January 10, 2021
Unbelievably, it was only a week ago—last Sunday—that we learned Trump had called Georgia’s Secretary of State and pressured him to change the results of the 2020 election. Trump demanded that Brad Raffensperger “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win Georgia. The news of the attempt to get an election official to overrule the will of the people was astonishing: at the time, it was the worst domestic attack on our democracy ever, coming, as it did, from a sitting president.
At the time.
Over the past several days, the picture of what happened on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, has become clearer, and it’s bad. While Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser gave a press conference Wednesday night, there has been not a single official briefing from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, or Capitol Police.
The federal government has gone dark.
What we do know is that on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, egged on by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Don Jr., and especially Trump himself, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol just as Congress was meeting in joint session to confirm Democrat Joe Biden as our new president. They overpowered the Capitol Police—perhaps with the help of some of the officers—breached the doors, and smashed their way through the historic building, shouting for Vice President Mike Pence—whom Trump insisted was at fault for not overturning the count-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and “traitors” who were counting the electoral votes for Biden. While many of the early pictures from inside the Capitol showed rioters gawking like tourists, ones released this weekend showed violent thugs, carrying plastic handcuffs and seeming to have information about where to find specific members of Congress. They breached the Senate chamber at 2:16, just a minute after the senators made it out.
The Capitol Police got the lawmakers to safety, but were not in control of the building. Lawmakers huddled quietly behind barricaded doors waiting for police that took hours to come. When they did arrive, they cleared the area and regained control of the Capitol. After janitors had cleaned the building, lawmakers counted the electoral votes that established Democrats Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the USA.
As videos have emerged and timelines been established, it has become apparent we came perilously close to seeing our elected representatives taken hostage or even executed on the makeshift gallows the rioters set up outside the building.
But here’s the thing: these were not outside insurgents; they were supporters of the Republican president. Trump enflamed the insurgents but he did not create them: years of demonizing Democrats and suggesting they must not be allowed to govern did that. As NPR reporter Kirk Siegler noted, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, infamous for years of standoffs with the federal government, wrote on Facebook that Trump “pointed towards Congress and nodded his head… [and said] go get the job done.” Republicans are now caught in a vise of their own making. They have to stand either with their own voters or with democracy.
The night of the attack, more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives and several senators, led by Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), continued to endorse Trump’s lies by voting to reject the electoral votes for Biden in key states. The next day, Trump’s supporters tried to argue that the rioters were “Antifa,” despite their Trump garb and the fact Trump invited them, incited them, urged them to go to the Capitol, and after the riot told them he loved them. (An AP investigation establishes that they were right-wing agitators.) When that didn’t take, supporters tried “whataboutism,” comparing the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer to the storming of the Capitol.
They are trying to rewrite the history of this week to downplay that we have suffered an attempted coup that killed at least five people, and that the people behind it are still in the highest levels of our government.
The realization that we are in the midst of a coup, abetted by Trump’s use of social media, prompted Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to ban Trump permanently, and to take down QAnon accounts. That, not the Capitol attack and the murder of a police officer, has created outrage among Trump, who is allegedly “ballistic,” and Trump supporters. Republican lawmakers spent the weekend noting how many followers they were losing as Twitter took down QAnon, Nazi, and fake accounts. (Trump opponents noted that this was not actually a good thing to call attention to.) Parler has lost almost all of its supporting businesses and might go out of business itself. [ As of this morning, Parler has gone dark. ]
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