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The Assault in the Heart of Democracy in Washington DC

By Dr. Matin Royeen

January 6th, 2021 will be remembered as a dark day in the history books of the United States.  On this day, while the United States Congress was in session in order to certify the victory of President-elect Biden, the mobs of protesters breached the security, breaking doors and windows of the Capitol Building (The US Congress) and created mayhem in the heart of the peoples’ house which is considered a beacon of democracy and liberty for Americans and as well as for members of the global community abroad. The day before, the State of Georgia held two Senate runoff elections between Democrats and Republican candidates which resulted in Democratic victories.  Georgia wins, decisively gives control of both houses to the Democrats, making it easier for President-elect Biden to lead the United States dealing with the challenges of Covid19, healing a divided nation under outgoing President Donald Trump and restoring diplomacy and respect in international relations, especially with allies.  I would like to share some background information about the events that led to the so-called Insurrection in the nation’s capital.

On November 3rd, 2020 the United States Presidential elections took place and Biden was declared as the winner (51.4 percent, over 81 million votes) and the next President on November 7, 2020.  There were some  (6) contested States where Trump and his supporters believed he had won, claiming the election was rigged and accused the process as fraudulent in some States.  Part of President Trump’s official statement is included here, “we all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they do not want the truth to be exposed. The simple fact is this election is far from over.” President Trump and his allies filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts, trying to overturn the election results, but he failed.  The man spearheading the lawsuits in Trump’s post-election fight is Rudi Giuliani who, like Trump was falsely spreading allegations of cheating in the elections and fictional conspiracy theories on youtube, twitter, and on right-wing media.

Trump’s Messages to his Followers After the Election: Trump refused to concede his loss to President-elect Biden, urging his supporters many times to come to Washington for a rally on January 6th when the United States Congress was certifying the Electoral College (306 for Biden and 232 for Trump).  President Trump sarcastically told his supporters, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and Congressmen and women….we will never give up, we will never concede.

Forced Entry Into the Capitol Building:  On Wednesday, January 6th, following his speech, thousands of his supporters, waving Trump’s flags headed toward the Capitol Hill “where unprecedented mayhem ensued.”  The protesters fought, overwhelmed the police barricades, broke windows and doors, and stormed the lawmaker’s chambers where the certification was taking place under the leadership of Trump’s Vice President Pence.  The lawmakers were evacuated.  Protesters entered the chamber ransacking some offices, taking pictures, and some even were smoking marijuana. This was a terrifying moment for some elected officials whose life was under threat.  One lawmaker mentioned that he thought he would die.  After several hours, the law enforcement cleared the building where the members of Congress resumed their session and Vice President Mike Pence certified Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.

Reaction Of Some Members of Congress to this Mayhem:

Senate Democratic Minority leader, Chuck Schumer stated, “Jan,6th, 2021 can be added to the very short list in American history as the “day on infamy….those who performed these reprehensible acts cannot be called protestors…they were rioters and insurrectionists, thugs and domestic terrorists …this will be a stain in our country not so easily washed away-the final terrible, the indelible legacy of the 45th president of the United States (Trump) undoubtedly our worst.” He called on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump from office by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The House Democratic Majority leader, Nancy Pelosi said that Trump supporters breaking doors, shattering windows constitute an “act of sedition” an act of cowardice.  Her office was ransacked by some protesters.

The Senate  Republican Majority leader, Mitch McConnell condemned the violent act of Trump supporters by the storming of the US Capitol,and expressed his sentiments, “The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today, we’ve never been deterred before, and we will never be deterred today.  They tried to disrupt our democracy; they failed. They failed…This institution is resilient, our democratic republic is strong…The American people deserve nothing less.”

Senator Ben Sasse a Republican from Nebraska commented, “Lies have consequences

and the attack was the inevitable and ugly outcome of Trump’s addiction to constantly stroking division.”

Senator Lisa Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska:  I want him out.  He has caused enough damage.”

John Kelly, the former Chief of Staff to Trump: If he were a member of Trump’s Cabinet, he would support the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

Colin Powell Secretary of State under Republican President George W. Bush:  “ It was a national disgrace, but we will come through this….but once again we see outrageous things that are criminal that he would do as the President of the United States…the Congress did not do anything about President Trump and went along with it. The Congress needs to do its job to get the Americans back on track.”

Mounting Pressure on President Trump:  Last Wednesday’s violent siege of the Capitol that resulted in 5 deaths, extensive damage to the buildings, was an important, symbolic blow to the institution of democracy and liberty not only in the United States but also in the World.  Many countries and world leaders have reacted negatively to the chaos created by Trump supporters.  They have called for a peaceful transfer of power in the United States, a beacon of freedom and justice for all.

In Congress, a number of House Democrats have scheduled a hearing for impeaching Trump on Monday, January 11th on the grounds of charging him with inciting an insurrection and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States,”  The public have expressed shock and outrage about the violent developments that have shaken their confidence in the viability of democratic values and institutions.  Legal Advisors are telling Trump about possible criminal liability and legal jeopardy for inciting a mob.  Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Majority leader in the House has even spoken to Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs Chairman about “preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”  In an unprecedented move, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have blocked Trump from posting on their platforms.

Some efforts are underway in order to ban Trump running for an office again in 2024.  Should the House succeed in impeaching Trump, the Senate can be forced to hold a trial on Trump regarding his role in the riots after Biden assumes the Presidency. 

Biden’s Challenges:  President-elect Biden expressed his sentiments to the siege of the Capitol in the following way; “what we’re seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.  This is not dissent, it is disorder, it is chaos.  It borders on sedition, it is not a protest, it is an insurrection, And it must end now.” He urged Trump to go on national television and demand an end to this siege.  Using discipline, Mr. Biden has tried to stay away from harsh personal attacks on Trump by concentrating on completing key members of his administration.  There are some concerns about the possible threat of violence on January 17th and on the day of President-elect Biden’s inauguration (January 20th) which President Trump will not attend.   I believe President-elect Biden will have to deal with a number of challenges as soon as he takes office:

  • The United States has become a very polarized society politically and culturally.. President-elect Biden has to gain the confidence of the Americans from both parties, especially the 74 million Trump supporters, some of whom still believe that the elections were rigged, based on Trump’s false claims.  In order to do this, he needs bipartisan support of Congress.
  • The violent siege of the Capitol is a wake up call to members of Congress from both parties to leave the tribal politics behind and work together towards national healing and reconciliation in a polarized nation.  Instead of becoming a prisoner in the cage of political and cultural conflict, both parties need to work together in the service of the greater good.  Otherwise, this is the beginning of a slippery slope with grave consequences.
  • The health, economic, and psychological impact of Covid19 has been profound. It poses an existential threat to human life which needs exceptional collaboration among politicians, government, business, religious and civil institutions in the United States. 
  • President-elect Biden needs to work hard to re-establish positive cooperation with allies on issues related to security, economic cooperation, and environmental justice.
  • The Biden administration has to address a number of global conflicts around the world.  There is some hope for peace in my home country of Afghanistan as the Taliban and the Afghan Government is involved in peace negotiations.  My hope is that President-elect Biden will continue the peace process with some needed adjustments (actively engaging the neighboring countries as guarantors of peace, implementation of a ceasefire) which can serve as a basis towards peacebuilding between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. 

Conclusion: According to Google, the legal meaning of Sedition is a “comprehensive term and it. embraces all those practices , whether by word, deed. or writing, which are calculated to disturb the. tranquility of the State, and lead ignorant persons. to endeavour to subvert the Government and the laws.” Insurrection constitutesacts of violence against the state or its officers.”

Unfortunately, President Trump has been an exceptionally polarizing leader at home and abroad.  His name callings, insults and humiliating confrontations with members of the press, politicians  and others who have disagreed with him, have crossed the lines of decency and professionalism.  He has even alienated our international allies.  Most important, he has tarnished the image of the most respected/prestigious position in the world to the lowest common denominator.  It is very sad that on January 6th, 2021, he disgraced himself to the Hall of Shame.

Dr. Matin Royeen is an Afghan-American educator.

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