This is really bad.
Following the most consequential attack on America’s seat of government since 1814, new information is coming to light that suggests an even darker, more sinister side to the story.
After days of pressuring Mike Pence to illegally overturn the electoral college results, Donald Trump held a rally in Washington on 6th January, the same day Congress was preparing to vote on what would be the final confirmation of Joe Biden’s win before the inauguration.
Speakers at the event whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Rudy Giuliani called for ‘trial by combat’. Eric Trump and his wife told the crowd to ‘march on the Capitol today’ and ‘take our country back’. Don Jr said of GOP members not objecting to the vote ‘we’re coming for you’. The President’s remarks overtly incited violent sedition, calling out Mike Pence by name, telling the crowd to ‘stop the steal’ and that the gathering was ‘to save our democracy’.
“We’re going walk down to the Capitol…you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
And they listened. Trump’s baying mob turned and made the short walk to the Capitol building, where both houses were in session.
The rally had been advertised for some time. Trump had tweeted an invitation to his followers, saying the day would ‘be wild’. Thousands were expected, at a time of profound political instability. Yet policing was light and easily overcome. The crowd surged inside the building, seizing trophies, ransacking offices. Trump’s ‘patriots’ smeared excrement on the walls of government and wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ t-shirts. Some flashed badges at Capitol officers, indicating they were off-duty police participating in the attack. Two (unexploded) pipe bombs were found in strategic locations. Molotov cocktails had been prepared. A gallows and noose were erected.
The rioters were an eclectic bunch of kooks and extremists mixed with curiously well-trained individuals, who blended in but now stand out in photos and contemporaneous reports. One Capitol officer testified that ‘militia terrorists’ carried bear spray and flash-bang grenades.
‘They had two way (radio) communicators and earpieces’.
A number of the men who made it into the Capitol were armed, and some carried zip ties, presumably to detain and kidnap politicians. They chanted ‘hang Mike Pence’, and made their way swiftly to Nancy Pelosi’s office. Pence and Pelosi are second and third in the presidential line of succession. From what we now know, it seems like fortunate timing was all that separated the mob from some of the most senior political figures in the country. Pence sheltered in place with his wife and daughter as the attack took place. Trump didn’t call to check on his wellbeing. Indeed, it’s reported that the two men haven’t spoken since the attack.
Yet, in the days that have followed we have learned details that suggest the danger was greater, and that the Trump administration may have been actively involved in what amounts to a treasonous attempt to overthrow the government.
Capitol police chief Steven Sund asked Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller for help at 2.22pm. Multiple officers were injured, units had been overrun and armed protesters were inside the Capitol building. Yet ninety minutes later Miller still refused to deploy the national guard. The first officer didn’t arrive till 5.30pm. America’s seat of government was left almost entirely unprotected for up to three hours.
Chris Miller was appointed to his new role as Acting Defense Secretary just two days after the 2020 election result was declared, as part of an inexplicable decapitation of the entire civilian leadership at the Pentagon by Trump. It’s beyond unusual for a senior position like Defense Secretary to change hands after an election, and when the moment of truth arrived, the man in charge of providing emergency assistance was Trump’s new appointee.
Trump and Giuliani were calling Congress-people at the Capitol – while the riot was taking place – still trying to get the vote delayed. As the attacks were in progress, Trump issued a statement in which he said the rioters were ‘very special people’, adding ‘we love you’.
It seems distinctly possible that Trump, who incited his supporters to march on the Capitol, knew that his man in Defense would delay sending in the troops, or had instructed him to do so. It’s entirely consistent with what came before. Trump said the only way he could lose the election was if Democrats cheated. He refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and spent two months lying about the election result and fruitlessly examining every possible legal challenge to cling to power. It was only when these avenues were exhausted that violent attacks took place.
The fact that this coup attempt failed does not detract from its seriousness. Attempted coups often fail, and rank incompetence has been the one true constant during the Trump administration. But if not held to account, plotters tend to return. Sometimes they are successful on a second attempt.
The mob attack on the US Capitol on 6th January represents the single worst event of Donald Trump’s appalling presidency. Trump assembled the crowd, incited the mob, told them their target and watched as the carnage followed. He phoned politicians who were under attack, still trying to achieve his political goal. His appointments left the government unprotected, and America’s democracy escaped calamity by the skin of its teeth. It’s the most seditious act in American history. Everything points towards Trump having been central to a treasonous plot to decapitate the government and overturn the result of the election. Men have faced the death penalty for much less.
It may feel like the walls are closing in on Trump, but Twitter’s statement (when banning him for life) included the following warning…
“Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that America faces its most dangerous moment since the Civil War. The political temperature is white hot, and a malignant narcissist like Donald Trump is at his most dangerous when cornered.