On January 6, 2021, a mob of pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed security at the US Capitol and stormed the building even as the election results were being certified. They disrupted proceedings and the members of Congress had to be rushed out in an emergency evacuation. The shocking event resulted in the death of four rioters and Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who succumbed to his injuries overnight.
The mob started going towards the Capitol after Donald Trump’s rally, which is largely being seen as the catalyst for the violent reaction of his supporters. In his address to the gathering, Trump reiterated what he has already said numerous times: the election was rigged. His speech included sentences like “We will never concede. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.” He also stated, multiple times, that they would “go to the Capitol”, which emboldened the supporters and further fanned the flame. After this, they started marching towards Capitol Hill, even as security vehicles tried to catch up with the angry mob and stop them from reaching the Capitol.
The events which unfolded after this are common knowledge. The fact of the matter is, this should never even have happened. Trump should not have agitated the protestors in the first place, but even more shocking was his reluctance to put out a video on his infamous Twitter handle condemning the violence. He finally agreed to do so, but convincing him should not have been difficult. In fact, he should not have even needed convincing. A President should be capable enough to recognise a violent situation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that video was followed by a tweet calling his supporters ‘great patriots’ and telling them that they will ‘remember this day forever’. Twitter flagged the tweet and has subsequently suspended him permanently from the platform.
After the Electoral College certified his victory, President-elect Joe Biden said that those who were part of the mob cannot be called protestors, but should be labelled as ‘domestic terrorists’. He also called Trump a President ‘who has made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution and the rule of law clear in everything he has done’.
Trump has repeatedly denied the election results and refused to accept his defeat, but to actually incite a breach of the Capitol to interrupt election certification proceedings was unprecedented. Not anymore, though. The situation is so fragile that Senators are actually worried about what havoc Trump might cause in the last 2 weeks of his term. An impeachment is being contemplated. There is a growing call for Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and to remove Trump from office immediately, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting both options. Suffice to say, one of the world’s most prominent democracies shouldn’t be worrying about what violence their President might cause in the last few days he is in office. The very fact that this is happening is disturbing.
A move for impeachment would be more symbolic than realistic since there isn’t enough time for a Senate trial. An increasing number of Senators are willing to take any route to remove Trump before his term ends, and if not remove him, proceed with the impeachment in order to follow up with the consequences of his actions. Trump should get what he deserves for the violence he caused, in any way possible.
The efforts of Mike Pence and the other Republicans who eventually certified the results in the Electoral College should be appreciated, but the fact remains that it shouldn’t have taken so much violence for them to take the reasonable (and fairly obvious) decision. Pence, especially, was in a very delicate position when Trump falsely tweeted that the Vice President has the power to reject fraudulent voters. He was increasingly pressured by Trump to defy the constitution and not certify Biden’s victory, even though he has absolutely no power to do so. Pence did eventually acknowledge that he did not have the right to overturn the election in a letter to the members of Congress, in a rare instance of him going against Trump. He has largely remained loyal to the President and spent the last four years defending him and his decisions. What is most important, however, is that Pence did the right thing this time. If Pence had been as adamant as Trump and failed to see reason, something even worse and catastrophic might have happened.
In the end, what has happened cannot be undone. The US Capitol was breached for the first time since the 1814 Burning of Washington, more than 200 years ago. That incident was caused by the British, not a protest incited by the sitting President. Trump has certainly made things much harder for Biden, as the US continues to lose respect on the international domain. The country has been weakened from within, and with America’s closest allies not remaining as close any longer, Biden might have not one but two big challenges to deal with at the very start of his Presidential term. The 2021 storming of the Capitol might be eventually seen as an isolated incident, but it is the exclamation mark on one of the most controversial presidential terms ever.