In My View
Trump becomes first US president to be impeached twice
It was Donald Trump himself who wrote his own fate. His lies, arrogance, recklessness and irresponsibility---all played their role in equal measure in ending his presidency in disgrace. Just a week before his last day in office, he became the first American president to be impeached twice for "incitement of insurrection" at the US Capitol that disrupted the final certification of the results of the 2020 US presidential election.
First he complained that there was widespread voter fraud and the election was stolen from him. Then he launched law suit after law suit in state after state even though the election was free and fair. Then after losing his legal battles, he invited his loyalists to come to Washington DC on Jan. 6 to block the certification of the electoral votes. Finally, he asked them to march down the Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol and "fight like hell."
President Donald Trump took all these steps publicly. Right after his loss in the election by a big margin, he falsely claimed that it was he who won the election by a landslide. When state after state certified the election victory in favor of his democratic challenger President-elect Joe Biden, he used his Twitter account asking his loyal supporters to come to the nation's capital to prevent the US Congress from finally certifying the electoral votes.
His supporters responded to his call. They came in their thousands from various states of America and on Jan. 6 they gathered around the US Capitol Building that houses both the US Senate and the House of Representatives. Before they began their march to the Capitol where the final certification of the electoral votes was underway at a joint session of the US Congress, President Trump gave them a pep talk from just a few hundred yards away, protected by a bullet-proof glass barrier.
"We have to fight much harder to take back our country. You cannot show your weakness; you have to be strong. You have to fight like hell. If you do not fight like hell, you are not going to have your country anymore. So, we are going to the Capitol. Let's walk down the Pennsylvania Avenue," the president told the crowd. And the crowd fired up by his speech forced their way into the US Capitol overpowering the apparently unprepared Capitol police and smashing their barricades. Some protesters used ladders and scaled the wall of the building to get inside.
As they entered the building, they began chanting "Hang Mike Pence," "Hang Mike Pence." At the time, Mike Pence, the US vice-president was performing his ceremonial duty by presiding over a joint session of the US Congress to certify the electoral votes of the two candidates - President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden - for the final time. The chants by hundreds of Trump loyalists reverberated through the imposing US Capitol as some police officers vastly outnumbered by protesters still fought their hearts out in a hand-to-hand combat to push them back.
Meanwhile, Capitol police evacuated the lawmakers to a secure location where they stayed for hours. The members of the US Congress even took off their Congressional pins for their safety. The riot continued for quite a while and then it became totally free-for-all. Trump supporters walked inside without any resistance. Some protesters took selfies standing with statues of their choice. One protester carried a large confederate flag while another broke into the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and sat on her chair in a relaxed way with his feet on her desk.
The violent mob attack on the US Capitol left at least five people dead including a police officer. As Donald Trump often directed his ire at the US media calling them the "enemy of the people," his loyalists didn't miss their opportunity to take them on as well during the insurrection. They assaulted some journalists who were covering the incident and damaged their equipment. As they attacked a CNN crew on the scene, protesters chanted "CNN sucks," "CNN sucks." On many occasions, Trump criticized CNN for its coverage of him and his administration labelling the network as "fake news."
The violence began to subside after the members of US National Guard from Maryland took position around the US Capitol in the afternoon. However, tension was still high as national and international condemnations started to pour in. The mayor of the Washington DC declared overnight curfew in the city from 6 pm and in the wake of pressure from his own administration, Trump finally condemned the mob violence at the US Capitol calling it a "heinous attack." In a video message, the president, however, told his supporters: "We love you. You are very special. Now go home with peace."
However, thousands of his supporters were still on the street even after the curfew took effect. Then as night progressed, protesters began to leave. And the lawmakers who were still in the building resumed their unfinished work to complete certification of all electoral votes from all states of America with Mike Pence in the chair. Some Republican lawmakers raised objections to the election results of some American states. But they were voted down as Democrats are now the majority in the House of Representatives. In the wee hours of Thursday, the US Congress finally completed certification of all electoral votes: Joe Biden-306 and Donald Trump-232.
It was only the second time in more than 200 years, the US Capitol, the heavily fortified seat of the American government, came under attack. On August 24, 1814, the British army set fire to multiple government and military buildings including the White House which was then called the "Presidential Mansion," the Capitol Building housing the US Senate and the US House of Representatives as well as other facilities of the US government. However, there is a difference between the two attacks --- the first one was by a foreign force but this one was by American-born and grown mob.
And this attack was launched on the basis of a pure lie that was spread by none other than the president of the United States. Even though the election "was the most secure in American history" as described by Chris Krebs, former director of the US Cyber security and Infrastructure Security Agency, President Trump falsely claimed that there was widespread voter fraud and the election was stolen from him. His legal team filed several dozen law suits in several American states but they couldn't provide any evidence anywhere in support of their claim.
In America, elections are conducted independently by each state. And once the election results are certified by the states, the US Congress has just a ceremonial role in their final certification. It happens at a joint session of the Congress presided over by the American vice-president. He, however, doesn't have any power to undo or overturn any election results. Yet, Trump thought that Mike Pence could somehow overturn the election results in his favor. "I hope Mike Pence will do the right thing. Then we will win the election. All he has to do is to send the election results back to the states for recertification and we will win the election," Trump said.
Even though Donald Trump became the first American president who got impeached twice, he has a large following in America. And his supporters blindly believe in whatever he says. Though the presidential election was free and fair, Trump loyalists think it was stolen from him. Why? Because Trump said so. So, a large segment of US population will continue to stick with Trump-at least for now-even though he will be a private citizen after a few days.
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun and Canada's PostMedia Network