After deadly insurgence at the Capitol, Democrats push to impeach Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors
On January 6, Congress met in a joint session to tally Electoral College votes, the final step in certifying the 2020 election.
But what is typically an uneventful and largely symbolic process turned violent, as thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump converged upon the U.S. Capitol to overturn the outcome of the election. Inspired by a speech by Trump in which he told supporters to “fight like hell,” amid baseless claims of a stolen election, the crowd attacked Capitol Police and brutalized the Capitol building. Five people died, among them Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, 42, and a female insurgent who was shot. Three Trump supporters succumbed to unspecified medical emergencies. Another Capitol Police officer who was on duty during the attack committed suicide last weekend, according to the Washington Post.
In response, House Democrats on Monday introduced legislation to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection. Several social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have suspended Trump’s accounts, citing concern that he will inspire further violence.
After listening to Trump speak at the Ellipse, thousands headed to the Capitol building, where Congress was gathered, according to The New York Times. Congress had to be evacuated as rioters —many of whom were carrying guns— violently broke into the building, breaking windows, climbing walls, pushing past barricades and attacking Capitol Police. Law enforcement was unable to handle the mob; a lack of preparation which has raised questions and concerns about security.
All members of Congress as well as Vice President Mike Pence were safe. Alaska’s congressional delegation, all Republicans, released statements in the midst of the January 6 events condemning the violence. All three had confirmed prior that they would not object to the election certification.
“I am disgusted by the lawless acts of violence being perpetuated at the Capitol. Disgraceful,” Senator Dan Sullivan wrote. Representative Don Young told Alaskans that he and his staff were safe. He wrote that while “peaceful protest is fundamentally American, violence must never be tolerated.” Young’s office did not respond to requests for further comment.
Senator Lisa Murkowski also assured people that she and the other senators were safe, but communicated from the Capitol at the time that “it is truly mob rule at the moment.” Murkowski later shed light on the events of January 6, telling Alaska Public Media that she had been in her office in the Capitol when the mob first broke through barricades and in the Senate chamber when rioters entered the building.
Pence was evacuated first. He was in particular danger because Trump and his supporters blamed the vice president for failing to reject electoral votes. A spokesperson for Sen. Sullivan said the senator was unavailable for interview, but pointed to an article in the Anchorage Daily News. In the article, Sullivan said senators remained in the chambers until it became clear that there were people directly outside. Senators and staff were told to leave the chambers through an underground tunnel and head to a conference room in a Senate office building. Murkowski and Sullivan left together, at times running to the conference room.
Murkowski, who in the past has been critical of Trump, was particularly vocal about her views on the president after the insurrection. While neither Sullivan nor Young have directly acknowledged the president’s role, Murkowski last Wednesday urged Trump to tell his supporters to “...stop the violence. Stop the assault. Now.” Murkowski released a more detailed statement, along with a video, the next day. In it, she said, “Insurrection was incited, and it was incited by the highest levels,” and this insurrection “tore at the hearts of America, it tore at the hearts of our very democracy.” On Friday, Murkowski became the first Republican to call on Trump to resign. “I want him to resign,” Murkowski said in an interview with The Anchorage Daily News. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle blamed Trump for triggering the insurgency. The violence on January 6 was the culmination of months of rage on the part of the president, who pushed an unsupported narrative of a rigged election, refuted by states and court decisions. January 6 was crucial, because preventing election certification was Trump’s last hope of potentially holding on to the presidency. Trump urged members of Congress to object to the election results in several critical swing states during the electoral count, which 147 Republicans did. He also pressured Pence to overturn the electoral vote, which the vice president does not have authority to do. It was for several days unclear if Pence would comply with Trump’s demands. However, the vice president released a statement the morning of the vote stating that he would accept the results and certify the election, further angering Trump.
Trump announced at the end of December that there would be a rally on January 6 to protest the election and its certification. He invited his supporters to attend, promising on Twitter that it would be “wild.” In his speech last Wednesday, Trump reiterated false claims that he won the election, and told his supporters to “fight back.” Once the violence ensued, Trump was slow to act; he did nothing for several hours, but eventually released a video telling protestors, whom he referred to as “very special” people to go home, but that “we love you.”
With all attempts at disrupting the electoral count exhausted, Congress reconvened on Jan. 6, Wednesday evening and certified the election early Thursday morning. Trump, who until now had not conceded the election, finally acknowledged Biden’s win with less than two weeks left in office. He released a statement claiming that there will be a peaceful transition of power, but said he will not attend the inauguration of President-Elect Joseph Biden Jr.
Although Trump’s term is up in a matter of days, some, like Murkowski, are concerned by what could happen in his remaining time in office and want him out before January 20. While Murkowski said she doesn’t believe there is not enough time to impeach Trump, House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment on Monday. The article charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” While addressing a crowd at the Ellipse, Trump, “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged —and foreseeably resulted in —lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more,’” reads the impeachment article. Trump has already been impeached by the House once, in December 2019.
The effort to impeach came after Republicans blocked an attempt to oust Trump through the 25th Amendment. The 25th Amendment is invoked by the vice president when a president is deemed unfit to rule. Sullivan, for one, said that prematurely removing Trump from office would be an “extreme remedy” with so little time remaining in his term.
The consequences for both Trump and his supporters who stormed the Capitol are still evolving. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the attack, and over 80 people have been arrested. arrests. The FBI put out a call asking for help identifying individuals who were at the Capitol last week. Federal charges have been filed against 20 rioters for crimes ranging from stealing Pelosi’s lectern, to deadly threats to guns and explosives.
Melanie Bahnke, President and CEO of Kawerak, Inc., referred to the rioters as “domestic terrorists,” in a statement denouncing the attack. Bahnke explained that Alaska Natives and Native Americans have the highest percentage of participation in the military out of any ethnic group. Many Indigenous peoples lost their lives defending the country and the rights of Americans. Bahnke urged leadership to make sure that “justice is served for those who committed acts of sedition and treason, as fearlessly as we pursued justice for the terrorists responsible for 9/11.”
Among the protestors was Alaska State Representative David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla. Eastman wrote on Facebook that he attended Trump’s speech and was part of a “vigil” outside of the Capitol building, but said he was not part of the attack.
There is no evidence that Eastman was inside the Capitol building or that he committed any crimes.