Who would have thought that anything could challenge COVID-19 for the top spot in daily news? The virus has infected more than 22 million Americans and its death toll is quickly moving toward 400,000. But January 6th changed everything; COVID was supplanted. With the President’s blessing, mob violence engulfed the U.S. Capitol.
“We’re gonna walk down to the Capitol…and I’ll be there with you,” PresidentTrump told the volatile crowd at a Wednesday morning rally. The mob marched, the President, too, but the opposite way and the world watched an American insurrection unfold in real time.
“I was actually on a Zoom meeting,” said former Denver Mayor and Cabinet Secretary Federico Peña as the right wing rally dispersed for its march to the Capitol. At its destination, it exploded into full-blown rage. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Peña. “I kept saying, ‘Surely the police, Capitol Hill Police, the National Guard would be there to push back the mob.’”
Outnumbering and outmaneuvering the Capitol police, the mob, many dressed for combat, simply had its way. Where doors were locked, windows were smashed for entry. Images of intruders climbing building walls showed the mob’s rage and determination. Inside, rioters plundered like pirates, violating decorum in unspeakable ways. One invader, a California veteran, a woman, was fatally shot with a single federal agent’s bullet. Another carried the Confederate flag, the symbol of another insurrection.
“I became very afraid for members, staff, everybody inside,” said Peña. As he watched, the former Cabinet member’s emotions swung from worry to rage. “People were roaming around, destroying the Capitol, walking around with Confederate flags, Proud Boy tee-shirts.” The breech was prelude to mayhem. When the terror ended, the building was littered with shattered glass, broken furniture, and vandalized offices, including those of House leadership.
The invaders, some of whom brought zip ties ostensibly to arrest anyone who might represent opposition to a second Trump term, also took time to record their occupation with cell phone photographs and videos. Any planned arrests or detentions by the marauders were short-circuited when federal agents herded office holders, staff, and reporters to secure locations within the building.
The mob did succeed in stopping cold the House from certifying the Electoral College vote validating Joe Biden’s victory. That happened as Vice President Pence carried out his Constitutional duty, presiding over the House and reading the Electoral vote count from each state.
The mob, which has been labeled as terrorists, also cut short the planned theatrics of nearly 150 Congressmen and two senators challenging the election outcome, one, it should be noted that has been adjudicated in the affirmative nearly 60 times in courts in several states.
As the chaos grew, House members crouched in the gallery, many in gas masks and guarded by federal agents with guns drawn. Colorado Congresswoman Diane DeGette was in the chamber. “This was the precursor to a coup,” DeGette said in a news release. “It was fundamentally un-American and the direct result of incitement from Donald Trump and his allies.”
Congressman Ed Perlmutter laid the insurrection firmly at the feet of the President. “I am filled with sadness and anger,” he said, calling it something “that has been building for weeks, months and years and which has only been further incited by President Trump.” A number of Republicans have echoed DeGette and Perlmutter’s words, including Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse. Murkowski also called for Trump to resign. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” she said.
Peña warned against a Trump presidency and predicted how it would unfold at a 2016 Boulder pre-Presidential Election rally. He reminded the crowd about Trump’s words. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best…they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump’s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children and placing hundreds of young people in semi-permanent detention is another symbol of his presidency. He’s only grown worse and more brazen, said Peña. Look no further than the Capitol insurrection as proof, he said.
Another wound reopened with the insurrection is the perceived disparity in the way authorities handled the right wing mob versus the treatment of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protestors. Police arrested, detained, even kidnapped off the street demonstrators in cities across the country, including Denver. Last Wednesday, insurrectionists simply walked away. A number were later arrested.
“He has supported an underground movement of anarchists, people who don’t believe in our democracy,” said Peña. But Trump’s vile language, he said, has found safe harbor in Congress from people in leadership who, instead of condemning it, have excused it, even when Trump has taken dead aim at them or their families.
Trump once called Cruz’ wife, Heidi, ugly and accused Cruz’ father of a role in President Kennedy’s assassination. He once gave out Graham’s personal phone number on national television. But today, Cruz, a lockstep Trump ally in the Senate, says, somewhat speciously, that he has been a consistent critic of the President. Graham, who once called Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot,” is Trump’s go-to guy on the Judiciary Committee. But after Wednesday, Graham’s tone shifted. “Enough is enough,” he now says. But, Peña says, it’s too late.“Graham sold his soul. I have no respect for Graham.”
More fallout for Trump tacit endorsement of Wednesday’s chaos has come in the form of major newspapers calling for his resignation, including The Wall Street Journal, which asked Trump “to take personal responsibility and resign.” The paper is owned by tycoon and Trump favorite, Rupert Murdoch. The Boston Globe, New York Times, USA Today and 35 other newspaper editorial boards have done the same.
With only days remaining in Trump’s presidency, papers for a second impeachment have been drawn up in the House. Despite the clock running, House leadership believes the impeachment document will still be enforceable even after Trump’s presidency ends. A conviction would mean barring Trump from running in 2024, taking away his presidential pension and eliminating any federal budget for future travel as a former president.
The one thing congressional action aimed at Trump would not eliminate, is the support shown him by the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, and the more than 70 million people who voted for him in November. It would also not allay fear of long term national dissension. Said one former Colorado legislative leader who asked his name not be used, “I’m worried that we’re either at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end.”