would trigger a second vote in which a simple majority in the Senate is needed to permanently disqualify Trump from holding public office in the United States.”
Reporting for CNN, Meg Wagner and her colleagues report that “The House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump exactly one week after rioters forced lawmakers to flee from the very chamber in which they cast ballots in during the fourth presidential impeachment in US history. This is the first time a President has been impeached twice.” There were 10 Republicans who joined the vote to impeach Trump, “including the House’s No. 3 Republican, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, joined all Democratsto impeach Trump to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection.” Wagner continues: “Cheney’s statement was cited by impeachment supporters and detractors alike Wednesday after she charged that Trump ‘summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack’” (https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/house-trump-impeachment-vote-01-13-21/index.html).
Let me close this post with the wise comments by Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and author of 13 books. Here’s the last part of his essay (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/14/insurrection-pandemic-and-censorship).
“The best I can suggest is that we as a society draw the line at physical violence and direct calls for harm to others. Prosecute anyone who vandalizes property or injures other people in the process of making their point, along with those who knowingly incite them. Take down message boards used to plan efforts to overthrow elected leaders. Beyond that, as long as we have the internet and social media, we will probably have to live with the cognitive dissonance and fracturing of consensus reality that they facilitate. It’s an uncomfortable situation, but the alternatives are worse.
“We have individual responsibility for how we shape our own worldviews based on the news and opinions we “ingest.” Don’t assume the worst about individuals who have adopted views you find unhinged or even dangerous; sometimes they’re just ordinary people who’ve fallen into a disinformation echo chamber. Heterodox [unorthodox opinions or doctrines] assertions about reality are worth examining; sometimes they’re right. But when you find yourself considering a novel claim or theory about what’s happening and why, whether it concerns politics or the pandemic, exercise critical thinking. Has this idea been debunked? By whom? What are the verifiable facts? Be prepared to withhold judgment if the facts are unclear. The mainstream media are getting pummeled these days—sometimes for good reason. But credentialed reporting is the closest thing we have to a science of fact gathering. So, just as you should be careful not to dismiss a heterodox idea just because it’s not mainstream, be even more leery to dismiss reportage just because it issues from, say, CNN or the New York Times. If you find yourself thinking, “Of course they’d say that—they’re all in it together!”, then think again. If your media diet is making you anxious and angry, take time out. Go for a walk in the woods—and if no woods are available, spend time in as natural an environment as you can find.
“Those of us who understand the systemic crises we face have a special responsibility to build our own emotional resilience and to be open-minded so that we can help others in our communities, who don’t have that same clarity, to navigate the craziness to come.
“It’s a crazy world out there, and it’s getting crazier. Don’t add to the insanity.”