A historic assault on the U.S government, incited by an American president, has left five people dead, and armed protests are planned again in our nation's capital and all across the country in the coming week. If Republicans don’t begin immediately to try and prevent any further violence, they will own it.
President Trump has made clear his unwillingness to protect our democracy or victims caught up in deadly melees that “his people” instigate. His attempts to still blame antifa or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a violent mob he encouraged for months has made clear his unfitness as commander-in-chief. When he says he wants “peace” but refers to his incitement speech last Wednesday as “totally appropriate,” his followers get the message. When he warns Democratic leaders not to impeach him for sparking the insurrection because they will create violence, his followers get that message too.
Republicans in Congress who won’t call out both his incitement and his conduct in the hours following the invasion of the Capitol -- from refusing leaders’ calls to delaying a response to delighting in the visions of anarchy he saw on television -- are failing their government, their constituents and their country. They tell the world we are broken, and that even insurrection and threats to their own safety as representatives of our government are simply another primary election concern, or a news cycle to “move on” from. They have violated their oath to the Constitution.
The country is in danger, as extremists are planning armed confrontations at state capitols and a Million Militia March in Washington between Jan. 16-20. Members of Congress face escalating threats to their safety in Washington and at home in their districts. We now know the attack last week was intentional, planned by Trump’s “fighters” who -- using maps of the building -- brought weapons, radios, zip ties, flash-bang grenades and homemade napalm. It could have easily turned into a mass-casualty event. Our government had the intelligence, and the warning, but did not act on it.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday, six days after the attack on the Capitol, that the FBI had intelligence warning of a potential “war” being visited upon the Capitol, noting the group’s memo that read: “Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
Following the Jan. 6 attack that many nations around the world described as a coup attempt incited by the U.S. president, it took six days for any briefing to emerge from any agency to explain it. The thugs who sacked the building must be pretty special, because there would be no pause in responding had foreign invaders attacked.
After failing to coordinate all federal resources to protect the Capitol and the homeland against known threats last week, Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf resigned Monday. At this time four years ago, confirmation hearings were underway for Trump’s head of DHS and other security positions. Amid an ongoing crisis, why is the Senate at home and not trying to help ensure a peaceful and stable transfer of power to the next government, which takes power in only seven days and is supposed to keep us and our legislators safe?
At this moment, with Big Tech blocking those who provoke violence and corporate America refusing to donate to seditionist lawmakers, Republicans should be reflecting on what they can do to help their country and fix their party. Doubling down on a violent movement stoked by a dangerous leader, and continuing a lie that has deranged people, damaged democracy and taken five lives, is pure nihilism. These threats are real and ongoing, and congressional Republicans cannot play dumb. They must announce that the election was not stolen, and that the legitimate next president is being sworn in on Jan. 20. If impeachment is too divisive for them, they can “unify” the country by working to stop any further violence from Trump supporters. Tweets, press statements, videos, press conferences -- all of it should be employed.
Sen. Rob Portman has done this and other Republicans must follow him. His statement released Monday said, “Violence is never the answer, and we must take all threats seriously.” He added: “I call on President Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence. If our nation experiences additional violence and destruction at the hands of his supporters in Washington DC and state capitals around the country, and he does not directly and unambiguously speak out now when threats are known, he will bear responsibility.”
Trump will not rise to this moment, and while he will bear responsibility, his enablers in Congress will share it if they don’t speak out now. Trump not only gave a speech inciting a mob to stop the Electoral College certification in Congress last week, but after the assault started he egged on the invaders to punish his vice president. His tweet, sent after 2 p.m., stated: “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!” Within minutes, the mob was hunting for Pence in the Capitol and threatening to “hang” him. That tweet alone is worthy of impeachment.
Trump aides reported the president expressed regret about the video he recorded Thursday calling for an orderly transition, and said he did not want to add “stay peaceful” to his tweet sent out amid the violence last Wednesday. He cannot be counted on in the days to come to disavow violence and tell his supporters to calm down. He still hasn’t conceded to Joe Biden, mentioned his name or congratulated him. His supporters continue to closely watch what he won’t do and refuses to say.
Freshman GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan said that colleagues around him on Wednesday admitted they knew it was wrong to vote to decertify Biden’s election, but feared their families would face threats if they did not side with Trump. He told CNN on Monday that among House Republicans considering voting for impeachment, “our expectation is that people will try to kill us.”
The deadly attack on the U.S. government last week was a predictable, and preventable, tragedy. Republicans must stop the next one. Counting on Trump to do it, or waiting too long, could again prove deadly.