This account of the events in Washington on January 6, 2021 was originally published in my newsletter, Cup of Coffee.
The U.S. Capitol was breached by hostile forces yesterday for the first time since 1814, when the British attacked it and set it on fire during the War of 1812.
It occurred because the President of the United States implored his supporters to overturn the results of what he falsely claimed to be a stolen election. To that end the President explicitly directed them to march on the Capitol building where the Senate was beginning the process of certifying the results of the Electoral College, which would seal his defeat.
They immediately did so, pushing past barricades and police, breaking down doors and windows, overturning furniture, ripping down American flags, looting art and furniture, vandalizing the Speaker of the House’s office, and briefly taking control of the Senate chamber, where they took turns posing for photographs. They sent hundreds of Capitol worker running for cover. The entire United States Congress and its staff were forced to shelter and then flee in the face of the violent attack. In the process a woman was killed while at least six others were injured.
What happened yesterday was an act of sedition.
I do not say that flippantly. I say that based on the plain language of 18 U.S. Code § 2384, which sets forth the crime of seditious conspiracy:
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
Some will likely say that this was just protest that got out of hand, but this was not people simply blowing off steam or aimlessly wilding.
The action was not impulsive or thoughtless. It was organized on social media. It was plotted for days. That plotting and preparation caused those who were in on the plot to stand ready for their final orders. Those orders came via the President’s incitement. The objective — which was successful for many hours — was to disrupt the workings of the United States Congress as it was in the process of effecting the peaceful transition of power via its validation of the results of the Electoral College from the 2020 election.
If that is not using force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of the laws of the United States, nothing is. By definition, it was sedition.
It was sedition that had many accomplices and enablers. Apart from the mob itself and apart from President Trump himself, the following people bear huge responsibility for what happened yesterday:
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)
- Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
- Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)
- Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
- Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN)
- Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
- Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)
- Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN)
- Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)
These are the senators who promised to fight certification of the Electoral College results based on wholly fabricated claims of election fraud. Claims which were fabricated to back up Trump’s delusions that the election was stolen from him in his desperate and unconstitutional bid to hold on to power. Claims which emboldened the mob which stormed the Capitol in an effort to accomplish their shared goals. Because of it — and because of the death that occurred in the Capitol as a result of the attempted coup — they and everyone else who encouraged and emboldened the march on the Capitol have blood on their hands.
It was sedition. It should be treated as such. Those who took part it in it, aided it, and abetted it should be prosecuted. If those Senators cannot be prosecuted for it, they should be expelled from Congress. At least one member of Congress is going to attempt to make that happen, with Representative Cori Bush introducing a resolution for their expulsion. I don’t believe that it will actually happen, but I believe the effort should be pursued and those who incited this madness should be forced to show cause why they should not be expelled.
There are consequences for attempting to subvert democracy. Or at least there sure as hell should be. So many of these Republicans have played footsie with treason and sedition over the past four years as a means of bolstering their pro-Trump bonafides. Now they should find out what happens if you fuck around with that kind of stuff.
How did this happen?
I mean, we know how this happened: Trump incited a mob and, being the cult-like Trump supporters they are, they complied. What I mean here specifically is how did a mob of people violently — and successfully — storm the United States Capitol building? How was getting into the halls of Congress with an intent to create chaos easier than buying a bottle of cold medicine at CVS?
I lived in DC for three years and, like everyone else who lives in D.C., I took family and friends who visited to all the museums, monuments, and government buildings whenever they came to town. That gets old kind of fast, so when you’re doing that you start to pay less attention to The Spirit of St. Louis or the Capitol Rotunda and you pay more attention to the people who work there. You look around the odd corners and at the more mundane aspects of it all. That includes the security.
My quick takeaway from those looks was the strong sense that if I had even farted off key near an important government building that security would have been on me in a millisecond. And that was before 9/11. I can only imagine how intense it is now.
How to square that with a mob storming the United States Capitol while Congress was not only in session, but performing arguably its most important Constitutional duty in effecting the peaceful transition of presidential power?
If you read the Washington Post’s account of the rampage there was at least some initial resistance as rioters pushed past security — this is when the woman who was killed was shot — but it was utterly insufficient in light of the size of the crowd. After the building was breached all efforts to stop the mob were basically abandoned. Eventually video of Capitol police literally opening the gates for the remainder of the mob to make their ingress easier and stopping to take selfies with them emerged.
When the mob finally began to disperse — on their own accord — it looked as though they were leaving a tour of the building, neglecting only to stop at the gift shop. As of 7PM last night only 15 people of the hundreds if not thousands who stormed the Capitol had been arrested. Most were allowed to melt back into the crowd and go on their MAGA way.
There should be vigorous prosecutions of everyone involved with this, but there should also be a serious investigation into why the Capitol police — who have, in the past, shown no limits to the force they’re willing to use to stop even the most tenuous and minor of threats to the Capitol — were so thoroughly unprepared for and unwilling to stop an unruly mob massing outside of American democracy’s most important building and only took something approaching definitive action after they had already made it inside.
Now we go on. As the Senate did around 8PM last night — their official duties delayed by an attempted coup — when it began to certify the Electoral College results. That process lasted until 4AM this morning.
Some of the Republicans who, yesterday morning, vowed to fight to overturn the election meekly fell in line. The Senate voted down the challenge to the Electoral College results 92-7, which means that six of the would-be objectors listed above changed their position after the insurrection. Which, in the end, was the giveaway as to how all of this was a cynical political ploy for which they believed they’d elevate their profiles without suffering any sorts of consequences. Well, now there have been consequences and those six are skittering for cover.
Those holding steady and voting against the results: Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rick Scott of Florida. Meanwhile, there were 121 House members who, though having no part in the certification of the Electoral College, objected to legitimate election results. Their names are listed here. One of them is Matt Gaetz, who compared the states that Biden won to the 2017 Houston Astros, basically calling them cheaters. I wish I was making that up.
All of these people are unfit to serve in the United States Congress by virtue of their rejection of America’s democratic principles. The process to expel them should begin. If they’re attorneys, disbarment or discipline proceedings should begin.
What about Trump?
Temporarily banned from Twitter and Facebook. Big whoop. Subject to swirling talk about his being removed pursuant to the 25th Amendment. That will go nowhere. That kind of thing is thrown out there by people inside the administration as a talking point so that, later, the people who willingly worked for this fascist can attempt to rehabilitate themselves by saying, actually, they tried to do something.
Of course there’s always impeachment, but with only 13 days to go it’s doubtful that’d end up working, even if there was stomach within Congress to try it. I suspect most people will take the position that “welp, there’s no time.”
In my view, however, it’s never too late to do the right thing. If the clock runs out, the clock runs out, but if Congress were determined, they could make this happen by close of business today or tomorrow. And they should. Trump represents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and the lives of Americans and the worst thing that could happen would be to leave it to chance that he’ll take yet another action to put it and them in harm’s way before January 20. The next worst thing would be the creation of a precedent that Congress will turn to look the other way when presidents commit impeachable offenses because, eh, who needs the hassle?
But whether it’s Trump or those Senators I mentioned above, there have to be consequences for those in government who incited this insurrection, just as there should be consequences for the mob itself. If there aren’t, things will only be worse. As we’ve learned over and over again these past four years, once you ignore transgressions, those transgressions become the new normal. If you let a violent mob storm Congress and they get away with it, they’ll do it again.
Trump said this after the Senate vote early this morning:
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th”
Sorry, you don’t get to pledge that you’re committed to a peaceful transition after you incited a violent mob to storm to the Capitol to stop it. And hell, even in his pledge he’s still giving fuel to those he has convinced the election was stolen. He’s doing here what he has done over and over again: imploring his supporters to read the words between the words for what he really means. He’ll likely also do what he tends to do and aggressively walk this back in the next day or so, sowing further chaos.
As for Senator Josh Hawley:
Kansas City Star Editorial Board: Sen. Josh Hawley has blood on his hands in Capitol coup attempt. https://t.co/9EyjDFBmg5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 7, 2021
You cannot walk out of the U.S. Senate chamber, turn to insurrectionists charging the gates, raise your fist in solidarity and approval of their violent intentions and not face consequences of some type.
Ted Cruz, meanwhile, cannot shout how he stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with a mob on Tuesday . . .
. . . and act like what happened on Wednesday was unrelated.
What happened yesterday should end Donald Trump’s presidency and should dog these men and others who behaved like them for the rest of their lives. It should, at the very least, end their political careers.
The woman who was killed during the insurrection was Ashli Babbit. She was an Air Force veteran and business owner from San Diego. She was shot in the chest by Capitol police as the mob forced its way past a security checkpoint. I’m not linking to anything about her at the moment because two stories I clicked on last night went straight to video showing the moment when she was actually shot and lay dying. I really wish I hadn’t seen that and I don’t want anyone else to have to see that. If you Google her you’ll get the story.
Her Twitter account is out there too. It says a lot.
The short version is that Babbit was a hardcore Trump supporter who likewise supported the QAnon conspiracy which believes that Democrats and other opponents of President Trump are satanic pedophiles who will be brought to justice in an event called “The Storm,” in which Trump would execute his opponents in the Democratic Party. She recently tweeted “It is going to be biblical.” She tweeted, “They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!” Before she completely embraced Q, videos on her Twitter account featured her ranting about “immigrant caravans” and a number of other subjects of grievance in the world of Trump.
I don’t offer any of that for any reason other than information. I don’t lay that down in order to somehow justify or mock a person or their death. One can figure out the dynamics of a tragedy and draw their own conclusions about it all without passing that manner of judgment. But one cannot deny that she and the people who stormed the Capitol were looking for a confrontation that ended in violence of one type or another and that, sadly, they got what they were looking for.