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After Capitol violence, remove Trump now to protect American democracy

We simply cannot trust to luck that a recurrence of Wednesday’s mob action – or something far worse – won’t happen again during the nearly two weeks remaining in Trump’s term in office.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia are seen today in front of the U.S. Capitol a day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the building.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump should promptly be removed from the office of the presidency for fomenting an insurrection aimed at Congress.

Outside the White House on Wednesday, America saw an unprecedented, shameful and dangerous spectacle unfold: Trump inciting a crowd of his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol. Once there, his mob of insurrectionists overran the Capitol police, stormed the building, smashed windows, climbed walls and terrorized lawmakers. For hours, they shut down Congress’ business of certifying the Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden the president-elect. It was an assault on democracy that stunned the world.

We cannot trust to luck that a recurrence of Wednesday’s mob action — or something far worse — won’t happen again during the nearly two weeks remaining in Trump’s term in office. He needs to go now. Given the president’s power to wreak havoc, his penchant for doing so and his strong backing by his base, nearly two weeks is too long to leave him at the levers of power.

Trump is enraged and consumed by his drive to remain in the White House, and full of fury toward those who would deny him. There is little doubt he will continue to scheme to overturn the election, perhaps taking further actions that could lead to violence and death. He is lashing out like a cornered animal.

On Thursday, Trump withdrew his nomination of Chad Wolf to lead the Department of Homeland Security just because Wolf had urged Trump to condemn the violence at the Capitol. We know he has met with advisers to discuss imposing martial law.

America also must send a strong message to deter any attempts by a future president to replicate Trump’s incessant lies, flouting of laws and attempts to overturn a free and fair election. Permitting Trump to remain in office would set the wrong precedent, one that says boundless unethical behavior is permissible. But as former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson of Indiana writes in her new book, “The Character of American Democracy,” “Without ethics, a democratic society is doomed to fail.”

America needs an orderly transition of power on Jan. 20. Should Trump remain in office, nobody can be sure that will happen. He has yet even to concede that he lost the election. After all Trump’s lies, no rational person can take seriously his official statement promising an orderly transition.

It won’t be easy, but Trump should be removed either through Section Four of the 25th Amendment or through impeachment. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet do not invoke the 25th Amendment, the House “may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”

A growing chorus of voices is calling for the 25th Amendment, which was designed to relieve a president from office when he or she is not competent to perform presidential powers. That fits Trump, who is unmoored from reality and thinks of nothing but overturning the election. On Thursday, Trump’s former Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said he supports the idea. Editorial boards at other newspapers as well, including the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe, have called for Trump’s removal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has lent his voice to the effort. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on Thursday became the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump’s removal.

Federal prosecutors are said to be looking at Trump’s role in Wednesday’s mayhem even as Trump is reportedly considering pardoning himself before leaving office. He should not be given an opportunity to do so.

Meanwhile, the Capitol police, the Department of Homeland Security and other leaders have much to answer for after such a massive security failure. Trump’s supporters made no secret of their plans to gather in Washington, D.C. Their posts flooded Twitter, TikTok and other social media. In December, Trump tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Had it been Black Lives Matter or Islamic protesters who had planned to converge on Washington instead of an assortment of QAnon conspiracy mongers, Proud Boys, gun-rights activists and other Trump supporters, we can’t imagine the Capitol would have been so lightly guarded and the police would not have been more aggressive in their response.

There was a much stronger show of force at last year’s Black Lives Matter protests at the Capitol, when no one tried to break in. Around the country in the past year, police dressed like members of the military have used tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, batons and rubber bullets against people protesting police brutality. Many protesters were arrested and charged with felonies.

Yet on Wednesday, we watched scenes of mostly white lawbreakers wandering around inside the Capitol and defying a curfew with virtual impunity. On Thursday, Biden said that had the protesters been members of Black Lives Matter they would have been treated “very, very differently.”

The Capitol police chief is resigning. But perhaps the problem was that no one expected Trump to launch a mob action. Perhaps no one expected him to say, “We’re going to the Capitol . . . You will never take back our country with weakness.” Or his son saying, “Stand up and fight.” Or his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani saying, “Let’s have trial by combat.”

That’s just the point. We can’t imagine the extremes to which Trump will go. To protect our nation, we need his presidency to end now.

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