Insurrection at the end of Trump's days

Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2021 in News

Insurrection at the end of Trump's days

Police clash with rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

by Gina Hamilton

And then, a mere two weeks before it would have all been over, outgoing President Donald Trump invited his bully-boys to Washington D.C. on the day when Congress was to meet to finally, completely, name Joseph Biden as the president-elect.

He'd been grooming them for months. "Stand back and stand by," he told the Proud Boys in the last presidential debate in October. When he lost the election, he insisted he had won, and his partisans in Congress were by and large too timid to tell him the truth. That brought the whole sacred lost cause of a "stolen election", which infuriated his base. After multiple recounts and court cases, the states certified their results anyway.

The electoral college elected Biden a week later; Trump kept claiming nonexistent fraud, and kept telling his angry base that the election was rigged. One by one, the social media he relied on started fact checking him, covering his comments with advisories that they weren't, in fact, true. Finally, the Georgia runoff gave him one last chance to tell his lies before a wide audience.

The Georgia runoffs, which the Democrats won, came and went, with the usual complaints of irregularities, but Trump encouraged his base through Twitter and the rally the night before the election to come to Washington for one last event. A day of marching and rallying in the streets, to coincide with Congress' counting of the electoral college certificates. On Twitter, Trump had called Jan. 6 a “historic day” that will be “wild!”

A ceremonial event overseen by the Vice President in his role as President of the Senate, the count normally flies under the political radar. A couple of representatives might object, but rarely does a senator join with the objection. Even if one does, the chance of doing away with any state's electors is next to zero. So having several Representatives and Senators prepared to try to overturn the election is astonishing.

Trump appeared to speak to his base a little before noon; Congress was planning to start opening certificates at 1 p.m. Before Trump spoke, his son told the gathering of several thousand that "This gathering should send a message to [Congressional Republicans]; this isn't their Republican party anymore, this is Donald Trump's Republican party." Shortly afterward, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told them that the time had come for "trial by combat." The mob would soon take him literally.

Trump had somehow assumed that Pence would do something -- no one is quite sure what -- to overturn the election. Pence wrote a letter to the president informing him he didn't see any way to do that. When Trump got the letter after returning to the White House, Trump used his Twitter feed to draw a large, red bullseye on Pence's back.

"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. USA demands the truth!" This tweet, along with three others, has since been deleted, and Trump's account has been locked.

But the challenge had already been accepted. The fired-up mob moved off toward the Capitol, about a mile and a half march away, while Trump, after telling them he would be with them, instead slunk off to the safety of the White House, where he apparently watched the proceedings on television.

Meanwhile, the electoral vote count was getting underway. While lawmakers were still in joint session, it was clear that some representatives and senators were prepared to debate the acceptance of electors in certain battleground states. The first state that came up alphabetically was Arizona. Although in the end, Biden would still be president, for the vote had already taken place and was certified by the states, arguing the issue would give some of Trump's supporters a modicum of face-saving. Then the houses split up, the Senate returned to its side, and began two hours of debate about accepting the Arizona electoral college certificate.

Although he did not yet know it, Mitch McConnell had already been demoted to minority leader with the win of Jon Ossoff in Georgia; even so, he gave the speech of a lifetime, wracked by emotion, explaining why he would not vote to overturn a democratically elected government. As debate began, aides and Capitol Police entered the chamber and evacuated them because the Capitol had been breached by the mob.

Capitol Police seemed woefully unprepared to do their job, and were not geared up for what was known in advance to be a mob action. Very quickly, it was obvious that the nearly all white mob who took over the Capitol were being treated very differently than other protesters -- there were images of Capitol Police helping them get in and out of the Capitol, and taking selfies with them. Few of them were arrested at the time, and little was done to prevent the looting of offices, including that of Nancy Pelosi. It took an unconscionably long time for reinforcements to arrive.

On the House side, lawmakers and others were removed, but many could not escape in time and were forced to remain in the House chamber for several hours before they could be safely evacuated. During this period of time, the mob broke in, breaking windows, doors, breaking into offices, and several people were injured, one, a woman said to be pregnant, was shot and later died. Several more died from medical events during the siege.

Several other buildings, including one of the buildings of the Library of Congress and congressional office buildings, were also evacuated. Warnings messages inside the Capitol told staffers and others to retreat to offices, lock doors, stay on the  floor, and keep away from windows and doors. "Call your EOC [Emergency Operations Center]," the warning voice advised.

Meanwhile, nearby, at the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, explosive devices were discovered, and the offices evacuated.

The occupation of the Capitol went on for four hours, while lawmakers were taken from the Capitol to a secure room elsewhere on the Capitol campus. Pence later said he remained in the Capitol to try to resolve some of the matters at hand.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said simply: “This is a coup attempt.”

It took several hours for the District's National Guard to be deployed; Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was more concerned about the optics of the military taking charge of a civilian riot than solving the problem of the Capitol under siege. Ultimately, after several calls, he agreed to call out the National Guard, and ultimately, the Maryland and Virginia Guards, as well as several police forces, converged on the Capitol. McCarthy later said there was "confusion" about the multiple requests he had received.

Biden appeared on national television to encourage Trump to do the same and tell his partisan mob to stand down. He blasted the invasion of the Capitol as an insurrection.

Midway through the siege, in response to multiple requests by his own partisans and possibly Biden, Trump made a short video to be posted on Twitter, since deleted, in which his rhetoric about the stolen election was first and foremost, but that he told the mob it was time to go home."We must have peace," he said.

Most never got the message. Around that time, several lawmakers raised the question of whether or  not this was a good reason to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove President Trump, probably for the remainder of his term, on the grounds that he was unfit to continue in office. Neither Pence nor his office have responded, but by the next morning,  as many staffers began exiting the White House unceremoniously, some members of the Cabinet began discussing the option.

Washington's mayor, Muriel Bowser, declared a 6 p.m. curfew, and as the sun set, police moved in with tear gas and flash bombs, and moved the crowd back out to the street. Many continued to argue with police, even as the curfew hour came and went. Because of the pandemic, few options were open for the mob unless they already had accommodations. Restaurants were closed and after 6 p.m., most businesses were shut as well.

At latest count, 52 people have been arrested; one woman died from gunshot wounds, four more from medical issues, and seven others were transported to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

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