Whatever good anyone may perceive him accomplishing, President Trump is now likely to be remembered best for inspiring the violent siege at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The siege, performed by insurrectionists who hoped to somehow overturn the 2020 presidential election, resulted in the death of one, possibly contributed to the death of three others, and led to the lockdown and evacuation of congressional members and their staff.
In addition, live explosive devices resembling pipe bombs were found near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, near the Capitol grounds.
The incident shocked, angered and saddened the nation.
It’s difficult to emphasize just how serious this attack is — to democracy, to American government, to America itself. And it’s sick, frankly, that it was performed by and inspired by people who portray themselves as patriots — especially with the encouragement, pleasure and praise of the outgoing president of the United States.
We agree with our own Sen. Richard Burr, who said in a statement, “The president bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point. It is past time to accept the will of American voters and to allow our nation to move forward.”
With the facts laid bare before us, some still tried to deny the obvious. It took mere hours for shameless sycophants on Fox News, with no evidence (not that it matters to them), to raise the spectre of the mysterious, invisible, unarrestable antifa as the true perpetrators of the violence that occurred in the midst of a peaceful protest (proving they know the difference).
So the white supremacist fight club Proud Boys and similar groups that often indulge in violent rhetoric; train with militias and brandish weapons; gather in D.C. after hearing Donald Trump Jr. tell members of Congress who weren't going to vote to overturn the election, "We're coming for you," dressed for trouble; attend a rally in which Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani calls for "trial by combat"; follow Trump’s order to march to the Capitol; scuffle with police and break through windows and locked doors — but we're supposed to think that antifa was behind the violence. Right.
Shifting the blame to innocent scapegoats has historical precedent of which we should all be aware.
Following the Trump-inspired riot, several White House staff members, including U.S. envoy Mick Mulvaney and Stephanie Grisham, the former White House communications director and Melania Trump’s current chief of staff, resigned. Even at this late hour, they show more integrity than that possessed by many Republican legislators.
There are also serious implications for Capitol police. N.C. Rep. Virginia Foxx praised them for their quick action to protect her and other legislators, but video evidence suggests that many officers cooperated with the extremists. A thorough investigation is required.
It’s easy to point the finger at Republicans as a whole now and say, “You are complicit.” We doubt many of them expected this, but it’s hard to see how they could fail to foresee it, especially when everyone from political dissidents from other countries to our own military leaders warned them that we were heading in this direction. Many also were willing enablers who helped spread and support Trump’s provably false election narrative.
But there are also profiles of integrity among Republicans. They include Sen. Mitt Romney, a consistent voice of conscience, who on Thursday called the incident “an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States," adding, “No congressional led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the president will continue to claim that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.”
Early Thursday morning, even while continuing to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him, Trump said that he would ensure a smooth transition of power. But only a fool would take his word for it. Even if he weren't a compulsive liar, he's exhibited a decided lack of ability to control his impulses.
Republicans should get some credit for finally making strong statements against Trump's insurgence. But it's not enough. Some Republican legislators are now openly discussing using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
If they don't take action and hold the president accountable, this will happen again. And again. If they tolerate this first incident, there will be more.
The House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, need to make it clear to the president, the nation and the world that an attack on the Capitol building is totally unacceptable — and will not be repeated.