Trump’s coup demands prosecution, immediate removal

Even as Trump’s violent mob laid siege to our Capitol, he repeated the big lie that the election was stolen

By David Cay Johnston

Published January 8, 2021 6:35AM (EST)

Donald Trump and the Articles of Impeachment (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump and the Articles of Impeachment (Getty Images/Salon)

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Here is the message Republicans must take from the violent mob Donald Trump sent to attack our Capitol Wednesday in his failed coup attempt:

Break completely from this crazy, seditious, wannabe dictator now. Hold him to account, preferably by prompt removal from office via the 25th Amendment or a rapid impeachment and conviction. He must be arrested and criminally prosecuted for trying to overthrow our government. More than a few traitors have been executed for such a crime.

What are the consequences of Republican leaders failing to denounce Trump totally and back up denunciations with action?

Trump and his dangerous and armed mob will become millstones around your necks. And your failings will brand you as traitors unfit to hold public office.

For the Josh Hawleys, Ted Cruzes and other seditious Republican senators and representatives any further defense of Trump should end your political careers and your acceptance in civilized society.

Expel seditious legislators

Both the House and Senate, which with the Georgia runoff election results are under Democratic Party control, should exercise their authority to expel these and other seditious lawmakers if they say another word defending Trump or challenging the certification of Joe Biden as the next president.

That's not overreach; it's a Constitutional duty.

The mob Trump coerced to lay siege to our Capitol broke into the building, occupied and looted the Senate chamber, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with uniformed Capitol Police, broke into the floors of Congress and rifled through lawmakers' desks. These all are criminal acts for which Trump is responsible.

A woman intruder, identified as Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt of San Diego, was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer. Three others died of medical reactions.

Thank goodness someone had the presence of mind to gather up the state certifications of the November election results, denying Trump another opportunity to attack the Biden inauguration.

Trump still seeks overthrow

If you doubt Trump still wants to overthrow our government, just watch his one-minute video from the White House Rose Garden made as the siege was under way. Trump asserted yet again the Big Lie that "everyone knows" the election was stolen because he won in a landslide.

While Trump did, in passing, tell the mob to go home, it was only a sort of suggestion. His core message to his riot squad was that "so bad and so evil" people stole the election. His real message to the rioters: Never give up trying to end our democracy and keep me in power.

Click to view the full video, which was taken down by Twitter.

That the crowd did not disperse proves his words hollow. Instead, live television carried voices of rioters vowing violence, promising to press on. As the sun set and darkness enveloped the Capitol grounds, where were federal law enforcement other than the Capitol Police?

Trump put at risk the life of his own vice president, Mike Pence, on whom he painted a target during his incitement of the rioters. He endangered the next two people in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, and Chuck Grassley, Senate president pro tem.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, told MSNBC she instructed her family on where to find her will in case the riots claimed her life.

Warning proved right

About five years ago, I warned repeatedly that if Trump became president our democracy could end. I also said if Trump lost election, his presidency would end badly. While I couldn't predict precisely what would happen, I was certain that Trump would not leave office peacefully.

Now we have seen what I anticipated: mayhem provoked by Trump, his namesake oldest son and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This cannot stand.

Give the siege today, there can be no doubt that Trump remains a wannabe usurper, plain and simple. In rallying the mob to march on the Capitol, he:

  1. Committed sedition, a federal crime in conspiracy with the rioters and Don Jr.
  2. Advocated the overthrow of our government, another felony
  3. Incited insurrection

Add in the provocative words of Giuliani, who told the mob there would be "trial by combat."

Their own words establish a criminal conspiracy, a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.

The videos from the Capitol also showed a banner hanging over the platform being built for the inauguration of Joe Biden in two weeks. Here is what the insurrectionists declared: "We the people will bring DC to its knees. We have the power."

Stopping further coup attempts

They do not have that power, but we also cannot just wave this off. Authorities must exercise their power to indict, try and upon conviction imprison all of the hundreds of criminals who assaulted our democrac. The insurrectionists forced lawmakers into hiding and necessitated armed officers to hold off rioters at the House chamber door with drawn handguns aimed at a rioters visible through a broken window.

From Day One, Trump has violated his oath of office but never so dangerously as in his inciting violence, a local crime for which the local District of Columbia authorities should have him arrested the moment his presidency ends if not before.

Hours after the siege began, the Capitol was still not under the control of our government as rioters, some of them looters, roamed the building.

Trump has over the decades said multiple times that looters should be shot on sight. So why did Trump not call for that in his Rose Garden video tweet? Of course, it's because Trump is at one with the rioters and looters. They are Trump's mob.

Trump has not sent federal law enforcement to corral, arrest and identify the rioters. Instead, the governors of Maryland and Virginia sent state police riot squads to defend the Capitol.

Contrast that with Trump's abusive assignment of the military to attack peaceful demonstrators so he could stage a June 1 photo op with a Bible at the church closest to the White House. Trump's failure to send authorities to quell the rioters is solid evidence of his complicity and support.

What to do

It would be more than reasonable for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump immediately under the 25th Amendment. They must do this. However, while Trump promised "the best people" would populate his administration he intend installed such low-grade weaklings and incompetents that, sadly, this is likely a vain hope.

While time is short, it's more than reasonable for the House to impeach Trump a second time. There is no bar to impeaching Trump after he is out of office, but the way to defend our democracy is for the House to rapidly pass articles of impeachment and the Senate to take the issue up the same day and vote to convict and remove him.

And if neither of those occurs, then as soon as Trump is out of office, and his presumed immunity from federal prosecution ends, he must be indicted on District of Columbia level charges. He already is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a state grand jury in Manhattan, New York State attorney general and the district attorney in Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia. These cases should proceed with all due speed.

David Cay Johnston

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25th Amendment Capitol Riot Commentary Coup Dcreport Donald Trump U.s. Capitol