trump’s attempted coup – THAT WAS the week that was
The Week is Over
The cliché says that journalism is the first draft of history. We shall have to wait the verdict of historians several years down the road to craft a title for the tumultuous events of the last week and put them into perspective. For now it shall suffice to note that the FBI is calling on citizens to help identify members of the violent mob of Donald Trump supporters who attacked the United States Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to stop Congress from tallying the Electoral College votes declaring Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris the next president and vice-president.
It was the first time since the Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788, that a President of the United States attempted to overturn the results of an election and remain in office after the election of his successor had been certified by the states and the District of Columbia.
This was a violent insurrection by a mob summoned to Washington for a “Save America” rally by Donald Trump, calling for a “wild” protest and urged by him to “walk down … to the Capitol…. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” That after Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the mob, “Let’s have trial by combat.” And after Trump’s sons threatened retribution against any Republicans who did not vote to reject the certified Electoral College results.
This attack on Congress was simply the culmination of the attacks on the norms, laws, and institutions of the United States that have marked the Trump administration. Shots were fired. People died. The historic center of the American government was vandalized. The battle flag of the Confederacy was paraded through the halls, a sight never seen before, not even during the nation’s bitter Civil War.
Some members of the administration have resigned. Some Republican members of Congress and other Repuublican supporters have “rethought” their unwavering support of Trump which has enabled his transgressions for the last four years. But there is still significant support for him in the Congress and in the executive branch.
There is considerable fear of what Trump might do in the last week and a half of his term. His mental health has always been questionable. He has always exhibited the textbook symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. But now he seems more unhinged than before. There have been calls, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for the Vice-President and cabinet to declare Trump unfit to serve and remove him from office, something Vice-President Pence has indicated he is not ready to do yet, but might change his mind if Trump tries to do more damage.
Pelosi also talked with the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Mark Milley, “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike,” she said in a letter to House Democrats. That she thought the call was necessary is frightening.
Democratic House members have drafted new Articles of Impeachment which could be introduced on Monday and voted on by Wednesday. They seem to have some Republican support. The draft cites Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” They argue, “Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government.”
If passed, Trump would become the only president in American history to be impeached twice. The fate of such an impeachment by the House is uncertain in the Senate, where a trial on the charges will be held.
Meanwhile the investigation into Wednesday’s riot continues. In addition to the FBI search for members of the mob, Congress is set to look into the actions, or inactions, of the Capitol Police. Three top officials, including the chief, have resigned amid reports the police were wholly unprepared and some may have been complicit in the storming of the Capitol. There is no question individual members of the Capitol Police performed heroic acts and put themselves in harm’s way to protect members of Congress and their staff. But some may have turned their backs on protestors and their leadership may well have failed them.
There will also be questions for the Pentagon, where civilian leaders who had pushed back on Trump’s efforts to employ the military in support of his political endeavors were fired in the last few months and replaced by Trump loyalists. The Pentagon apparently withheld deployment of the District of Columbia National Guard when Capitol Police requested assistance. Because of DC’s unique status as “not a state,” the executive branch must approve its use. The Capitol was finally secured with the assistance of the DC Metropolitan Police and National Guard forces from Virginia and Maryland, responding at the request of DC and under the authority of their governors. This is just another argument in favor of DC statehood.
In the wake of the calls for violence and persistent lying about the outcome of the election by Donald Trump, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter shut down his accounts. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. There is considerable evidence that the attack was planned, plotted, and organized in the months since the election on various outlets of social media.
While a majority of the mob might have been unknowing Trump supporters caught up in the moment, there appear to have have been a core minority group of insurrectionists, members of the “militia” movement which has always been a factor in America. How the FBI and other national security agencies missed that is beyond explanation. Unless they did so on purpose. Or perhaps they did warn their political bosses, only to have those warnings ignored by the president’s men.
Do not minimize the threat, at least that from the core group of military trained goons, dressed in camouflage uniforms, wearing body armor, helmets, and outfitted with communications gear and weapons. There were chants in the mob, clearly recorded, of “Hang Mike Pence,” and “Where’s Nancy?” references to the Vice-President and the Speaker of the House. An apparently working gallows had been set up outside the Capitol. What might have happened if these leaders, next after Trump in the line of succession, had been reached by the mob?
There is no doubt whatever legacy Trump might have hoped for has been squandered. So be it. And the movement to impeach even in the final days of the Trump administration make perfect sense in terms of preventing him from ever running for office again.
But this has been more than four years in the making. From the moment Trump came down that escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy Trump has staged an assault on America’s core values. He has lied with impunity, aided by opportunists in his own pollical party and the media.
A leader can tell those in society who believe the American Dream has passed them by that he sympathizes with their sense of frustration. Such a leader offers a helping hand so that people can improve their situation. A megalomaniac like Trump tells them the suffering they perceive is a result of oppression by “others” and that he is the only solution to their problems.
Trump’s entire political ideology has been to convince Americans that the nation is broken, and that only Trump can fix it. In fact, what is most broken, and always has been, is Trump.
Links to previous entries in this series….