Day of reckoning

The U.S. House of Representatives votes to impeach President Trump for a second time, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob takeover of the U.S. Capitol

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/14/2021, 6 p.m.
The reckoning has begun. Even as his followers were being arrested and he prepares to leave office in a few …
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shows the article of impeachment against President Trump after signing it in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. It marks the first time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached twice. Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters/TPX Images of the Day

The reckoning has begun.

Even as his followers were being arrested and he prepares to leave office in a few days, President Trump was labeled a “clear and present danger” to the nation’s security in becoming the first chief executive in U.S. history to be impeached twice – this time for the failed Jan. 6 insurrection in which he incited followers to carry out the biggest attack on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 when British troops burned it.

On Wednesday, 222 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the impeachment resolution in hopes of banning President Trump from ever again holding public office.

Their action came a week after the attempted insurrection by a riotous mob of Trump supporters to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden as his successor and Kamala Harris as the next vice president.

While Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio led 191 other Republicans in decrying the impeached vote, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was adamant about the need to act.

“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go,” Speaker Pelosi said, calling President Trump “a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”

President Trump “must be impeached,” she continued, “and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man, who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.”

Just as happened last year, the House action could fail if it cannot muster the votes of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate after a trial likely to be held after Mr. Biden takes office next Wednesday, Jan. 20.

President Trump gave short shrift to the House action, with most news commentators saying Senate support to convict him is unlikely because the Senate is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

Still, the president, who feeds off attention, is feeling the blowback from sowing the wind. He already has been stripped of his social media platforms, with Twitter, Facebook and other private media companies blocking his accounts and those of many of his followers.

Major companies have cut ties with his business empire, and billionaire business leaders who once raised money for his political activities have disavowed him.

Still, he is unapologetic for his role in the attack, calling his Jan. 6 remarks that triggered the siege of the U.S. Capitol “totally appropriate.”

The blowback also is hitting his followers, who were fired up by his repeated lies that he won the election and the support from other political figures who backed his bogus claims, including four Republican congressmen from Virginia.

President Trump already has made an about-face, despite continuing his claims that the election was stolen. He now has acknowledged that Mr. Biden will take office next week, and he has betrayed his loyalists by disavowing the violent invasion and labeling them lawbreakers.

The FBI and assorted law enforcement are now scouring the nation to arrest those involved in the attack that left five dead, including two Capitol Police officers. One officer reportedly was beaten with a fire extinguisher during the riot, while the other reportedly committed suicide.

More than 70 people were in custody as of Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced, with more arrests to come. Those taken into custody face potential federal charges ranging from trespassing to sedition that could lead 20-year sentences.

In addition, the attack even has Trump officials finally taking seriously the need for security against the president’s extremist supporters.

This week, security was being ramped up in Richmond and other state capitals, as well as in Washington, as the FBI issued warnings that more attacks could happen in the days leading up to President-elect Biden’s and Vice President-elect Harris’ inauguration and on inauguration day.

Amid state and local declarations of emergency, Virginia State Police and Virginia Capitol Police were planning their defense should armed militias seek to attack as the FBI warned. A flyer circulating on social media called for armed rallies on Sunday, Jan. 17, in all 50 state capitals and in the District of Columbia.

In Washington, D.C., reports indicated 15,000 National Guard troops had been activated to protect government officials and buildings, with another 5,000 on standby as a flyer circulated calling for armed insurrection on Jan. 20 to prevent Mr. Biden from being sworn in.

At the same, the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack is leading to hard questions about the lack of preparation by law enforcement.

In public and private, reports show that the Jan. 6 rally and march on the U.S. Capitol were openly discussed. But it is clear from the videos of the attack how little prepared the Capitol Police were. The chief, Steven Sund, who resigned this week, has admitted that he prepared for protests outside the Capitol, not an attack. He has not explained why he believed that Trump followers would be noisy, but cooperative.

His departure has allowed Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman to become acting chief and to make history, becoming the first Black person and female to lead the once storied, but now tarnished force.

Reports show that the Capitol Police’s standard procedure of canceling officers’ leave requests and having the full force present did not happen; that there was no liaison with the Washington, D.C., police force; and that the National Guard was not requested or on standby.

The evidence that some officers even opened the doors of the Capitol and allowed protesters to enter and to leave added to the concern that security was ignored.

The contrast between the tiny force that was on hand for the Trump protest with the huge forces that were deployed during the summer when Black Lives Matter protesters came to Washington was pointed out time and time again.

As many recalled, the peaceful BLM protesters were gassed repeatedly. Participants recalled President Trump deploying the National Guard and D.C. police against such protests, including dispersing peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square so he could walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op holding a Bible.

Another Twitter user wrote: “When we peacefully protested BLM, we got teargassed, pepper sprayed, a CHILD GOT MACED, people were shot in the eyes, there were people bleeding from rubber bullets. At a peaceful protest. And yet, when terrorists storm the US Capitol, police take photo ops with them.”

Others recalled the federal officers the president sent into several cities to attack and kidnap demonstrators, a huge difference between his expressions of love for the mob who attacked the Capitol building and state capitals in seeking to overturn election results.

The upheaval over his illegal efforts to prevent his loss of power has done one thing for the president — overshadowed the huge mess in government that he will leave behind.

When Mr. Biden takes over, he will face a series of challenges that President Trump has failed to address, even as he has sought to actively undermine the transition.

The incoming administration has long described a “perfect storm” of four crises Mr. Biden must address: The pandemic, economic distress, climate change and racial injustice.

In addition, the new Biden administration also will need to address the failure of cybersecurity in government computers that was exposed by a hack that was made public only recently.

Just as important, in the wake of a president who fueled anger and disloyalty, Mr. Biden will be challenged to rebuild trust in the government’s ability to deal with those challenges.