What Matters: Will Trump pay for the damage he caused?

The rhetorical coup Trump has been fomenting on Twitter and in public appearances got very real very quickly.

Rep. Jason Crow, a Democratic congressman from Colorado who fought as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan, described his shock at being trapped in the House chamber as police drew guns and barricaded people inside with furniture. He felt attacked in the center of American democracy.

“We will not be intimidated. We will not be browbeat. We will continue doing our work. The people’s work,” he said. He pledged that lawmakers would finish counting the electoral votes Wednesday or Thursday.

This insurrection will ultimately be contained. Republicans are already paying a price for their commitment to Trump. As his supporters were entering the House and Senate chambers, CNN projected Democrats will take control of the Senate with Jon Ossoff’s victory over David Perdue in Georgia’s Senate runoff.
George W. Bush, the last previous Republican president, has spoken publicly very rarely since leaving office. On Wednesday, he rejected the insurrection in a strongly worded statement, although he didn’t use Trump’s name.

Other Republicans — even including Trump allies like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had planned to join in objecting to electoral votes — have already joined Democrats in condemning the violence.

When the counting of electoral votes concludes, Biden’s victory will be announced and finalized. But do not dismiss the enormity of this violent political disobedience. You could compare the treatment of these largely White rioters, carrying Trump flags, to the rioters who tarnished Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice over the summer.

You could wonder why the National Guard was called to secure US cities back then, but rioters on Wednesday were allowed by Capitol Police to enter the seat of US government and interrupt the lawful end of their patron’s time in office.

The Pentagon made clear it’s coordinating with local authorities, the Department of Justice and Vice President Mike Pence. The military didn’t mention Trump, who called in the National Guard last summer to give him cover while he went to do a photo-op at a church across from the White House.

What’s certain is that the anger these seditious rioters feel will not just go away when Trump’s loss becomes a reality. And so it’s worth looking at failed coups of the past. Specifically, as the presidential historian Michael Beschloss and the former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt pointed out on Twitter, it’s worth looking at November 1923.
Adolf Hitler, inspired by Benito Mussolini’s 1922 takeover of the government in Rome, tried to seize power in Bavaria and failed — an event now known as the Beer Hall Putsch.That obviously wasn’t the end of Hitler. Although he was convicted of treason and spent a year in jail, his popularity grew as he regrouped and marshalled the Nazis to take over Germany in the years to come.
A decade later, in 1933, he used the burning of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, to marshal public opinion against Communists, although there is evidence the fire was actually set by Nazis.

What comes next?

Wednesday was always going to be the day of Trump’s repudiation by Congress.

But his lying about election fraud came back to haunt him in many ways, all at once. He single-handedly cost Republicans their Senate majority. His fevered bullying of GOP lawmakers hit its limit as some GOP lawmakers chose truth and Biden over his fictions. And his effort to find ways around the Constitution finally unleashed a spectacle that alarmed and horrified even those who have worked for or have been supporting him along the way.

The planes are all still landing.

The House and Senate must finish the ceremonial counting of electoral votes that was interrupted by protesters.

The twin Georgia races will ultimately be certified, and Raphael Warnock, the former preacher at MLK Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church will replace the appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler while Jon Ossoff will succeed Sen. David Perdue.

Loeffler is a case study in Trump’s toxic effect on the GOP. She was selected by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp because as a successful and relatively moderate businesswoman she could appeal to suburban women in the state. But she mainlined Trumpism during her time in Washington and ran a campaign of fealty to his wishes, including her possible objection to her own state’s electoral votes when the counting continues.

No matter. Many Republicans will, finally, join Democrats to uphold the Constitution and respect the voters and complete Biden’s election.

Pence, who Trump has cast off for not abetting his coup, released a statement explaining he would not deny Biden’s election.

Those Republicans should be applauded. But this took way too long. It should not take an actual attempted coup by a would-be strongman president to get adult lawmakers to do the right thing.

How should Trump pay?

Trump did eventually release a video statement Wednesday calling for peace. But he laced it with lies about the election, repeating it was stolen from him even though it was not. He later called the rioters “great patriots.” Twitter, in response, locked his account Wednesday, robbing him — for 12 hours — of his primary megaphone. The company also warned for the first time that it may suspend him permanently.

So what’s the accountability for Trump’s insurrection?

Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Trump should face consequences.

“The fabric of our democracy and the principles of our republic are under attack by the President. Enough is enough. President Trump should resign or be removed from office by his Cabinet, or by the Congress,” he said on Twitter.

Impeach? Trump could be impeached again, as some — including the conservative Bill Kristol — argue. It would preclude him from federal office in the future. That’s an important feature, but it would take time and Trump has two weeks left in office.

A quicker end to Trump’s presidency could be instigated by Pence, who has the power under the 25th Amendment to move for Trump’s removal for being unfit. Pence would either need a majority of Trump’s Cabinet, depleted by firings and resignations, or the majority of a panel empowered by Congress. Those things could take time.

The presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said he never expected to be talking seriously about using the 25th Amendment on a US President.

“Our country’s being held hostage right now by Donald Trump,” he said. “Mitch McConnell and Speaker Pelosi cannot even meet in the Capitol today … so I think we now have to go into our Constitutional kit bag and find what we can do to control Donald Trump and certainly the 25th Amendment is there.”

CNN’s Van Jones argued during the midst of the riot that these political rioters were committing treason, which we should point out is a crime that can be punishable by death.

Harsher punishments. Here are the definitions of some possible subversive activities in US law (or read them for yourself here):
  • Treason: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
  • Rebellion or Sedition: “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
  • Seditious conspiracy: “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”
We won’t include the entire thing here since it is much longer, but there’s also “advocating overthrow of government.”

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