We only had five days in the new year to hope 2021 might be far better than last year, but we should know otherwise with Trump still in the White House. Where does one begin after a week like last? One which will go down in the history books for future generations to contemplate just how close we came to losing our democracy due to a deranged President who lit the fires of an insurrection by inciting a mob to attack the United States Capitol, all part of a desperate coup to thwart the inauguration of the next president. Warning; this was a painful long weekly news summary to write, and just as tough to read.
As chronicled in recent Bearing Witness to Trump posts, President Trump spent months leading up to the 2020 presidential election claiming that the only way he would lose is if there was massive fraud. Then after he lost he refused to concede while claiming it was a rigged election that was being stolen from him and his supporters. Trump also refused to say he would support the peaceful transfer of power and promoted conspiracy theories. This was the start of the “Big Lie”, after four years of thousands of small and large lies alike, that all together created the tinder box.
So with this context we all knew this week and that the inauguration of President-elect Biden would not go down without trouble from the king of chaos. In the two months after the election, Trump and his traitorous shills used every legal and illegal measure possible to object to and overturn the results, despite there being no credible evidence of voter fraud. Over 60 court cases were dismissed by more than 90 state and federal judges, including many appointed to the bench by Trump himself. Even an appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected.
There is no doubt that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won the election by receiving 84 million votes, 7 million more than Trump, and also win the electoral college 306 to 232. This was coincidentally the same electoral college margin that Trump won over Clinton in 2016 which he called a massive landslide victory. Nevertheless, Trump has for months been working up his Trump Party, once known as the Republican Party, and whipped supporters into a fighting frenzy preparing to hijack the election results as if a slow-moving coup. Trump and his sick sycophantic conspirators in Congress and Fox News have been spreading the “Big Lie” that he won by a landslide, using the playbook of countless other dictators and tyrants.
As if that was not bad enough, self-righteous opportunist Senators like Ted Cruz from Texas and Josh Hawley from Missouri, along with over 100 House members, took up the Big Lie as their own celebrity cause by objecting to select election results from states in which Trump lost. They too became part of the conspiracy to subvert our democracy. Their objections meant that what would be a largely ceremonial proceedings of a joint session of the US Congress to certify state election results would instead be a lengthy contentious debate of an already polarized legislature that could spill out into the streets. (Never did we imagine the streets would spill into the Capitol.) And all this additional turmoil they beget would occur during a deadly pandemic and deep economic recession. These actions by Republican Senators only demonstrated how far the once proud and once patriotic party has fallen since it became the deranged party of an aspiring autocrat.
Like most demagogues, Trump tried to steal the election from its rightful winner by claiming the election was being stolen from him. No one was surprised who has paid attention to the lies, propaganda, and threats from the White House of the past four years. He has always blamed others for what he was doing himself, with the cover of his right-wing news and social media echo bubble. The result is shocking but not surprising that more that 70% of Republicans believed that Trump won and that Biden would be an illegitimate President if he was allowed to be inaugurated.
The President, however, was actually the one to have committed election fraud by asking and threatening state election officials in Georgia and Michigan to “find” votes that would overturn their results and subvert the will of their citizens. It is both a federal and state crime to solicit falsification of votes. Trump had previously argued that the count of votes be stopped early on election night in many of the contested states, before all votes were in, because he said he was winning by a landslide.
Thus Trump’s unwillingness to accept a loss started a coup energized by the leader of a mindless cult of Congressional co-conspirators who are self-serving opportunists at best and cowards at worst who would sell out the Constitution to remain in power. For anyone paying attention, which evidently did not include Homeland Security, it was obvious that tensions were escalating quickly and social media was abuzz with talk of mass protests and potential violence in Washington DC on January 6, 2021, by those seeking to keep Congress from meeting to certify the election results.
For weeks Trump, like a desperate despot, had been calling for his misinformed and manipulated supporters to come to Washington on January 6 to protest the joint meeting of Congress that was to ratify the electoral college results which would declare Biden-Harris the winners. It was the last hurdle for a peaceful transfer of power which the President had done everything he could to obstruct. Thousands of Trump supporters from around the country responded to his call by organizing “Stop the Steal” and “March to Save America” protests on the National Mall as if they were the defenders of democracy instead of the ones assaulting it. This included far-right wing extremists groups like the Proud Boys to which the President during a debate had asked to “stand by” for further directives.
Trump obviously felt emboldened that he could do whatever he wanted because his fellow Republicans appeased his constant lying and attacks by ignoring his undemocratic un-American actions chronicled in the past 48 months of Bearing Witness. On the day of the protests which unfolded to become an armed deadly insurrection, Trump on a stage in front of the White House worked up thousands of his supporters into a fit of anger and victimhood. He called on them to “fight much harder” for their country and “to be wild” against “bad people.” He shouted to not let the Democrats “get away with it” and “to show strength” and “you have to be strong” and there are now “very different rules” and “you will never take back your country with weakness.” He also warned them they would have an “illegitimate president” and “we can’t let that happen” and “won’t stand for a landslide election to be stolen.” In more personal attacks, Trump threatened “We’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheney’s of the world, we got to get rid of them.”
Speaking before his father, Eric Trump, as if channeling the sons of dead dictator Saddam Hussein before they went into hiding, said that “we will never, ever, ever stop fighting.” Eric’s wife, Lara, added “this fight has only just begun” and “we’re in this fight to the bitter end.” The crowd roared back “fight for Trump fight for Trump.” The President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani added more fuel to the fire by saying “let’s have a trial by combat.” Giuliani would later say it was the left and Antifa who planned the combat to make Trump look bad. Trump then told the crowd to march to the Capitol Building saying he would be right there with them. Of course that was also just another lie as he immediately retreated back into the safety of the White House to watch the anarchy unfold on TV.
How can there be any doubt or debate after listening to he President and his family that he lit the fuse and incited the mob action that would go on to lay siege to the nation’s capital?
The protesters obliged Trump by doing exactly what he asked of them; marching to the Capitol and in their minds fighting to take it back to save America from an illegitimate President being inaugurated. They waved flags, banners and signs of the USA, Confederacy, Jesus, Don’t Tread on Me, Gadsden Don’t Tread on Me, Murder the Media and of course Trump Nation. One wore an anti-Semitic hoodie proclaiming “Camp Auschwitz” with the phase “work brings freedom.” Another group marched with makeshift wooden gallows as if ready to hang someone.
Upon arrival in front of the U.S. Capitol building many of the protestors quickly became a militant mob, then rioters, vandals, criminals, and finally seditious insurrectionists. They easily overwhelmed woefully inadequate Capitol Police, which had not been prepared for this day or had contingency plans. Bands of marauding insurrectionists scaled the walls of the Capitol and committed acts of vandalism and violence. They insulted, shoved, punched, beat, and crushed against doors Capitol Police officers. As the outnumbered police fell back, they used tear gas which filled the desecrated Capitol Rotunda and Statuary. The mob went looking for members of Congress and finding none looted mostly Democrat’s offices, broke windows, had their photos taken on the dais, chanted death threats, and looked prepared to take prisoners as hostages. Reports would later emerge that claimed some, perhaps like the QAnon Shaman warrior, had come to take hostages and hold assassinations.
Members of the Congress retreated to secure locations, including the Vice President who was whisked away by the Secret Service as guns were drawn to thwart attackers who were ramming the doors of the chamber. To add insult to injury, as members of Congress sheltered in place in close quarters waiting for order to be restored, many members of the Trump cult were said to refuse wearing masks as if just to prove on last time their loyalty to their cult’s Dear Leader.
As the attacks went on and the Capitol was sacked for the first time since the British attacked it in 1814, the President was reported to have been watching the violence he incited from the comfort of the White House with some satisfaction. He probably thought is was just another grand reality show episode in which he was once again the star, and refused to be fired by anyone. Despite pleas of government officials and his aides, the President did not take control to defend the capital nor did he go live on national TV to issue a public statement demanding his rabid out-of-control supporters retreat. Instead, it was President-elect Biden to appear on TV to calm the nation and demand the President call off his dogs. When Trump finally, tepidly, tweeted out a statement that evening he still refused to admit his loss and told the protesters “we love you” and “you are very special” and “you will remember this day forever.” Social media firms like Twitter and Facebook began removing the President from their platforms on the grounds it violated their policies against inciting violence.
Americans across a country in crisis watched in stunned horror as the Capitol was besieged and the proceedings of the 117th Congress halted in their duty to ratify election results. Photos showed militant insurgents and anarchists with weapons, metal pipes, spears, pepper spray, dressed in paramilitary uniforms with helmets climb the stands erected for the inauguration and scale both the outside and inside walls of the Capitol building with the skills of an invading army. Junior members of Congress not led to safety were seen hiding under desks or behind seats in the chamber’s gallery until they could be evacuated as the mob broke windows and doors, then stormed through to get inside. Other members, including some wearing gas hoods and masks, were led thru hallways by highly-armed security forces. As they hunkered down, police inside the building were attacked and dragged out by protestors. In one of the most sorrowful sights an officer on the steps of the Capitol was beaten with an American flag. Rioters were seen moving freely through the capitol, with rope and zip ties, as if looking for members to kidnap. Even the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office was ransacked and her podium and sign in the House chamber hauled off. Threatening messages were left in lawmakers offices saying their time was coming. Pipe bombs and vehicles with arms and ammunition were found scattered around the city, including in front of the DNC and RNC headquarters, as if they were being staged for the second attack.
Some anarchists parading through the Capitol rotunda were recorded chanting “Hang Mike Pence” because the Vice President asserted he was powerless to change the outcome of the election. As if he could he would, which is just as disturbing. Trump had for days been urging Vice President Pence to commit constitutional treason by rejecting electors and thus election results. Yet, Pence’s only duty prescribed by the Constitution was to preside over a roll call and to announce the final tally. Pence responded by saying he had no such power to overturn results, but still presciently said that “we’ll have our day in Congress.” And did he ever.
Not since the Civil War has the country been so humiliated, so divided and seemingly so close to another civil war. Trump, on this the Christian Day of Epiphany, fully revealed himself to be the domestic terrorist that many have warned of, including myself numerous times in this blog. This is the America that Donald J. Trump, his misled crazed supporters, apologists pundits, and Republican co-conspirators in Congress have made. And it is anything but great. It makes me weep for what has happened to our country.
The photos and social media posts from the riot will haunt us forever showing how fragile our democracy truly was. When this day of infamy was over, five had died for one reason or another with scores injured and this generation’s political naivety was lost for ever.
As dusk approached, most of the violent mob finally left the Capitol building, most without being arrested, some smiling while carrying mementos of their big vacation day out as if they were hoping to become social media stars and political influencers. Many rioters acted as if they were at a theme park and it was all just for fun without consequences. Or maybe they too thought it was just roll playing in a Trump reality show, or perhaps a virtual violent video game they had grown up playing which desensitized them. Clinton was right; some if not many Trump supporters are indeed truly deplorable.
The whole world was watching in shock and dismay, as it has been during the entire Trump term, that the beacon of democracy and symbol of freedom was attacked, sacked and ransacked as if we were a failed state in a Middle East war zone. We can only imagine that dictators, despots, demagogues and enemies of democracy from around the world, many who Trump had fawned over and befriended, must have taken great satisfaction in seeing all this play out. Putin, especially, must have been very happy in how well his investment in Trump has paid off. And how quickly one political monster of our own making and appeasement was able to destroy our democratic norms, institutions, and processes driving the nation into a near civil war.
Protesters were clearly egged on by not only the President but also members of Congress who also claimed the election was fraudulent. Senator Hawley from Missouri, whose unpatriotic opportunistic actions I wrote about last week, was seen in front of the Capitol raising a tight fist in solidarity and support of the protestors before they launched their attack. Other members of Congress clearly encouraged, if not aided and abetted, the insurrection by their words and actions. Others gave the insurrectionists cover by their silence and cowardice to speak up to denounce the evil that had descended upon America.
There are so many questions raised. How could Americans become so misinformed, misled, and manipulated by Trump in collusion with his propaganda media outlets and conspiracy makers? How could so many, including veterans and off duty law enforcement and even state legislators, be incited to travel to commit violent terrorist acts of sedition, all while wrapping themselves up in the flag as if they were the patriots defending democracy? How could the Capitol have been overrun with so little security given it was a joint session with all members present along with the Vice President and even his family?
There were so many warnings of the pending violence and so many lapses in security that some suggest there must have been a conspiracy at the highest levels to indirectly support the President’s militia of protestors. It was even reported that some of the mob were welcomed by a few police officers who posed for photos. It was said that groups of the protestors the day before had been given tours of the closed Capitol by staff members or the representatives themselves. Several state lawmakers and even former or retired members of the armed forces and police departments were reported to have been participating as insurrectionists.
Much of the nation was outraged that a riotous mob of mostly white people waving American flags, Confederate Flags, and Trump banners, masquerading as patriots would meet so little resistance. This while all summer long much smaller mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were met with often brutal display and use of force. We all remember how peaceful protestors in Washington were attacked by federal forces swinging batons with helicopters hovering in the air, and tear gas dispensed all to allow the President a photo op. The double standards and systemic racism on display was undeniable. There could have been no better civics lesson as to what white privilege means than what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.
With a state of emergency finally called, National Guard troops began streaming into the city, the Capitol was cleared and secured, streets were closed and a curfew went into effect. A distraught Congress finally went back into session late that evening under leadership we can be proud of in that they refused to let the mobs win the day. But emotions were so raw during the late evening that a scuffle broke out among representatives during final debate.
Despite the violence of the day, 8 senators and 139 congressmen still refused to relent and went on record to object to the election results using a range of pathetic excuses, misinformation, lies and rhetoric. What sociopaths they are that in the hours after their beloved Capitol was attacked by those claiming the election was fraudulent, that they too continued to perpetuate the same Big Lie. May they all be remembered in history as conspirators who attempted to undermine democracy as well as cowards who refused to stand up to the fascist-like cult following that Trump has made out of the morally bankrupt Republican party. Finally at 4 am the Congress certified, then Vice President Pence declared Joe Biden would rightfully become the 46th president of the US.
The next day as more troops swarmed into the Capitol and the clean up began, Trump finally promised a smooth transition to the next administration and asked that “now tempers be cooled and calm restored.” But he still did not admit defeat, nor concede, nor tell his supporters that the election was fair and not rigged. It was too late for that anyway. The equivalent of the Nazis setting fire to Weimar Germany’s Reichstag capitol building was over and the consequences have been set in motion.
As the week ended dozens of rioters from around the country were being identified, rounded up, arrested, and charged with a variety of crimes, many which were recorded on social media. There were calls for the President to be impeached for a second time as well as prosecuted for sedition and inciting a violent insurrection against the legislative branch. Democrats called the President out as an unpredictable unhinged danger to the republic who must be removed from office immediately, even before Biden is seated. Speaker Pelosi even felt it necessary to call the Joint Chiefs for assurance that they would block any unwarranted military actions the desperate President might seek domestically or internationally. Others, including Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly, were demanding the 25th Amendment be enacted by the current Cabinet to forcefully remove Trump from office. Some suggested use of Section 3 of the 14th amendment, passed after the Civil War to bar southern insurrectionists from ever holding office again, be invoked in this case to keep Trump from ever doing the same.
Likewise, there were growing calls for numerous Congress men and women to resign, be censured, or expelled all together. A few Trump loyalists were finally finding courage and their voice by proclaiming Trump to be what he is, a seditious aspiring autocrat. Even spineless Senator Mitch McConnell, whose wife Elaine Chao had the integrity to resign from the President’s cabinet as head of transportation, was said to be considering his support of impeachment.
I suppose many of our politicians are like the German political leadership in the early days of the Third Reich in that when the Nazis came for the socialists they did not object. When they came for the news journalists they did not object. When they came for the Jews they did not object. But when the mob finally came for them, well that was a bridge too far. I have no respect for these meek Republicans who knew very well what was happening over the past four years but said little and did less. Are their hands not also just as bloody as those of the misinformed manipulated protestors, many whom did not know better as they as Congressmen and women should have, having listened only to Trump, Fox News, and QAnon.
By the end of the week the House of Representatives, rightfully furious that the executive branch of the government had incited an attack on the legislative branch and Capitol, began to prepare impeachment charges. Even many Republicans were finally having the courage to part ways and voice public support of impeachment. Cabinet members and White House staff began leaping from the sinking ship by handing in their resignations. Many had no mercy for them for having taken so long to abandon a man like Trump who has, like another deadly virus, spread his disease across the nation.
After the attack, Trump said little, except by twitter to announce he would not be attending the inauguration. And then a forewarning that things were not over by telling his great patriot supporters “they would have a great voice long into the future.” It would become one of the President’s last tweets before he was banned from that platform. Biden called Trump’s plan to sit out his inauguration a good thing. It was reported that Trump and the man who showed him the most undeserved loyalty, Mike Pence, did not speak for several days after the mayhem, even though the Vice President’s safety and life was threatened.
Less than 24 hours after the riot, Trump, a man without shame leading a party over the cliff, did call in to the Winter meeting of the RNC leadership at a Ritz Carlton resort in Florida. He was welcomed as if their glorious cult leader with shouts of “we love you.” He said during his short call that he popularity of the party was doing very well. The silence of the attendees a day after the President incited the violence was indeed another sad moment for their party as well as the country at whole which needs functioning political parties.
In the only good news of the week, the day before the carnage in the nation’s capital, the voters of Georgia went to the polls in a special runoff election where both Republicans lost their seats. President Biden will now have a majority in the House and Senate when including VP Harris as the tie breaker. Earlier in the week when President Trump visited Georgia to speak at a campaign rally for Republicans Loeffler and Perdue, the President said there were going to “fight like hell” to keep control. And that they did.
What did we learn from all this that can no longer be denied or taken for granted? Our democracy is much more fragile than we ever thought. Many Republicans in Congress have no shame and have no courage to stand up to treasonous seditious behavior by their own party leaders. Only elections in which they win do they consider legitimate. Their oath to uphold the Constitution is meaningless as they love power more than their country and will sell out their own soul to stay in office and power. Conservatives have now become the radicals seeking to overthrow the government. The flag and patriotism are easy to hijack. Big Lies are easier to perpetuate than small ones. Years of social media misinformation, propaganda, and lies have taken a toll on an educated electorate. There is systemic racism that runs deeply across our country including within federal law enforcement agencies who allow violent White supremacists to get away with violent acts of insurrection while Black peaceful protestors get beaten and shot. We have more to fear from home-grown, right-wing extremists than we do external terrorists. There were so many failures at so many levels in securing the nation’s Capitol that it looks like a conspiracy to have ignored all the warnings which must have signaled approval to the mob to proceed under the President’s commands. Despite social media, and perhaps because of it, modern-day demagogues and fascists can still incite mob action, criminality, and insurrection just as they have for hundreds of years without social media. When you don’t confront evil early on, but just appease it, it does not go away but only gets bolder and stronger. There are not two realities, but one reality and one delusionality. Political opportunists like Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz will rise to exploit chaos for their own benefit. The proud Republican Party that once was a defender of democracy has become the exact opposite and no longer exists.
In school while growing up in the Heartland I read in our history books about the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany during the 1930s in a once democratic republic. Most young people then immediately understood the evil of someone like Hitler. But for most of my adult life I never fully understood how the German political leadership then the masses were so easily misled, manipulated, and corrupted to support the Nazi party in their evil. Sadly, I now understand how this can happen to any country, even the United States of America nearly a century later.
And this is now the country we have become after living under Trump for four tragic years. He started his term in office claiming that he was going to be the law and order president bringing an end to the carnage in America (that did not exist, at least not yet). Instead, he left the country wrecked in turmoil, and so divided bordering on a civil war where the lines run through states, cities, neighborhoods, and families. On the day of the Feast of Epiphany, we saw fully revealed who Trump, his former Republican Party, and his rabid supporters are. Trump was an arsonist setting fires who then claimed to be the firefighter that was going to save us. He is nothing more but a con man, cult leader and aspiring but failed dictator.
The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.
Featured image photograph of Capitol insurrection a screen shot of CNN News Feed at https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/07/us/capitol-mob-deaths/index.html.