If Donald Trump had posted his latest video yesterday it would have bought him a lot of credit, unfortunately. The fact that he released it this evening is a measure of just how tenuous his position has become. Two events from just the last couple hours demonstrate why. We now learn that a Capitol Police officer was beaten to death by his insurrectionist supporters. And now The Wall Street Journal editorial page, even in advance of that news, has called for him to resign or be impeached.
We’re seeing a growing number of reports which suggest that top members of the President’s administration are simply avoiding the President or ignoring him. It’s possible the President is in such a mental state that he’s not giving anyone any orders or that he’s already given ones that have been refused. (Again, trying to piece together the pieces of evidence about mobilizing the National Guard yesterday.) The President only has to watch television right now to know that there’s a growing likelihood he’ll face criminal charges for the events of the last 48 hours, let alone things which may have happened over the last four years. That certainly terrifies this President. Yet he has 13 more days with the vast powers of the President to act out on what he is likely experiencing as an existential threat and a consuming rage against those who believes have betrayed him. This is to put it mildly a highly dangerous and unstable situation.
TPM Reader JB, a former Hill staffer, is 100% right. A serious threat to the Capitol would never have been left to the Capitol Police. The failure is almost certainly rooted in the fact that federal law enforcement and the military were reluctant to plan for a threat from the President’s own supporters.
To your correspondent BK’s comments today I have to add the point that a serious threat to the Capitol — which yesterday’s riot certainly was — would never have been left to the Capitol Police alone had it been foreseen.
We often forget that we don’t only arrest and prosecute people to exact individual punishment or to protect public safety. Arrest and prosecution is also how society communicates to itself the parameters of acceptable behavior. Yesterday was many things. But a critical part of it was the result of years and decades of treating violent right-wing extremism as a sort of wingnut performance art, crazy but essentially harmless and to be indulged. Think of the original Bundy clan standoff and the later Malheur standoff. An insurrectionist told a Capitol Police officer yesterday “You didn’t take it back, we gave it back,” as he walked out of the Capitol.
You saw them. They were strutting and proud. They gave their names to reporters. They posed for pictures.
One more point about the President and the decision to call in the National Guard. I’ve mentioned several times below that the chain of command simply went around the President. Mike Pence gave the order even though there’s really no legal basis for him doing so. Most of these reports suggest the President was just checked out, maybe not interested in talking to them.
CBS and only CBS is reporting that cabinet members are discussing invoking the 25th amendment to remove President Trump from office. I will believe it when I see it. But there have been a few hints over the last hours that the national security structure and some critical functions of government are operating separate from President Trump. The Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs conferred with Mike Pence and the Democratic and Republican congressional leaders about bringing in the National Guard. Apparently there were no discussions with the President and Mike Pence eventually gave the order, even though there’s no basis I can think of on which Pence could give such an order.
We’re in a bit of a fog of war situation. But the statement from the acting Secretary of Defense said he had spoken to Pence and the Republican and Democratic congressional leadership about mobilizing the National Guard. But there was no mention of having talked to the President. Now the Times is reporting that it was Pence who gave the order for the deployment. Now, I guess great that he did that. But on what basis would the Vice President give that order? The Vice President isn’t commander-in-chief. Is the President still President? Is he somehow even in the White House seen to be commanding the the insurrectionists, not functioning as President? That sounds hyperbolic. But again, what’s the legal basis here?
This is the first time in going on 250 years of American history that the peaceful transfer of power and the constitutional processes to accomplish that have been disrupted by force. The first time. The Civil War was obviously a vastly graver breakdown of constitutional order. But the secessionists didn’t try to prevent Lincoln from being inaugurated. They just left. What we are seeing here has never happened before. Biden will still be inaugurated. The process that was underway will happen later today or tomorrow. But this has never happened before.
I probably don’t have to tell you to be excited about the results out of Georgia tonight where it seems highly likely that the the Democrats picked up both Senate seats and thus took control of the Senate. You don’t need me to tell you about the historic nature of Raphael Warnock’s victory. But the consequences of these victories is likely even greater than many realize.