Trump loyalists were shocked by the mob into changing their positions, White House officials resigned from their posts and talks about 25th Amendment grew louder.
The storming of the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob while Congress was ratifying Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory in November’s presidential race, did not occur out of the blue. It was, as commentators have pointed out, the denouement of U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated declarations that he would not necessarily accept electoral defeat.
Over the last two months Mr. Trump had encouraged his supporters to challenge the results, which he said were fraudulent without providing adequate evidence to back his claims.
On Wednesday, shortly before rioters breached the Capitol’s perimeter Mr. Trump had said, “ We will never concede…You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” giving his supporters, primed over months, a final nudge to indulge in what House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an act “ anointed at the highest level of government.”
By the time Mr. Trump asked his supporters to retreat via a video from the White House , life and property had been lost: one woman was killed and three others died later. In his video message from the White House Mr. Trump still insisted that the “election was stolen” and called the rioters “very special” people. This was in sharp contrast to what Mr. Biden said in his video address where he referred to the rioters as “extremists” and called their act an “ insurrection”.
Mr. Trump was not alone in supporting the chain of events that led to the attack. Many in the GOP – both in Washington and across States – had supported his claims of a false election without providing adequate evidence. On Wednesday – in what was described as an “eleventh hour” act by some commentators – these individuals either resigned or were shocked by the mob into changing their positions.
“I don’t buy this [ massive electoral fraud]. Enough is enough. We gotta end it,” Trump loyalist Lindsey Graham, a Senator from South Carolina, said on the Senate floor. Mr. Graham was one of those who had difficulty accepting the outcome of the election earlier. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had said in November that Mr. Graham had pressured him to reject legally cast ballots in the State, which Mr. Biden had won.
Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, First Lady Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham and the White House Social Secretary resigned after the Capitol was attacked. More resignations are expected, including from the cabinet, as per the U.S. press.
Some Republicans who had said they would raise objections to the certification of votes in certain States, changed their minds after the mob attack: examples include Kelly Loeffler , who just lost her Senate seat in Georgia and Senator Jim Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican.
Others, like former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had already accepted the Biden victory said that no congressional audit would satisfy voters who believed there was fraud, especially since Mr. Trump continued to make that claim.
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth,” Mr. Romney said.
Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz – two GOP presidential hopefuls stuck to their guns and raised objections to the certification of some votes. A photo of Mr Hawley giving protestors (they had not yet started rioting) a fist pump before they breached the Capitol was splattered across news websites.
‘Senator Hawley has blood on his hands in Capital coup attempt’ the Kansas City Star Editorial Board said of the 41-year-old, who was the first lawmaker to say he would object to the certification.
Talk of removing Trump from office
As result of Wednesday’s events, talk of the 25th Amendment – a statute that governs the removal of a sitting President from office due to reasons of incapacitation – increased.
“The President incited an assault on the seat of government because he cannot accept the reality of his election loss,” Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania said. “He is clearly unfit for office and must be removed from command.”
Several Democratic lawmakers wrote to Mr. Pence asking him to invoke the amendment. CNN reported that Cabinet officials were discussing invoking the statute as well, as per a “well-placed GOP source.”
Other questions being asked by commentators on TV news and social media was whether Wednesday represented a security failure and whether the security response would have been the same had the rioters been black or Muslim.
Fifteen hours after it began the process, the U.S. Congress completed ratifying the Electoral College certification of votes. Mr. Trump did not concede the election but said there would be “an orderly transition on January 20th” via White House official Dan Scavino’s account [ Mr. Trump’s own Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts had been temporarily suspended].
The last time the Capitol Building had been attacked was when the British burned it in August 1812.
Discussing this incident in the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach writes, “In recounting this inauspicious chapter in our history it might behoove us to acknowledge that few Americans care about this strange little war. It was fought beyond the tall ridgeline in American memory of the Civil War.”
After Wednesday’s events, this may no longer be the case.