Consider me radicalized. Watching Donald Trump’s thugs storm the U.S. Capitol and QAnon crazies roam the Senate and House floors has taken away the last of my interest in calmly waiting out this president during his last two weeks.
After this, if Congress wants to pretend it is still the dominant legislative authority in this country, if its members still want us to view the U.S. Capitol as the seat from which the people govern, they need to immediately impeach and convict Trump and remove him from office for sedition.
The charges should then be sent to the Justice Department, which should arrest Trump and indict him for the same crime.
What is this if not sedition? This was a lawless mob encouraged—practically ordered—by the president to disrupt Congress in the act of recognizing the results of the Electoral College. It was a mob summoned to prevent the peaceful transition of power, to prevent the legitimate government of the United States from exercising the authority granted to it on behalf of the people of the United States. This mob overran the Capitol. Congress fled.
Trump’s actions perfectly fit the legal definition of sedition: conspiring “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.”
And it succeeded, if only for a few hours. No, it will not succeed for much longer than that. Congress can simply reconvene, tonight or tomorrow—whenever Capitol police succeed in driving out the rabble—or they can even choose to reconvene at one of the more secure locations it keeps available for emergencies. Nevertheless, the fact of the attempt, the fact that it was not a mere gesture or a rhetorical flourish but a substantive action to disrupt legitimate government, requires that it be punished swiftly and severely.
The protesters should be punished, but the first person to face justice should be the president of the United States. A plea from Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher says it all: “The president needs to call this off. . .. Call it off, Mr. President. You need to call it off.”
To ask the president to call it off implies that he called it on. Which we all know he did.
It was Trump who spent months casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election, claiming that he actually won it, and dismissing the officially certified results as fraudulent based on entirely made-up claims and crackpot conspiracy theories. He is the one who called on right-wing militias to “stand back and stand by,” endorsed poisonous QAnon conspiracy theories, and openly entertained sycophants who called for him to declare martial law. He was the one who summoned his supporters to Washington, D.C., for a day of “wild protest.” He is the one who egged them on in a speech earlier that day, vowing that “we will never concede” and thundering that “Our country has had enough. We won’t take it anymore.” and that “We’re going to have to fight much harder.” These are all acts of incitement that make him responsible for the seditious attack on the Capitol mere minutes later.
This makes for a pretty straightforward list of articles of impeachment, for which no arcane evidence or lengthy testimony is required. It has all been done in public view.
To be sure, Trump had many co-conspirators, who will remain unindicted. There were Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and the other senators and representatives who repeated the president’s lies and egged on the protesters, on the cynical assumption that Congress would not actually be disrupted, that the protests would fizzle out and go nowhere, but that they would benefit politically by pandering to Trump’s most dangerously fanatical supporters. They toyed with sedition for political gain. They probably cannot be held to account for it by anyone except the voters—but the least they can do now is to stand aside while any member of Congress who is still sane and values the rule of law votes to remove a would-be dictator to prevent him from causing any more damage in the few dangerous days he has left.
Trump has crossed the Rubicon, not with an army, but with a pathetic rabble.We should be ashamed that we let him get this far, that we took his dictatorial ambitions neither literally nor seriously before now. But it is within Congress’s power to redress this oversight and save our republic.
Impeach. Convict. Indict.