It is important to state clearly what happened yesterday in the nation’s capital. A violent mob, stoked by the president of the United States, directly attacked two fundamental foundations of the American republic—the election of a new president and the peaceful transfer of power. The mob attacked the police defending the Capitol, broke down barriers, shattered windows, and succeeded in not only temporarily stopping the constitutionally mandated process of recognizing Joe Biden’s victory, they also briefly occupied and controlled the Capitol itself. In the midst of the attack, one woman was shot and killed. The total death count as of this moment is four.
Our nation has not seen a hostile takeover of the Capitol of this scale or duration since the British Army burned much of Washington during the War of 1812. Not even the Confederacy could achieve what Americans witnessed today.
This attack wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen. At The Dispatch, we have been warning about the possibility of serious political violence for months. The president and many of his supporters have falsely claimed that the presidential election was stolen and have trafficked in transparently ridiculous conspiracy theories. They have told bizarre tales about false and even impossible schemes to corrupt the vote. And they’ve done this while speaking in apocalyptic terms about the fate of the nation.
Trump-appointed judges rejected the president’s wild claims of fraud and illegality. Responsible Republican officials, including the secretary of state of Georgia, have clearly, transparently, and painstakingly rebutted conspiracy theories and claims of fraud. For this public service, they’ve been rewarded with an avalanche of death threats and acts of intimidation.
At the same time, important members of the conservative media, including talk-radio host Mark Levin, have advanced increasingly wild ideas to overturn the results of the election. They first urged that state legislators overrule their own voters. When that hare-brained scheme failed, Levin and others urged Congress to reject the results of the election—something Congress has no power to do.
Cowed by the president and with their eyes fixed on their own political futures, Republican members of Congress have picked up this seditious torch, including trained lawyers who know exactly how they’re violating the Constitution yet press on anyway. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana has been especially pernicious. He once performed valuable work defending religious liberty with the Alliance Defending Freedom. Now he deploys his legal skills to rally GOP members of the House to attack the American republic.
Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz in the Senate have proved themselves unfit to serve during this crisis. Both men know the Constitution. Both men know that Trump’s legal claims have failed at every level of the American court system, including at the Supreme Court of the United States. Yet they have pressed on with their futile challenges anyway, proudly proclaiming their defiance in conservative media outlets that have lost their way.
And with each presidential lie, with each shouting pundit’s misinformation-filled tirade against the election, and with each cowardly congressional capitulation to the outrage of the Trumpist mob, the temperature was raised, degree by degree, until yesterday’s explosion.
Yet even then—even with bloodshed in the halls of the Capitol and Congress itself under attack—the president still stoked rage and division. He tweeted his anger at Vice President Mike Pence for failing to hand him the election. Even when he called for calm and asked rioters to go home, he repeated his false claims about a stolen election. In one of the lowest moments of a very dark day, he told the rioters who stormed the Capitol, “We love you.” “You’re very special,” he said. “Law and order for thee, but not for me,” seems to be the rule for this fundamentally disordered and lawless president.
Today’s terrible events have made crystal clear what should long have been plainly understood—Trump is dangerous to the peace and security of the American nation. Indeed, he is exactly the kind of man the founders of the nation worried about when they gave Congress the power to impeach and remove the nation’s chief executive.
Writing in 1792, Alexander Hamilton described the kind of person who could destroy a republic.
When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”
Aside from the “military habits,” these words describe Donald Trump. He is riding the storm. He is attempting to direct the whirlwind. And that is why he must be impeached, convicted, and removed from office immediately.
Impeachment is not merely a punitive act for past offenses—though Trump richly deserves his punishment—it is a protective measure to guard against further danger. He still possesses immense power. He can still attempt to direct the energies and efforts of the American military or law enforcement to preserve his power. And if he runs for president again, he can drag this country through yet another violent and divisive drama, with unforeseen consequences for the nation.
His behavior remains alarming. He continues to insist that the election was stolen. He was pleased by the disturbance at the Capitol. He banned Vice President Pence’s chief of staff from the White House grounds as retribution for Pence’s alleged disloyalty. A statement from the acting secretary of defense noted that he’d spoken to Pence—not Trump—about restoring order to the besieged Capitol.
Trump alone is a threat to the stability of the country. But he is not alone. External threats remain and the president, so addled and unhinged, is in no position to deal with them should any exigencies arise. America’s enemies seek to weaken us and could well look to take advantage of the chaos in our leadership today. What would Donald Trump do in the face of provocation from Russia, Iran, or North Korea? Would he listen to advisers? Would military leaders listen to him? It’s far too risky to find out.
There are other factors—less tangible, but perhaps just as urgent—to consider. Impeachment and removal with less than two weeks to go in this presidency may seem like a waste of time and energy. And the president, through a spokesman, has committed to an orderly transfer of power. But we think it would be an important act of civic hygiene, sending an important message to future would-be Trumps as well as to the rest of the world. Our image as a shining example of democracy and the rule of law has been covered in filth since the election. Republicans especially have an obligation to make a clear break with this man and this behavior for the good of the country, their historic reputations, and for the viability of a Grand Old Party that has shed any claim to grandness under this president.
Maintaining the honor and integrity of the Party of Lincoln has fallen on too few hands these last four years. Sens. Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse. and Pat Toomey, Reps. Liz Cheney, Adam Kinziger, Mike Gallagher, and others haven’t always spoken out as much as some Trump critics would like, but they have spoken up when it has mattered most, specifically right now. Discarding this president and presidency at the finish line isn’t ideal, and many will say “too little, too late.” But given the stakes, we say, better late than never.
So, we call on the House to impeach President Trump. We call on the Senate to convict him and to disqualify him from holding “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
We also recognize that the 25th Amendment permits the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president if they deem him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If those closest to the president in good faith find that he has become so unmoored from reality that he cannot discharge his duties, as all outward indications would suggest, then they have an obligation to act.
These measures are difficult. They require political courage. Because they require courage, they may be unlikely. But how much violence and chaos must our nation endure before we understand that cowardice has a cost? Trump has abused his office. He has violated the public trust. And now he has incited a violent attack on the Capitol and Congress. He must be removed.
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