By Tyler Merbler from USA - DSC09254-2, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=100214051
By Tyler Merbler from USA — DSC09254‑2, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=100214051

In her tes­ti­mo­ny last week before the House of Representatives’ select com­mit­tee on the Jan. 6, 2021 insur­rec­tion, Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards described what she wit­nessed as a “war scene.”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she recalled. “There were offi­cers on the ground. They were bleed­ing. I was slip­ping in people’s blood.”

“It was car­nage,” she said. “It was chaos.”

Carnage.

That word took me back to for­mer President Donald J. Trump’s inau­gur­al address in 2017, when he called the eight years of Barack Obama’s pres­i­den­cy “American carnage.”

It was a jaw-drop­ping line in a speech that is intend­ed to be a new president’s mes­sage of uni­ty on the day of his swear­ing in, but Trump’s speech was dark and divisive.

Four years lat­er, we learned what American car­nage looks like.

Edwards, who suf­fered a trau­mat­ic brain injury dur­ing the attack on the Capitol by thugs loy­al to Trump, said she saw fel­low offi­cer Brian Sicknick turn “ghost­ly pale” while bat­tling the ter­ror­ists. She start­ed to help him, but was blind­ed by pep­per spray meant to be used to repel attacks by bears. Sicknick had a stroke and died the next day. He was one of five fatal­i­ties that result­ed from the insur­rec­tion. More than 100 police offi­cers were injured. They were all vic­tims of the president’s Big Lie that the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion had been stolen from him.

According to com­mit­tee wit­ness­es, includ­ing Attorney General William Barr, White House staffers, and the president’s own daugh­ter, Ivanka, Trump knew there was no evi­dence of fraud that could have changed the out­come of the elec­tion. His Stop the Steal cam­paign was, in Barr’s words, “bullsh**.”

Unlike the elec­tions of 2016, 2004 and 2000, this one wasn’t close. President Joe Biden won by sev­en mil­lion votes and an elec­toral count of 306 to Trump’s 232.

The committee’s evi­dence shows that despite know­ing he had been bad­ly beat­en, Trump and his syco­phants kept repeat­ing the lie, which polls showed sev­en of 10 Republican vot­ers believed.

In order to believe the lie, one would have to believe the impos­si­ble: that tens of thou­sands of state and coun­ty elec­tion offi­cials and poll work­ers of both par­ties were part of a con­spir­a­cy that stretched from Philadelphia to Phoenix, that vot­ing machines, which are not con­nect­ed to the inter­net, some­how changed mil­lions of votes from Trump to Biden while scor­ing big wins for oth­er Republicans on the same bal­lots, and that the press, police, and pros­e­cu­tors turned a blind eye.

The truth, which the com­mit­tee hear­ings have shown, is that the ones who tried to steal the elec­tion, in the crud­est way imag­in­able, were Trump and his lackeys.

The truth, which the com­mit­tee hear­ings have shown, is that the ones who tried to steal the elec­tion, in the crud­est way imag­in­able, were Trump and his lackeys.

Long before Election Day, Trump cast doubt on the elec­toral process in the minds of gullible vot­ers by spread­ing base­less claims. The for­mer pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers went to court 63 times to try to get judges to throw out state elec­tion results, but the law­suits were dis­missed for lack of mer­it, and some judges rebuked the plain­tiffs for wast­ing their time with friv­o­lous claims. Trump tried to get state offi­cials, includ­ing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to lie and cheat and “find” votes for him that weren’t there to be found.

He tried to get Republican state leg­is­la­tures to ignore the will of their vot­ers and choose slates of pro-Trump elec­tors instead of elec­tors based on the people’s votes.

As a last resort, Trump pro­mot­ed a bizarre legal the­o­ry that Vice President Mike Pence, as pres­i­dent of the Senate, could reject the Electoral College results and declare Trump the win­ner, and use the uproar that would arise over recog­ni­tion of the pho­ny slates to throw the deci­sion to the House, where Republicans would elect Trump based on the par­ty con­trol­ling 26 of the 50 state leg­is­la­tures. Pence refused to play a role in the coup.

When all else failed, Trump, who had sum­moned a mob to the nation’s cap­i­tal on Jan. 6, promis­ing it would be “wild,” urged the pro­test­ers to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop Congress from cer­ti­fy­ing the elec­tion results. He said he would be right there with them, which, of course, was anoth­er lie.

Instead of join­ing them, he was “glee­ful” as he watched the riot­ers storm the Capitol, accord­ing to his press sec­re­tary, Stephanie Grisham, who told CNN the pres­i­dent kept rewind­ing and rewatch­ing and said: “Look at all those peo­ple fight­ing for me.” 

On the Capitol lawn, the riot­ers had erect­ed a gal­lows and chant­ed “Hang Mike Pence!”

According to Rep. Liz Cheney, R‑Wyoming, a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, Trump expressed sup­port for that idea of lynch­ing the vice pres­i­dent and said that Pence deserved it.

We know now that when Pence fled down­stairs, fol­lowed by an Air Force offi­cer car­ry­ing the nuclear weapon launch codes, the ter­ror­ists were only 40 feet away.

While riot­ers clashed with police, des­e­crat­ed our nation’s tem­ple of democ­ra­cy, and roamed the build­ing hunt­ing Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and oth­er lead­ers, the pres­i­dent for hours did noth­ing to get his sup­port­ers to stop, accord­ing to witnesses.

Kevin McCarthy of California, leader of the Republicans in the House, phoned the pres­i­dent to tell him the riot­ers were break­ing into his office through the win­dows and plead­ed with him to go on TV and call them off.

Trump’s response was to tell McCarthy: “Well, Kevin, I guess these peo­ple are more upset about the elec­tion than you are.”

“Who … do you think you’re talk­ing to?” the minor­i­ty leader demanded.

McCarthy want­ed those around Trump to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove the men­tal­ly unhinged pres­i­dent from office, but decid­ed it would take too long. He also want­ed an inde­pen­dent, bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the riot and the president’s role in it. But with­in days, he reversed him­self and became an ardent sup­port­er of Trump again.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in a rare moment of hon­or and can­dor, called the president’s actions a “dis­grace­ful dere­lic­tion of duty,” and said there was no doubt that “Trump is prac­ti­cal­ly and moral­ly respon­si­ble for pro­vok­ing the events of that day.”

Yet McConnell refused to vote to con­vict the twice-impeached pres­i­dent and pre­vent him from ever hold­ing pub­lic office again because, he said, Congress has no con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty to do so – a view not sup­port­ed by most con­sti­tu­tion­al schol­ars who weighed in on the ques­tion. Soon after, McConnell said he would sup­port Trump if he is the party’s nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent in 2024.

It seems there aren’t many Republican pro­files in courage in the Senate or the House or the coun­try these days.

McConnell had sug­gest­ed that those respon­si­ble for the riot could be charged with crimes and pun­ished through the courts.

The domes­tic ter­ror­ists who took part in the assault on American democ­ra­cy — who iron­i­cal­ly call them­selves “patri­ots” — have said on cam­era that they were there at the Capitol that day because Trump asked them to be. 

It is pos­si­ble for­mer President Trump could be held respon­si­ble through the courts regard­less of whether or not the com­mit­tee for­mal­ly refers charges to the Department of Justice.

The domes­tic ter­ror­ists who took part in the assault on American democ­ra­cy — who iron­i­cal­ly call them­selves “patri­ots” — have said on cam­era that they were there at the Capitol that day because Trump asked them to be. 

Many of those who stormed the Capitol were mem­bers of far-right para­mil­i­tary groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters. 

Remember, dur­ing the tele­vised pres­i­den­tial debate, that Biden asked Trump if he would dis­avow the Proud Boys. Trump’s response was to tell the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” — not to stand down.

Stand by. In oth­er words, wait for my orders. 

Those orders came when Trump sum­moned these pseu­do-patri­ot mili­tias to the nation’s cap­i­tal on Jan. 6.

Trump knew exact­ly what he was doing. Now all Americans who are pay­ing atten­tion will know.

The big ques­tion is: Will it make any difference?

If it doesn’t mat­ter to enough of us to end this threat, then our democ­ra­cy is in per­il, and America’s reign of ter­ror has only just begun.

  • Randy Patrick

    Randy Patrick is a deputy coun­ty clerk for elec­tions and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and a for­mer reporter and edi­tor of The Winchester Sun.