Some congressmembers are calling for Trump, who directed supporters toward the Capitol, to be impeached
The riots at the US Capitol shocked many in the US and around the world, but for some, the violent scenes in Washington are simply the natural culmination of Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud and repeated stoking of division in the US.
The descent by thousands of Trump supporters on the Capitol – minutes after the president specifically asked them to march towards it – might be the clearest evidence yet of Trump’s responsibility for Wednesday’s debacle.
Months before the November election took place, Trump supporters were already being fed a steady diet of misinformation, as Trump repeatedly claimed the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged.
Should that happen, Trump and his allies told supporters, the US would descend into socialism, communism, or worse. In August he told a crowd that if Biden were to win the election, “China will own the United States” – to the extent that Americans would “have to learn to speak Chinese”.
As the world watched the mob of Trump supporters lay siege to the Capitol building, the beacon of American democracy, it clear to some that this had been a long time coming.
“What we are witnessing at this moment is the manifestation and culmination of reckless leadership, a pervasive misuse of power, and anarchy,” Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP civil rights organization, said in a statement.
“This is not protesting or activism; this is an insurrection, an assault on our democracy and a coup incited by President Trump.
“For the past four years, we’ve seen him chip away at the civility, integrity and dignity of our nation. The pattern of President Trump’s misconduct is unmistakable and has proven time and time again that it is a grave threat and harm to the fragile fabric of our country.”
Johnson and others called for Trump to be impeached for his role in the siege of the Capitol. Some Democratic members of Congress have already said they support that measure, and Ilhan Omar, a progressive congresswoman from Minnesota, said on Wednesday evening she was already drawing up articles of impeachment.
The tone at Trump’s rally before the riot was combative, as the president told the crowd: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s confidante and increasingly beleagured lawyer, had earlier demanded “trial by combat” over the election results, further stoking the crowd.
Away from Trump’s immediate circle however, many elected Republicans have also lent credence to the president’s baseless accusations of fraud – and have supported Trump even as he defended far-right, torch-bearing marchers in Charlottesville, refused to condemn white supremacy, and spread fear among Black Americans.
“Make no mistake: the domestic terrorism at the US Capitol by armed protesters is not only Trump’s fault alone,” Julian Castro, a Democratic former secretary of housing and urban development and 2020 presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter.
“This is the result of leaders in the Republican party fueling conspiracy, division and hatred for years. And it won’t be fixed until they lose their office.”
The Democratic senator Tammy Duckworth, who was on her way to speak on the Senate floor when Trump supporters besieged the Capitol, had no doubt who was responsible.
“The [one to] blame for this is Donald Trump. He is the one that has been spreading conspiracy theories, falsehoods,” Duckworth said in an interview with CBS News.
“He is the one that is rejecting the results of this election which has been certified by all 50 governors, it is this president who has incited his supporters to this violence.”
The Republican senator Mitt Romney, who has frequently served as a fly in Trump’s ointment, was among the relatively few GOP members to directly link Trump to the violent uprising, as Romney described the storming of the Capitol as “an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States”.
Many others remained silent, as Trump himself refused to criticize those attacking the Capitol, instead posting a mixed-message video where he asked supporters to go home, but also praised those supporters and repeated baseless accusations that the election was “stolen”.
“We are witnessing one of the greatest assaults on our democracy since the civil war,” Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the US, said.
“Today’s attempted coup has been years in the making as Donald Trump consistently spews venom, conspiracies, hate and lies to his supporters. They are carrying out his wishes, and far too many Republican lawmakers have enabled and even encouraged this violent threat to our republic.
“This is an effort to violate the constitutional rights of every law-abiding American and the labor movement will not stand for it. Not today. Not ever.”
News – ‘Incited by the president’: politicians blame Trump for insurrection on Capitol Hill