When the violent chaos that has been unleashed on the United States Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump is brought under control, the House should immediately impeach Trump for inciting insurrection and the Senate should act just as quickly to remove the defeated president from office.
Trump has to be held to account, not merely because of what has happened but also because of what might happen in the final two weeks of his dangerous presidency. This is no longer an option for the Congress. This is a constitutional duty, as several members of the House recognized Wednesday afternoon.
Newly elected Representative Mondaire Jones got it right when he declared, “Donald Trump has incited violence against the legislative branch of the United States Government and must be impeached again.” So, too, did Representative Ilhan Omar, who announced: “I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment. Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the United States Senate. We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”
Jones and Omar are defending the rule of law. Their colleagues have a responsibility to join them in doing so. To think otherwise is to deny the reality of what Trump has unleashed on the United States. With his lies about an election he lost and with his incitement of supporters to come to Washington to challenge Electoral College results that the C0ngress was to certify on Wednesday, the defeated president created the crisis that resulted in an invasion of the Capitol that saw physical violence, looting, and destruction of public property, disrupting the governing of the nation. As night fell, the Associated Press confirmed that at least one woman had died in the violence.
The New York Times headline shouted: “Pro-Trump Mob Storms Capitol, Incited by Trump Speech.”
“Around 2:15 p.m., as the House and Senate debated a move by a faction of Republicans to overturn the election results, the proceedings ground to a halt as security rushed Vice President Mike Pence out of the Senate chamber and the Capitol building was placed on lockdown, with senators and members of the House locked inside their respective chambers,” reported the Times. “Shortly afterward, the police escorted senators and members of House from the building to others nearby, as the protesters swarmed the hallways just steps from where lawmakers were meeting, carrying pro-Trump paraphernalia.”
In an uncertain, uncontrolled moment, Democratic members of the House were calling on their Republican colleagues to act. “Right now, Republicans have to be patriots and stand up to Donald Trump,” Representative Mark Pocan said shortly after the invasion of the Capitol.
That was a necessary demand, as Trump had just hours earlier appeared at a midday rally with the very people who—when the president finished speaking—marched on the Capitol. At that rally, Trump cheered on challenges to the results of an election in which he was unquestionably defeated. He attacked Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, whom he portrayed as insufficiently supportive of his demands, and claimed that Republicans have “the absolute right to” reject election results. He called those who did not align with him “corrupt” and declared, “We will never concede!”
When the invasion of the Capitol occurred, Trump was initially quiet and then tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order—respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
But Trump, who spent much of the morning inciting the crowd, in person and on social media, did not immediately tell his followers to leave the Capitol. He only did so after President-elect Joe Biden, who characterized the invasion of the Capitol as “an insurrection” that “borders on sedition,” delivered an impassioned address to the nation in which he called on Trump to “go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
Even when Trump did finally tell his supporters to “go home now,” he ranted and raved about “a fraudulent election”—and told the invaders of the Capitol, “We love you. You’re very special.”
The harm that this president has done cannot be forgiven or forgotten. And the threat that he will do additional harm cannot be neglected.
The Constitution of the United States is clear. It says, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Inciting insurrection is a high crime. No honest observer can deny the truth of former secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s statement to MSNBC that Donald Trump “lit the match.” No member of Congress can argue with Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s assertion, “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.”
Stephen Vladeck, the University of Texas School of Law professor who is the Supreme Court Fellow at the Constitution Project and serves on the Board of Academic Advisors of the American Constitution Society, said Wednesday: “When Congress reassembles: 1. Republicans should immediately withdraw their remaining objections and allow for expeditious certification of Biden’s victory. 2. The House should immediately proceed to vote on Articles of Impeachment against President Trump.”
That’s a plan. The articles of impeachment should be introduced. Now. The House should act immediately. The articles should be sent to the Senate and the trial must commence.