Donald Trump had made clear for some time that he was going to pull out all the stops to derail his defeat by Joe Biden. But his efforts to sabotage the inevitable transition to the Biden presidency came to a head on Wednesday. A mob of rioters who had attended a pro-Trump rally at the Ellipse swarmed into the Capitol and occupied it for almost five hours.
The rioters acted in response to incendiary speeches from Trump and a number of his retainers. Trump himself urged the crowd to “fight like hell” to overturn Biden’s win, and urged them to go to the Capitol in hopes of giving Republicans the backbone they needed to “take back our country.” Rudy Giuliani called for the election to be decided via “trial by combat,” while Donald Trump Jr. warned his father’s foes, “We’re coming for you.”
Pictures and video from the scene proved beyond any doubt that the mob was intent on stopping the transition by any means necessary–even violence. Several rioters were seen armed, clad in tactical gear, and carrying zip ties. Others were heard threatening to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Numerous IEDs were found around Washington after order was restored.
In the face of this, calls for Trump’s removal came fast and hard–either by way of the 25th Amendment, or by way of impeachment. Those weren’t stemmed when Trump released a video message condemning the riots and acknowledging that he will leave office on January 20. Watch it here.
Incredibly, there are some who think this is a lot of fuss over nothing. Among them is Victoria Toensing, a longtime Trump ally who was part of the legal team that sought to derail the transition and overturn Biden’s win. Earlier, Giuliani tried to get Ukraine’s president-elect to meet with Toensing as part of the effort to strongarm Kiev into helping Trump get dirt on Biden.
On Friday, Toensing took to Twitter to accuse those of calling for a smooth transition while also demanding Trump’s removal of talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Let’s explain it nice and slow, Victoria. It doesn’t matter how many days remain in a lame-duck president’s term. When said lame-duck president incites his most diehard followers to storm the Capitol in an attempt to derail the certification of his defeat, that lame-duck president has, by definition, disqualified himself from office.
By definition, a president who attempts a self-coup is a clear, present and existential threat to the republic. In such a situation, no effort must be spared to remove that president from office–no matter how little time is left in that president’s term. Indeed, Twitter decided to permanently ban Trump from its platform after a number of his followers took his decision not to attend Biden’s inauguration as a signal to attack. Twitter also cited plans for an attack on the Capitol on January 17 as part of the reason for banning Trump.
Moreover, it isn’t just Democrats calling for Trump to go. One of the first calls for the 25th Amendment came from the decidedly right-wing National Association of Manufacturers, which called for Pence to invoke that amendment “to preserve democracy.”
Toensing either doesn’t know or doesn’t understand that calling for Trump’s ouster doesn’t contradict the desire for a smooth transition of power. It is necessary to ensure that transition. Moreover, even if efforts to push Trump out of office before January 20 fail, they are still necessary. The historical record must reflect that we as a nation stood up and said that we would not tolerate attempts by a president to use the power of his office to launch an insurrection.
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