Domestic Terror Strikes the Capitol: What Happens Now?

Featured Image: The United States Capitol
Taken by author on site, Summer of 2012

On January 6, 2021, just one day shy of the two-month anniversary of President-elect Joe Biden’s securing of the Electoral College and just 14 days until the end of the current administration, Trump instigated domestic terrorism. He incited a mob of thousands to march to the Capitol that overwhelmed the lacking security in place and threatened the lives of everyone inside, including members of Congress, staff in the building, and even Vice President Pence. It was hours before federal forces sufficiently repelled the siege from the complex.

This was the largest attack on the Capitol since the British set it ablaze more than 200 years ago during the War of 1812.

Now several hours removed from the incident, the whitewashing has already begun. Sean Hannity and his colleagues in Trump-friendly media have—without any evidence—posited that “Antifa” had supposedly infiltrated the right-wing mob were to blame for the violence.[1] Certainly more distortions and re-interpretations of the event are to be expected in the coming days, months, and years; it is imperative that we not fall victim to these explanations and remember vividly what happened in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021.  

Make no mistake, this was all Trump. He called on his supporters to descend on Washington on January 6 in multiple tweets and on that date personally inflamed an already raucous crowd with incendiary words of defiance and a fateful urge to march on the Capitol. For Trump and his movement, this was a culminating moment, the after-effects of which will live on in infamy. Also striking was the leniency with which our police forces treated the seditious rioters, which stands in stark contrast with the way police treated Black Lives Matter supporters a few months ago.

Our politics have been in disarray for years, but it goes without saying that the last four years of Trump’s leadership—especially since the pandemic began in early-2020—represent a new chapter in the partisan divide. Trump’s willingness to take up ridiculous conspiracy theories and spread them as truth to his fired-up base (which takes most everything he says as gospel) is a significant problem. Clearly a big chunk of the Republican base right now has been radicalized to at least some degree by the conspiratorial content available in the far-reaches of the internet either directly or laundered through right-wing media organizations or through Trump’s (currently suspended) Twitter account.

This radicalization is grave and will continue to persist in the Republican base beyond Trump’s departure from office on January 20, 2021 if not addressed. The years of labeling mainstream media as “fake news” make it so that these followers are conditioned to see alternative explanations to unpleasing truths. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” quip years ago remains salient as a precursor for the conspiratorial content that is spoon-fed to Trump supporters now daily from many directions.

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on restoring decency to American political discourse; yesterday’s events lend even more urgency to this need. His administration must work to somehow counter the conspiracy theories—some of which had already labeled by the FBI as domestic terror threats[2]—that led to the storming of the Capitol. His administration must work to de-radicalize Americans who have fallen prey to conspiratorial lies. The changing of administrations is a crucial step in this process, but there is no assurance that Trump recedes from the public eye (he probably will not).

In the immediate term, the threats to democracy in this country need to be countered. Early this morning, The Washington Post reported just a few hours after the attack on the Capitol that cabinet officials were having preliminary discussions on invoking[3] the 25th Amendment, which would temporarily remove Trump from office functionally for the rest of his term (given how short that span is).

That, though, is not enough. The Washington Post also reported that John F. Kelly, once Trump’s Chief of Staff, expressed concern over the ability for individuals like Trump to ascend to the White House.[3] If Trump is impeached again—and this time, removed—he will be stripped of that very ability, slamming the door on the any possible reprise of “Make America Great Again” in 2024. Removal from office would be a statement to all who may aspire to become President for the wrong reasons that if elected, you would still be beholden to the Constitution of the United States.

Like every other previous challenge it has faced, the Constitution prevailed over Trump and his mob’s seditious moves on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. While failing to remove him from office in his final days would not diminish our laws, removing him would reaffirm the notion that in the United States nobody, including the President, is above those laws.


[1] Phil Owen, “Rep. Gaetz, Sean Hannity and More Baselessly Suggest ‘Antifa’ Instigated Capitol Mob,” The Wrap, Jan 6 2021, https://www.thewrap.com/sean-hannity-brit-hume-other-conservatives-suggest-antifa-instigated-capitol-mob/.

[2] Marianne Dodson, “FBI Labels Fringe Conspiracy Theories as Domestic Terrorism Threat,” The Daily Beast, Aug 1 2019, https://www.thedailybeast.com/fbi-warns-against-qanon-pizzagate-in-report-highlighting-dangers-of-fringe-conspiracy-theories.

[3] Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris, and Ashley Parker. “Aides weigh resignations, removal options as Trump rages against perceived betrayals,” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), Jan 7 2021, Politics, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-resignations-25th-amendment/2021/01/07/e131ce10-50a3-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html.

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