Nearly 30 Democratic members of the House have expressed a desire to impeach Donald Trump a second time following his incitement Wednesday of an armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers attempted to certify the results of the November presidential election.
They are absolutely right. Trump is a direct threat to the sovereign. For more than two months, Trump has spewed a constant stream of disinformation about the election being stolen from him and his supporters being disenfranchised. On Wednesday morning, Trump spent some two hours urging his followers to storm the U.S. Capitol at a “Save America” rally. “We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told several thousand of his cultists who had gathered on the Ellipse to see him speak.
His supporters, hopped up on conspiracy and grievance, then marched over to the Capitol and staged a violent insurrection—pushing back Capitol police, shooting mace at them, threatening lawmakers and journalists, breaking windows, destroying property, and ultimately overtaking the building along with several others on the Capitol complex.
Several hours after images of the violent takeover had flooded new outlets and social media streams, Trump finally posted a video urging his cultists to go home peacefully. But even that video was riddled with more conspiracy and grievance-stoking by Trump.
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” Trump falsely stated before telling his followers to go home. He then went straight back at it, lamenting, “There’s never been a time where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us—from me, from you, from our country.” And finally, “So go home. We love you. You’re very special,” Trump concluded, offering a warm embrace to the terrorists who had stormed the Capitol to stage a coup attempt.
The unfathomable breakdown of law enforcement during this entire episode will be investigated and parsed for years to come. But what we do know is that it took hours for the D.C. National Guard to be called up to provide reinforcements, partly because it is not controlled by the D.C. mayor but rather the president. After D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both sent a formal request to the Department of Defense to deploy the National Guard, Vice President Mike Pence finally approved the deployment, not Trump. Trump, still the commander in chief, apparently couldn’t be bothered to send in reinforcements to protect U.S. lawmakers, the Capitol complex, and all its denizens.
To recap, Trump spent months pumping his low-information voters full of crap; he then personally directed them to storm the Capitol on the day of congressional certification; when his supporters did storm the Capitol, he posted a video justifying their ire and lavishing praise on them while also declining to deploy troops in order to protect U.S. lawmakers and federal property. Many of those protesters, who were inexplicably allowed to exit the building on Wednesday evening without suffering any consequences, told journalists and others they planned to return at a later date with their guns.
And finally, once the worst of the occupation appeared to be over, Trump celebrated the seditious actions of his cultists. “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,” Trump tweeted Wednesday evening. Twitter finally locked Trump’s account by day’s end, but lasting damage to the heart of our democracy had already been done.
What unfolds over the next 14 days between now and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden remains entirely unclear. What is clear is that Trump’s cultists aren’t done yet, and Trump himself is perfectly happy to stoke their worst impulses while leaving the nation’s Capitol, along with our duly elected U.S. lawmakers, unprotected. Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to American democracy, our systems of government, and the republic itself. He must be impeached immediately after Congress finishes the business of certifying the Electoral College votes. As Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona told MSNBC Wednesday evening, “Democracy’s not safe right now. … I don’t trust this president.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota announced Wednesday afternoon that she was drafting articles of impeachment. Omar was among the first of several lawmakers to express support for impeaching Trump following his direct involvement in one of the most shameful episodes in our nation’s history. The effort has quickly attracted the backing of a diverse group of Democratic lawmakers, from progressive representatives like Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Pramila Jayapal of Washington to more moderate members like Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Jim Cooper of Tennessee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must take up the matter immediately following congressional certification. Few if any instances in American history have ever posed such an obvious and urgent existential threat to the United States of America.