Pro-Trump Insurrectionists Seize Capitol

Photograph Source: Anthony Crider – CC BY 2.0

Extremist Republican congressional conservatives began debating the electoral votes that secured President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as a Donald Trump-incited mob unleashed real “American carnage” by storming the Capitol building to protest his lost election.

Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed past a ring of police and pushed into the Capitol, busting through doors and windows, ransacking offices. Someone fired a shot in unknown circumstances that hit a woman. She died at a hospital.

The ballot counting was suspended, the Senate locked down and the House closed its doors in what possibly marked one of the worst breaches of the hallowed building in history. The Washington, D.C., National Guard was activated. The building later was evacuated.

“Our democracy is under unprecedented assault in modern times,” Biden said on national TV from Wilmington, Del.

“This is not a protest,” he said at another point. “This is an insurrection.” It sure was, thanks to Trump.

To digress briefly, I’m delighted that the two Democrats, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, won the Georgia runoff election Tuesday. It means Democrats will have a majority in the Senate, giving them both houses of Congress as well as the White House, securing passage of Biden’s agenda.

Washington authorities appeared unprepared for the chaotic onslaught of the rioters because police easily were overwhelmed. Trump reportedly had encouraged the demonstratrors in a fiery speech delivered 1.5 miles from the Capitol to march on Congress to protest an election that he said was stolen from him.

This was the president who at his inauguration four very long years ago served notice to us that our society was living an “American carnage” and he would fix it. Yet it has been Trump who has wrought the carnage, perhaps the worst of it at the Capitol Wednesday.

He had been urging his followers like Proud Boys for days to go to Washington to protest what he repeatedly referred to without evidence as a fraudulent election that he won in a “landslide.” Yet it had been described by a top official as the “most secure in American history.” Trump fired him for making a “highly inaccurate” statement. But it was accurate.

“There was an election that was stolen from us,” he said in a later video shown on social media during the Capitol melee. “It was a landslide and everybody knows it.”

Facebook later took down the video and Twitter locked his account for 12 hours and warned he could get banned from it permanently. That certainly would help shut him up.

A visibly angry Biden felt an obvious need to address the protesters on TV, saying, “I urge this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.” He also called on Trump to “step up” and tell the rioters to go home.

Trump followed through, surprisingly. “It’s time to go home. Go home in peace.”

About 140 Republican House members and 13 senators reportedly planned to object to the electoral votes. They were following a corrupt, soulless would-be autocrat Trump into a constitutional brick wall in trying to erase the votes of millions of Americans. Fully 81.2 million votes went to Biden, 74.2 million to Trump.

The bid by the Trump allies was an attempted “congressional coup,” top Republican lawyer Charles Cooper told The Washington Post before Congress gathered in a joint session Wednesday to count the 306 to 232 electoral votes by which Biden won the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is about to lose his job, warned the congressional upstarts against trying to subvert the election.

“The states have all spoken,” he said on the Senate floor before Congress counted the electoral votes. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.”

Trump’s latest failure to steal the election came after about 50 unsuccessful attempts to declare the balloting fraudulent through the courts and an astonishing, possibly unlawful effort to persuade Georgia’s secretary of state to change the vote totals in his favor.

“For the record,” The New York Times said in an editorial Tuesday, “falsifying vote totals, or soliciting someone else to do so, is a crime under federal and state law. It is without question an impeachable offense.

Even though the president has less than two weeks left in office, “. . . there is a strong argument that Mr. Trump – perhaps the most lawless and least qualified chief executive in the nation’s history – should not only be impeached for a second time but also convicted and disqualified from ever again holding public office,” the Times wrote.

If the immediate goal in this fraudulent campaign of lies was to keep Trump as president, the longer-range objective appears to be for far-right Republicans marching under a Trumpian banner to propel a takeover of Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024. The potential goal: an America run by an autocrat, democracy be damned.

It’s a good bet we won’t have heard the last of Trump once he leaves the White House.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.