At the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, “throngs of people pushed past police who were trying to block them from entering the building as lawmakers inside debated counting electoral college votes confirming (Joe) Biden’s victory,” The Washington Post reported. “A mob was able to breach security and successfully enter the building, where one person was shot and later died.” The Associated Press described the occupation of the Capitol as “a raucous, out-of-control scene,” as pro-Trump rioters waved U.S., Confederate and Trump flags and marched through the historic halls. National Guard units and federal police were dispatched to assist Capitol Police. An official with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society told CNN that the last time the U.S. Capitol had been breached was 1814, when it was torched by the British during the War of 1812.
What have we become? What has our beloved nation become?
We will not mince words. The MAGA extremists who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday are domestic terrorists and criminals. They smashed some of the glass windows of the historic building at the heart of our representative government and punctured the very heart of U.S. democracy. With disturbing ease, they took over the legislative chambers and vandalized the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Their conduct constituted sedition (Merriam-Webster definition: “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority”). Their actions resembled a coup d’etat (that dictionary again: “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics”) and certainly amounted to an insurrection (“an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government”).
Lawmakers in the Capitol were forced to don escape hoods to protect them from tear gas and then hide, ceding parts of the Capitol to the criminal invaders.
The pro-Trump extremists were marching at the behest of an American president trying desperately and illegitimately to cling to power — a president who appallingly had egged them on.
He targeted his own unflaggingly loyal vice president in a tweet even as domestic terrorists breached the Capitol barricades, and the vice president had to be hustled to safety by the Secret Service.
The reason Pence was targeted by Trump? He had delivered a letter to Congress, asserting — rightly — that the Constitution constrained him “from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump tweeted dangerously. “USA demands the truth!”
To be clear, he wanted Pence to reject the certified electoral votes that were to be presented by the 50 states and the District of Columbia in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. As Pence explained in his letter, he had no ability to do so under law.
So the petty and petulant Trump encouraged the lawlessness that occurred Wednesday.
Speaking at the rally that preceded the riots at the Capitol, Trump said: “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats. We will never concede. ... Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”
Trump then encouraged the rallygoers to march to the Capitol to give Republicans the “kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
Make no mistake: President Trump encouraged his supporters in this insurrection. And he must be removed from office as quickly as possible — whether by the 25th Amendment, impeachment and conviction or resignation — and must never be allowed to hold office again.
He has surrendered the right to lead this country. While he tweeted feebly Wednesday afternoon for the pro-Trump rioters to remember “WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue,” it was far too late. He already had unleashed the forces of criminal lawlessness and violence.
In doing the right thing for our Constitution and our country at the eleventh hour, Vice President Pence has earned the right to be the commander in chief for the final two weeks of the Trump-Pence term. Notably, according to The New York Times, it was Pence — not Trump — who approved an order to deploy the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol on Wednesday to restore peace.
Pence at least would be a somber — and likely chastened — voice in the days before President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take their oaths of office on Jan. 20.
In Lancaster city, someone hung a sign reading “Guilty of Sedition” outside the office of Congressman Lloyd Smucker on Wednesday, and we’re hard-pressed to argue.
Smucker — and every Republican in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., who has sought to undermine the legitimacy of the November presidential election — owns a piece of the violence that unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday.
In a bland and unremarkable tweet, Smucker told the violent mob of criminals and domestic terrorists in Washington on Wednesday to “go home” after they’d done their damage to a building and to democracy itself. But just days earlier Smucker alleged, with zero evidence, that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration committed “unlawful actions” and said he “cannot accept” the slate of electors certified by the state.
Smucker failed to speak truth to power and his constituents. He failed to exhibit even an ounce of courage. In short, he failed to lead, instead caving to the wishes of the dishonest president, and so has brought shame to his position and to our country as the world looks upon the chaos at the Capitol.
Smucker cannot be surprised at the mayhem and violence that his words and the words of his Republican colleagues prompted.
There have been so few profiles of courage among Republican leaders, but chief among them has been Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, whose integrity and bravery earned him vicious harassment from Trump supporters as he made his way from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Romney was the lone Republican senator who voted to convict and remove Trump last February after his impeachment. And he rightly castigated Trump for causing Wednesday’s insurrection, and said that anyone who continued to support Trump’s “dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”
Among the other Republicans who have acted with courage: U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who characterized the scenes at the Capitol as a “coup attempt”; and Pennsylvania’s own Sen. Pat Toomey, who stood up to GOP efforts to subvert the election, and tweeted Wednesday that the riots at the Capitol were “an absolute disgrace.” We thank them for their patriotism and for their fidelity to the Constitution.
We offer the same thanks to the Democratic leaders who have championed our democracy. We have faith that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be faithful and stalwart stewards of the Constitution. “The words of a president matter,” Biden told Americans on Wednesday, and he couldn’t have been more right.
Biden called for Trump to “go on national television ... to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege."
But Trump failed utterly even at that task.
The White House released a video Wednesday afternoon in which Trump lied yet again about the election outcome, calling it a “landslide” that had been “stolen from us.” Tellingly, he told the domestic terrorists storming the Capitol that he “loves” them and, almost as an aside, urged them to “go home,” because “we have to have peace, we have to have law and order.”
Later, clearly unfazed and unrepentant about the havoc he had wrought, and still trafficking in lies so outrageous that he earned a suspension from Twitter, Trump tweeted: “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. ... Remember this day forever!”
The day will be remembered with horror. Trump is a menace to our republic. And the Republicans who know in their hearts that this is true need to stand up now for our country.