The assault on the Citadel of US Democracy | Daily News

The assault on the Citadel of US Democracy

Pro-Trump supporters storming the US Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
Pro-Trump supporters storming the US Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

On January 6, Americans and the world watched in disbelief, horror and disgust as President Donald Trump’s fiercest supporters, stoked by the Commander-in-Chief himself, stormed, smashed windows, and desecrated the Capitol building that has not been breached since the War of 1812, when British soldiers burned Washington.

It was indeed a shocking day in American history. Invoking the famous words spoken by President Franklin Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that this day “will live forever in infamy and will be a stain on our democracy”.

Saying that the events “did not happen spontaneously” Schumer blamed Trump. “The President, who promoted conspiracy theories that motivated these thugs, the President, who exhorted them to come to our nation’s capital, egged them on” to storm the Capitol and disrupted the Electoral vote count that will seal Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

In a fair, secure and free election, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 7 million votes and the Electoral College vote by 74. But for more than two months Trump and a bunch of Republican congressmen have been agitating their supporters that the election was marred with fraud. There were over 50 lawsuits by Trump that failed to prove any case of illegal voting, and all cases were rejected by about eighty judges.

Finally, on January 6 – the day of the routine procedural acceptance of that vote by a joint session of the Congress – Trump called his supporters to stage a “Stop the Steal” demonstration in Washington.

When his supporters gathered near the White House, Trump told them “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we are gonna cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you will never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong”. But Trump skipped the march and returned to the White House.

Urged on by the President, Trump’s armed mob draped in American, Confederate, and Trump flags, went on a rampage, invaded the House floor, occupied and vandalized offices, endangered lives of lawmakers, and forced them to take cover in an unprecedented and humiliating assault on American democracy.

If this is not sedition, inciting an insurrection, then, what is it?

Resign, remove or impeach

Within minutes of protestors breaching the Capitol, began the clarion call for Trump to resign or remove him from Office by invoking the 25th Amendment or impeach him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats hope “the President will immediately resign”. But if he does not, “the House will preserve every option – including the 25th Amendment, a motion to impeach or a privileged resolution for impeachment”.

I reliably understand that Article I “Incitement of Insurrection” refers not only to the attack on the Capitol but also to his prior phone call on January 2, 2021, in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ‘‘find’’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia presidential election results and threatened Raffensperger to oblige – an effort to subvert and obstruct the presidential election.

The Article continues “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office”.

The situation is so dire that Speaker Pelosi said that she spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss “available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike”.

Pelosi said: “The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy”.

Though Trump was impeached in 2019 and acquitted in the GOP controlled Senate, legal scholars argue that Trump can be impeached again while in Office or even after he leaves office. If Trump were convicted, the Senate could by a simple majority vote bar him from holding future federal office.

What ‘high crime and misdemeanour’ could Trump be accused of?

Frank Bowman, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Missouri, said Trump “arguably fomented sedition” or attempted overthrowing of the US government.

Bowman said Trump could also be impeached for a more general offense: disloyalty to the US constitution and failing to uphold his oath of office. Congress has discretion in defining a high crime and misdemeanour and is not limited to actual criminal offenses.

“The essential offense would be one against the Constitution – one of essentially trying to undermine the lawful results of a lawfully conducted election,” Bowman said.

The very next day when many White House officials and Cabinet Secretaries submitted their resignations, and as hundreds of American and world leaders issued public statements condemning the Trump-incited mob assault on the Capitol, and as demands to resign poured in, Trump unashamedly made a U-turn and published a video utterly chastising his own mobsters that ransacked the Capitol.

Denunciations of Trump

Leaders of both parties, and many world leaders swiftly expressed their disbelief and strongly denunciated violence and the attack on democracy.

President-elect Joe Biden said that Trump has “been an embarrassment to the country, embarrassed around the world, not worthy to hold that office”.

All former US Presidents unequivocally condemned the unprecedented assault. Bill Clinton: “The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another. The “match was lit by Donald Trump”, George W. Bush. He called the protest a “sickening and heartbreaking sight”; and Barack Obama: Today’s violence was “incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election”.

Mitt Romney, the only Republican Senator who had the courage to vote to convict the President on an article of impeachment in 2019 said: “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”

Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said that “it is unacceptable that the outgoing President and his loyalists continue to undermine our democracy” adding: “There is no question that the President formed the mob, incited the mob, addressed the mob” and “he lit the flame”.

William Barr, Trump’s staunchest former Attorney General, accused the President of “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress” which is inexcusable” and called his conduct a “betrayal of his office”.

Referring to the riots and storming of the US Capitol as a failed attempt at a coup, the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “This is the final chapter of an incompetent, cruel, and divisive administration that has trampled on the Constitution and the rule of law at every turn”. He added: “When you demonize differences, you literally tear the fabric of this nation apart”.

Many leaders also questioned the police inaction on January 6 that was hypocritical and pathetic in comparison to the treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters endured in the summer of 2020. These rioters went wild for four hours in the Capitol and were let go unharmed. It is tantamount to nothing but racial double standards – a quintessential example of White privilege and entitlement. This is not law and order.

All of them demand that everyone who stormed the Capitol, and all those who instigated and incited them to revolt must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As CNN rightly reported, “In the span of hours, the country finally witnessed the price of its five-year experiment turning its election process into a reality show that produced an unhinged megalomaniac as commander-in-chief who amassed so much power through his lies and fear-mongering that he was able to engineer an insurrection as a final act that left democracy dangling by a thread”.

With all these allegations that Trump is culpable for the assault on the Capitol, eyewitness evidence, and a head-spinning count of videos as proof of the brutality of the mob that left five people dead and many injured, it would be impossible for the authorities not to take appropriate action if Americans are to believe in the core of Democracy, the rule of law, and that “no one, not even Trump, is above the Law”.

Somar Wijayadasa, an International lawyer was a Faculty Member of the University of Sri Lanka (1967-1973), worked in UN organizations (IAEA & FAO from 1973-1985), was a Delegate of UNESCO to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000.

(IDN-InDepthNews)