The Financial Express

When the Commander-in-Chief becomes Insurrection Chief

| Updated: January 28, 2021 21:32:48

When the Commander-in-Chief becomes Insurrection Chief

Donald Trump's defeat in the presidential election did not come as a surprise. His isolation in the international community, his tirade against the minorities, his deep bonds with the extremist outfits and white supremacists and inept handing of the pandemic that led to the death of 400,000 Americans at his watch forestalled a second term in office. Since his political philosophy and the constituency were predicated on autocracy it became an anathema for Trump to concede defeat in an electoral exercise. He, therefore, invented "conspiracy theory" and attributed his defeat to fraudulent election. His loyalists filed dozens of lawsuits in different states but the judges, many of whom were appointed by Trump administration, dismissed the lawsuits for lack of credible evidence. When the lawsuit moved to the Supreme Court, all 9 judges in a rare unanimous judgment, rejected the writ petition for Trump attorneys' failure to produce evidence of electoral malpractice.

The Electoral College met in the D.C and other locations on December 14 and the members elected Joe Biden as 46th President. Joe Biden received 306 votes as against 232 by Donald Trump. Biden received a formal electoral victory. By the time, the popular votes were tallied, Biden scored 80 million popular votes while Trump received 74 million. In both EC votes and popular votes Biden won a decisive victory over Trump. Nevertheless, Trump refused to accept the electoral verdict and continued to complain that election was stolen with massive fraud.

Trump applied all legal and extralegal options to overturn the electoral outcome in order to secure a victory for him. He exerted tremendous pressure on the Attorney General of Georgia to obtain 11,000 votes in favour of him after the certification of vote counts was issued, underscored his profound lust for power and disdain for democracy. When the Attorney General refused to be complicit in the malfeasance, Trump let loose the local thugs to intimidate the AG. Despite threats and intimidation, the state officials remained steadfast and upheld the electoral process.

Trump convened a mass rally at the D.C on January 6, the day the Congress was scheduled to have a joint session, to protest the vote rigging and prevent the Congress from ratifying the election results. He suggested Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification, overturn the state counts and declare him elected president. Mike Pence explained that as presiding officer of the joint session of the Congress his authority remains limited to opening the envelopes in front of the Senators and members of the Congress and endorsing the certification. He is not empowered to recommend recounting let alone overturning the outcome of the election already certified by the states. Trump was distraught and decided to enable the mob to do what Vice President Pence declined.

Trump addressed the rally and repeated the allegation that the election was taken away from him by massive vote rigging. He claimed that "all Mike Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people. If Pence allowed the vote to move forward, Biden would become president. We are just not going to let that happen." Trump told the crowd that they should "stop the seal", fight much harder to prevent Biden's victory from being certified in the Congress. "If you don't fight like hell, you are not going to have a country anymore." Trump accused the Democrats from "fraudulently taking over our country" and urged the audience to "show strength" and march to the Capitol falsely promising that he would be with them at the Capitol Hill. Earlier on multiple occasions, Trump urged the supporters to come to Washington and to apply public pressure on Congress to change the election results. "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild."

The mob went to the Capitol Hill as instructed by Trump, crossed the security boundary and ransacked the Rotunda Hall where the law makers were deliberating. The police on duty was outnumbered and the rioters found easy access to the meeting rooms and chambers. Mike Pence was evacuated to an undisclosed location only a minute before the mob stormed the chamber. The Senators and the Congress members were locked down in the rooms by the police. The rioters damaged the furniture, shred the documents and took away the cell phones, computers etc from the desks. The mayhem prevailed for about six hours. Trump witnessed the ransacking from the White House but did nothing to restrain the rioters. In the evening he came out in rose garden and asked the mob to go home. He justified the storming and said this was expected when the public representatives failed to act. He told the rioters, "You are very special. We love you."

The police personnel on duty at the Capitol Hill tried to put up resistance but could hardly withstand the influx of thousands of rioters. A police officer told the Washington Post that many of the rioters were well armed and they were waiting if police shoot first, they would launch massive retaliation and there would have been many fatalities. Police worked under tremendous pressure and after reinforcement arrived, they pushed the intruders out of the building. In the mayhem, 5 including a police officer were killed and more than 60 injured. The intelligence failures could not have been worse and police leaderships miserably failed. The head of Capitol police and two others have resigned.

Disturbing details of what happened inside the building emerged-- including one witness who told the FBI that the rioters intended to kill any member of Congress they encountered. Some of the rioters claimed they stormed the building because the president had ordered them to do so. At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected to have taken part in the riot, a tally that could grow as more information is unfolded.

As expected there has been outpouring of anger and dismay over the incident. The law makers across the party lines condemned the incident and they accused the incumbent president for instigating the riot. Republican law maker Liz Cheney claimed, "The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution." Mitch McConnel, Senate Majority Leader, admitted that Trump had provoked the mob. The Democrats in the House of Representatives tabled "impeachment of the president". This had the support of 10 Republican members and President Trump was impeached on January 13 by 232 to 197 votes. Trump became the only president in history to be impeached twice.

The unpredictable Republican leader Mitch McConnell does not seem to be keen on letting the impeachment motion run through the Senate. It is unclear whether enough Republican Senators would cross the party line and support the motion. Even if they do, the resolution would take time and by that time Trump would be out of the White House. President-elect Biden is concerned that the impeachment debate would consume much time that are urgently needed for legislative work at the onset of his presidency.

The smart approach would have been to table a bi-partisan resolution strongly condemning Trump for instigating the insurrection that led to the assault on the legislative branch of the government culminating in the death of five persons including a police officer and destruction of office property. The resolution could have proposed termination of Trump's retirement allowances of around $250,000 per annum and censor other entitlements. The resolution could have moved faster and had the chance of bi-partisan support at the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate.

Four years ago, this week, Donald Trump entered the White House as President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States. During the past four years he created deep division in the society, advanced the cause of extremist organisations, promoted narrow nationalism and undermined global partnership. Trump could not have undertaken this unwarranted trajectory without the abetment of the Republican leaderships. He lost the election but kept on telling lies about malpractice in the election and Republican leaders joined him in spreading this falsehood when the courts including the Supreme Court reprimanded Trump's attorneys for not providing evidence of malpractice. The sustained propaganda about vote fraud cast a deep impression that about 50 per cent Republican supporters refuse to accept Joe Biden as democratically elected president of the United States. This falsehood campaign set the ground for January 6 insurrection. Donald Trump left the White House on January 20 as Insurrection Chief - humiliated and diminished.


Abdur Rahman Chowdhury is a former official of the United Nations.

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