Accountability For the Insurrection Is Essential
Commentary: Nearly six months later, what do we know about January 6?
Joe Biden’s very comfortable election victory over Donald Trump remains untarnished by any serious accusation of fraud or error. Trump’s fans struck out in dozens of lawsuits; their comical, costly attempt to have Arizona’s vote “re-audited” by a biased and inexperienced group is embarrassing; and Trump’s lawyers are getting sanctioned for their legally frivolous arguments. Sydney Powell faces serious disciplinary charges in several jurisdictions, and the New York Court of Appeals just suspended Rudy Giuliani’s license pending a final decision, rejecting Giuliani’s defense that he’s no longer a danger to society because he promises to say nothing more about the election.
Many who entered the Capitol illegally have been charged with crimes. (None are from “Antifa,” as Trump fans initially swore.) This week, a woman pled guilty who did no violence and now thoroughly regretted encouraging those who did. Oathkeepers are pleading guilty and cooperating. While Trump supporters in public office insist Trump didn’t encourage the violence, many of those who committed the violence are telling courts that Trump did urge and inspire them.
Sane Republicans (or politicians who felt they could afford to) have denounced Trump’s continued obsessive campaign to undo the democratic election. Other Republicans have punished those Republicans for speaking up. Trump himself reportedly expects to be magically reinstated. (The Constitution provides no such process, and Trumpists still have never clearly identified any material fault in the process, so Trump may not actually expect any such thing, but may merely be trying to make sure the donations and attention keep flowing.)
Trumpists’ last-ditch argument seems to be that what happened wasn’t technically an “insurrection.” I’m unsure how much that label matters, but the Oxford Dictionary definition (“a violent uprising against authority”) would sure seem to apply. Black’s Law Dictionary gives, “A rebellion, or rising of citizens or subjects in resistance to their government, . . . any combined resistance to the lawful authority of the state, with intent to the denial thereof, when the same is manifested, or intended to be manifested, by acts of violence.”
Congress, our government’s lawful authority, was duly certifying presidential votes on the appointed day, January 6. Mr. Trump told people they’d lose their country if they didn’t fight for it. Many marched straight from his speech to Congress and successfully interrupted the process. “Combined?” Some of the accused conspired with each other in advance, making very detailed plans.
“Acts of violence?” You betcha. Abundant video evidence shows violence to people and official documents; many of the accused came with special tools for violence. Only a retreat by outnumbered police saved us from more extensive violence. Still, one officer died after being attacked and another shot a woman who was trying, with many others, to gain access to Congresspersons. Officers were allegedly hit by a barricade, a flagpole, and a lacrosse stick with a Confederate flag on it. One woman wanted “to shoot Pelosi in the friggin’ brain.” Others shouted that Vice-President Pence should be hanged, and erected a gallows. Note the “or intended to be.” The officers who physically prevented intruders from contact with Congresspersons sure thought the mob intended violence.
Above all, we know that many elected leaders, who would be screaming for blood if Palestinian sympathizers or Black Lives Matter folks had done this, insist it was kind of like a picnic the tourists had.
No, this was no picnic.