Today has been one of the most eventful days in recent history, one that forces us to step out of the day-to-day and think about what’s important, what needs to change and how we make that happen. Since last summer, a focus of mine has been how we might Reset America and make the improvements we need to see for our communities, our country and our democracy.
These unprecedented times call for an unprecedented response, so I’ll be going LIVE TONIGHT with a special town hall to discuss the state of American democracy with thoughtful voices like journalist Jemele Hill, former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, Houston police chief Art Acevedo, other surprise guests and, perhaps most importantly, you, the American people.
Join me at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT TONIGHT, live on YouTube, for a real discussion about where the country heads from here. If today’s events tell us anything, it’s that our existing forums for political discussion are broken — we need a new conversation. See you there.
P.S. For more on what’s brewing today in the nation’s capital and what’s likely to happen next, please see below.
A pro-Trump protest turned violent Wednesday afternoon as protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol, overrunning police and breaking into the historic landmark. One woman was shot and killed, though details remain unclear. Law enforcement officers were pictured with guns drawn, and many of the protesters were armed. Members of Congress were evacuated as protesters entered both the House and Senate chambers. Many more gathered outside or climbed onto scaffolding. Police reportedly found an improvised explosive device on the Capitol grounds. The complex was cleared by early evening.
2. Trump Belatedly Tells Crowd: “Go Home”
President Donald Trump addressed the crowd in the morning, continuing to spread unfounded claims that the election had been stolen from him and imploring Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to overturn the result. He urged protesters to march to the Capitol as the vote began to certify the election that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden. Two hours after the Capitol had been breached, Trump tweeted a video to his backers saying “you have to go home now” but adding: “I love you, you’re very special.” Twitter then locked Trump’s account for spreading disinformation. In a speech of his own, Biden called the act “an insurrection,” adding: “I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Congress was meant to certify Biden’s victory today, but a group of pro-Trump Republicans was determined to inject procedural delays. After objections by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, both chambers were debating whether to throw out Arizona’s electors — an entirely symbolic act, given that Democrats and most Republicans were primed to vote to uphold Biden’s victory. With the Capitol cleared, the certification was set to resume tonight, though it is unclear when it will be completed.
what’s next: the big questions
1. Will There Be Defectors?
A dozen Republican U.S. senators had signed on with Cruz and Josh Hawley to challenge the results of the electoral college, and even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled his support. But Wednesday’s violence could turn out to be a sobering moment for legislators, and the certification of Biden’s win is carrying even more gravity in light of the siege.
2. Will There Be More Violence?
With the National Guard called in and a curfew tonight in D.C., expect more clashes between protesters and security forces. Whenever Congress resumes tallying the votes, it will continue to be a target. So too will Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, even though it will be a scaled-down and largely virtual event, out of concern for the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.
3. What Else Can Trump Do?
Trump’s final weeks are likely to be a spree of pardons and other last-ditch actions from the administration, such as today’s auction of oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Preelection fears that Trump could use the military to hold onto power have largely fizzled — with Miller’s apparent move to bypass Trump today being a clear signal — and mob rule stands no chance of success. One possible wild card? War with Iran. Tensions have been high between the two nations around the one-year anniversary of the U.S. assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
4. Can Trump Be Removed?
Talk of a second impeachment has bubbled up from Democrats since Trump’s weekend phone call pressuring Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes for him to win. Trump’s actions Wednesday promoted new calls for his removal — from the left and right. One possibly swifter option that’s been floated would be the 25th Amendment, in which Pence could take over with a majority vote of the Cabinet declaring that Trump is unable to perform his duties. The measure is typically thought of in a medical context, though, and it’s as hard to imagine the bulk of Trump’s Cabinet — now composed of loyalists — turning on him as it is a major chunk of Republican senators.
who to watch
1. Ron Johnson
Wisconsin being a swing state, this senator may have already been feeling queasy about voting to discount his own state’s electors. After all, he had just seen fellow dissenters, Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, lose their reelection efforts Tuesday. A shooting and evacuation of lawmakers in gas masks seem to have changed his tune, with ramifications for his reelection race, one of just a few that are critical to both parties’ hopes for taking control of the U.S. Senate in 2022.
2. The Pseudo ‘Avengers.’
New U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn tweeted a video of himself wheeling down the D.C. streets, the North Carolinian declaring he was defending Trump “for the Constitution.” Another freshman, Byron Donalds, a Black Republican from Naples, Florida, cited the founders while refusing to certify the election results, while Lauren Boebert of Colorado compared her protest to those of American patriots in 1776. All three condemned the violence, but none acknowledged any part in stoking the flames. But how they position themselves in a post-attempted-coup era should be telling for the future of the Trump remnant.
3. Gen. Mark Milley
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff played a key role in the chaos, getting approval from the vice president and both Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to send in the National Guard … notably not including the president in those discussions. This suggests the military may not play ball if Trump tries any funny business in his final two weeks in office.
back from the brink: global precedents
In 1923, Adolf Hitler led more than 2,000 Nazis to a beer hall aiming to hold the government ransom and seize the country. They failed, and German police killed 16 Nazis and tossed Hitler in prison. But the peace achieved in defeating the failed coup unwittingly led to Hitler’s eventual rise. It was in that jail cell that Hitler began writing Mein Kampf, setting the wheels in motion that ultimately led to World War II.
The South American nation long held a frightening reputation stirred by the FARC-EP, a Marxist guerrilla terrorist group that formed in the Cold War. Bloody kidnapping and drug wars ravaged Colombia, but as the group weakened in the 2010s — and signed a cease-fire with the government in 2016 — those same bloody towns have become popular tourist hideaways, particularly during COVID.
Fighter jets bombed their own Parliament while soldiers and tanks took to the streets when Ankara witnessed its fourth military coup in less than a century. But the 2016 effort to topple President Recep Erdogan failed, with hundreds dead and hundreds more jailed for life in the aftermath. This was not a positive ending: Since then, Erdogan has continued to seize autocratic power and flout human rights norms. But it is one example of a country that recovered relatively quickly after an ill-fated insurrection.
In the early 1990s, more than a million people died in the country’s first civil war, which led to the formation of present-day Eritrea. And this past November, the critical East African nation seemed on the verge of another civil war amid backlash against democratic reforms launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — just a year after he won a Nobel Prize for reopening the Ethiopia-Eritrea border following two decades of tensions. For now, Ahmed has mostly quashed the rebellious Tigray forces, but this could be short-lived.
1. Not the First Time
As insane as things seem now, this isn’t totally unprecedented in the U.S Capitol. Five House lawmakers were shot and wounded by members of the pro-independence Puerto Rican National Party in 1954. And when the British set the Capitol aflame in 1814, Americans relocated to the Blodgett Hotel … continuing the business of Congress uninterrupted.
2. Protesters vs. Rioters
There were some in Washington today who had clearly come with violent aims and who had planned in advance in online forums. But they are not representative of all of Wednesday’s protesters, and certainly not all of Trump’s 74 million voters. Similar to the occasional looting and violence perpetrated by only some of those involved in last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, it’s worth putting Wednesday’s coup attempt into a larger context. What was different? The reaction from authorities. While BLM protesters were often seen as immediate threats, it took hours before a larger law enforcement contingent responded to the Capitol-storming mob on Wednesday.