A Trump supporter carries a Confederate flag through the US Capitol, January 6, 2021 (Mike Theiler/Reuters)
President-elect Joe Biden condemns Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, instigated by Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn November’s election, as “domestic terrorism”.
Amid calls for his removal through impeachment or use of the 25th Amendment, Trump backs away and finally accepts an “orderly transition” of power.
Introducing nominees for the Justice Department, including Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General, Biden summarized on Thursday:
What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was not disorder. It was not protest. It was chaos. They weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.
And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming, but that isn’t true. We could see it coming.
Biden was explicit in detailing Trump’s responsibility for the attack, in which a Capitol Police officer died of his injuries, a Trump supporter was shot dead, and three people died in “medical emergencies”.
The past four years, we’ve had a President who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.
He’s attacked the free press who dared to question his power, repeatedly calling the free press the enemy of the people. Language…[that] has long been used by autocrats and dictators all over the world to hold onto power. The enemy of the people. Language that is being used now by autocrats and dictators across the world, only this time with the imperator of an outgoing President of the United States of America.
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Biden noted that Trump has “attacked our intelligence services, who dare tell the American people the truth about the effort of a foreign power to elect him four years ago, choosing instead to believe the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of those who’ve sworn their allegiance to this nation”.
He referred to Trump’s deployment of the United States military last spring amid anti-racism marches, “tear gassing peaceful protestors in pursuit of a photo opportunity in the service of his reelection” so he could walk from the White House across the street to St. John’s Church — “even holding the Bible upside down”.
The President-elect referred to Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the election, losing 63 of 64 lawsuits, and then turned to the restoration of the Justice Department as an independent agency, in contrast to Trump’s “attack on the Department…treating the Attorney General as his personal lawyer and the department as his personal law firm”.
Our president is not above the law. Justice serves the people. It doesn’t protect the powerful. Justice is blind. What we saw yesterday, in plain view, was another violation of the fundamental tenet of this nation. Not only did we see the failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.
In a brief video statement on Thursday night, Trump renounced his incitement of the assault on the Capitol.
He decried the “heinous attack”: “Like all Americans I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.”
The statement was posted on Twitter, which had locked Trump’s account on Wednesday night. Trump is barred from Facebook from at least two weeks, until after Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021
Trump lied that he “immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders” — in fact, Vice President Mike Pence reportedly issued the order after Trump refused on Wednesday.
He then finally gave way to a President Biden, 24 hours after his last-gasp failure to get Congress or Pence to block the confirmation:
Now, Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.
After months of lies and disinformation about a “rigged election”, he insisted, “My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote.”
Go Now: Moves for Trump’s Impeachment or Removal
Trump’s retreat came as legislators, including one Republican US Representative, said he must immediately be removed from office.
Several House Democrats signed a motion for impeachment, and the GOP’s Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said Vice President Pence and the Cabinet must now use the 25th Amendment, declaring a President unfit to serve.
It’s with a heavy heart I am calling for the sake of our Democracy that the 25th Amendment be invoked. My statement: pic.twitter.com/yVyQrYcjuD
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) January 7, 2021
The editorial board of the conservative Wall Street Journal joined The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today in the call for Trump to depart office before January 20.
This was an assault on the constitutional process of transferring power after an election. It was also an assault on the legislature from an executive sworn to uphold the laws of the United States. This goes beyond merely refusing to concede defeat. In our view it crosses a constitutional line that Mr Trump hasn’t previously crossed. It is impeachable.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer both asked Pence and the Cabinet to act over Trump’s “incitement of insurrection”.
They said the Vice President has yet to reply, and An advisor said Pence was opposed to invoking the 25th Amendment.
Pelosi reacted, “If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”
Within the Trump Administration, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — the wife of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — are the first Cabinet members to resign over Wednesday’s events.