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Rioters Breach Capitol Building; Donald Trump Impeached
January 20, 2021
Trump Supporters Riot at Capitol to Protest Presidential Election
To demonstrate disagreement with the 2020 presidential election results, a mob of largely pro-Trump protesters led a riot that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the New York Times.
Deemed by news outlets as a “sedition,” “coup” and “insurrection,” the riot was the first time since 1812 that the Capitol has been breached by violent intruders and the first time in U.S. history that said intruders were American, according to the New York Times. It was driven by supporters of former President Donald Trump who believed that President Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate, despite numerous recounts that failed to show any proof of fraud within the electoral college.
The Senate and House of Representatives were voting on attempts to overturn election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, both key swing states during the presidential election. By the end of the night, the House and Senate blocked the challenge to Arizona with a 303-121 and 93-6 vote, respectively, and Pennsylvania 282-138 and 92-7.
After breaching the Capitol building, rioters roamed the Senate chamber and various offices, including that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Some committed acts of vandalism on the statues in the Capitol Rotunda, destroyed artwork and statues and defaced the exterior of the Capitol building with Trump flags and the Confederate flag, according to the inventory damage report from the office of the Architect of the Capitol in Washington.
Law enforcement secured the Capitol at around 5:40 p.m., about three hours after the violence began, according to the D.C. Police. No government officials were harmed, but the event led to five deaths and over 50 injuries, including the death of one police officer.
Trump Banned from Twitter for Incitement of Violence
Trump failed to publicly denounce the rioters until 4 p.m., nearly two hours after the violence had begun. In a video posted to his Twitter account and later deleted by Twitter, he falsely told the rioters, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now.”
“We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath,” Democrat and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted on Jan. 6, promising to draw up articles of impeachment.
On Jan. 7, the Wall Street Journal editorial board urged Trump to resign in a piece titled “Donald Trump’s Final Days,” deeming his actions “an assault on the constitutional process of transferring power after an election.” That same day, Pelosi called for Trump to resign immediately and declared the intent to impeach otherwise.
Meanwhile, Trump’s advisers reported that the president remained “consumed with anger toward Vice President Mike Pence over what he saw as a betrayal for refusing to try to block the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
In the aftermath of the riot, Twitter permanently suspended Trump from its platform, claiming that his Tweets incited violence.
“These Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence,” Twitter wrote in a public statement on Jan 8. “As such, our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021.”
Other platforms, including Facebook/Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Reddit suspended Trump’s accounts in the following days, according to the New York Times.
Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris (D) Confirmed 47th Presidency
Notably, Vice President Mike Pence, Republican Sen. of Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell renounced Trump’s demands for yet another recount of the election results, according to the New York Times.
“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” McConnell pronounced to the Senate on Jan. 6, shortly before the riots began.
Similarly, according to National Public Radio, as Congress reconvened on the evening of Jan 6, Pence said, “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house.”
In response to Trump’s demands to recount the votes, Pence wrote in a letter to Congress, “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
At around 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, Pence declared Biden and Kamala Harris the winners of the presidential and vice presidential election.
Trump Impeached Again
The House impeached Trump for insurrection of violence with a vote of 232-197 on Jan. 13, making him the first president in history to be impeached twice, according to the New York Times. Notably, ten Republicans voted for impeachment, while none had voted during his first impeachment in 2019.
However, Trump was not removed from office until Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, which would have required a conviction from the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously stated that this would not be possible in a press release on Jan. 13.
Others called for an invokement of the 25th Amendment, which would permit the president’s Cabinet to strip him of his powers and transfer the role of acting president to Pence. However, this endeavor was also unsuccessful, as several cabinet members and other officials of the Trump administration resigned from office in the days following the riots.
Over thirty people have been arrested on federal charges after being identified at the riots, according to CNN, but fears of further violence remain.
Shortly before his suspension from Twitter on Jan. 8, Trump tweeted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Later, on Jan. 13, Trump released a statement urging “that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.”
However, some of his supporters have interpreted his earlier Tweets as an invitation to protest the election once again. According to the Los Angeles Times, many of the rioters view the Jan. 6 incident to be only the beginning of a series of attacks.
“We’re working with the deep state. These are treasonous, anti-American, communist dictators,” Jessica Teachout, who was present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, said to the Los Angeles Times, referring to the government officials who recalled their support of Trump. “Did any American out there really think it was going to be this easy to take our country back?”
In the days leading up to the inauguration, the FBI prepared for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and D.C., according to the Associated Press.
“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said to the Associated Press. “‘Trumpist’ extremists [are] so caught up in the cult of personality around Trump that they may be willing to break the law or engage in violence purely in support of Trump and whatever he wants.”
Meanwhile, the riots against the Capitol have been condemned as not just a simple protest, but a violation of the Constitution and a defacement of democracy by both Democrats and Republicans.
According to the New York Times, Tom Bossert, President Trump’s former homeland security adviser, criticized him in a Tweet that read, “This is beyond wrong and illegal… It’s un-American. The President undermined American democracy baselessly for months. As a result, he’s culpable for this siege, and an utter disgrace.”
Political analysts believe that the Capitol riots may have disastrous consequences on the United States’ international standing and foreign policy.
“The episode says much about Washington’s standing in the world after four years of the Donald Trump presidency. The U.S. has haemorrhaged both influence and soft power,” diplomatic analyst Jonathan Marcus said to BBC News. “The forces of attraction that made the country a model for aspiring democrats everywhere are tarnished, its fissures are there for all to see.”