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Democrats, including U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and some Republicans, are calling to impeach President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting an insurrection that led to at least four deaths at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Photo courtesy White House

‘Trump is a Direct Threat to the Homeland’: Rep. Bennie Thompson Backs Impeachment

Congress should take immediate action to remove President Donald Trump from office after yesterday’s insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s most powerful congressman, said in a statement this afternoon. House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment today, charging the president with inciting an insurrection.

“Never in my life did I ever expect to see a sitting president incite violent extremists at a rally and, after they stormed both the House and Senate chambers, raised the Confederate flag and erected a noose, tell them in a video that he loved them,” Thompson, a Black Democrat who represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, said in a House Homeland Security Committee statement today.

In a speech yesterday to supporters who had gathered in D.C. ostensibly to protest the certification of the 2020 election results, Trump falsely claimed the election had been “rigged” by “radical Democrats” and the “fake news media.”

“And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you. … Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump said, referring to the U.S. Capitol, where both houses of Congress were set to certify the Biden-Harris presidency starting at 1 p.m. yesterday.

Hours later, Thompson tweeted that he was “locked in the Capitol and securing face masks for members” as extremists carrying Trump flags and Confederate flags scaled walls, broke windows, rammed doors, and rampaged throughout the Capitol building, looting offices and violently clashing with Capitol Police. Gunshots rang out on the House floor. Police reported finding pipe bombs and a cooler filled with Molotov cocktails on Capitol grounds.

At least four of the insurrectionists died yesterday, with police fatally shooting one woman, an Air Force veteran, after she attempted to break into the House floor. Three others died of “medical emergencies,” police said, including one man who suffered a heart attack, though they did not provide additional details. 

CNN reported today that at least 14 D.C. Metropolitan police officers suffered injuries, including one officer who the network reported “was hospitalized after suffering serious injuries when he was pulled into a crowd and assaulted.” 

Meanwhile, Trump, who had not marched alongside his supporters as the clash unfolded, watched the chaos from a White House television yesterday and continued making incendiary social-media posts that resulted in Facebook outright banning him from its platform and Twitter issuing a 12-hour ban.

‘Domestic Terrorism Incited By President Trump’

Hours passed before law enforcement secured the U.S. Capitol and members of Congress returned to finish certifying the 2020 election—a process Trump had dishonestly convinced supporters they could stop, allowing him to remain in power.

“What occurred yesterday at our nation’s Capitol was—pure and simple—domestic terrorism incited by President Trump, his enablers, and those seeking to overturn the results of a legitimate election,” Thompson said in today’s statement. “January 6, 2021 will go down in history as the date that an angry mob of domestic terrorists and insurrectionists illegally tried to prevent our elected representatives from fulfilling their constitutional duty in the orderly transfer of power.

“It was a sad day for our democracy. The public should rest assured that those of us charged with protecting the homeland will do our utmost to ensure that these terrorists and insurrectionists are held to account and that security is bolstered to guard against future attacks.”

U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson called for Trump’s impeachment today, saying the president represents a threat to national security. Photo courtesy U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.

Though Biden will take office on Jan. 20, Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called for Trump’s cabinet and Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power and seat Pence for the remaining 13 days of Trump’s term. If they do not, though, Pelosi said the House will consider a swift impeachment.

“In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people,” Pelosi said today, calling Trump “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. … If the vice president and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus.”

Thompson echoed her sentiments in the House Homeland Security Committee statement today.

“Though it has been apparent for years, it is more clear than ever that President Trump is a direct threat to the homeland each remaining minute he is in power,” Thompson said today. “He must be removed from office immediately.”

Impeachment Articles: ‘Incitement of Insurrection’

This evening, Democratic members of the U.S. House introduced articles of impeachment, citing Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” 

“Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump addressed a crowd of his political supporters nearby. There, he reiterated false claims that ‘We won this election, and we won it in a landslide.’ He also willfully made statements that encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—imminent lawless action at the Capitol,” the impeachment articles read. “Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel, menaced members of Congress and the Vice President, interfered with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the election results, and engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts. 

“President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021 was consistent with his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 election.” 

The impeachment articles also cite Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021 call to Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which the president urged the Peach State’s top election official to ‘find’ enough votes for him to overcome Biden’s margin of victory in the state. Trump “threatened Mr. Raffensperger if he failed to do so,” the articles state. 

“In all of this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coordinate branch of government,” the articles of impeachment say. “He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. 

“Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

After the 2018 Mueller Report documented multiple instances of Trump associates communicating with representatives for the Russian government ahead of that country’s attacks on the 2016 election, and the president’s subsequent efforts to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, Thompson became one of the first sitting members of Congress to call for impeachment. He made that statement in 2018 only as an individual U.S. House member, though—not as the House Homeland Security chairman.

The U.S. House did not impeach Trump after the Mueller Report’s partial release, which left many gaps because of Trump’s refusal to comply with subpoenas. Several months later, though, whistleblowers alerted Congress to Trump’s attempts to use foreign aid as leverage to extort Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into assisting his re-election efforts by fabricating claims that Biden and his son had engaged in illegal activity in the country.

Only one Republican member of the House or Senate, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, joined Democrats who voted to remove Trump from office last January.

Republicans Condemn Trump, Call for Removal

Across the country today, though, several Republican leaders have also called for Trump’s removal from office. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois lawmaker, said in a video message on social media today that he believes it is time to remove Trump and install a “sane captain of the ship.”

“Sadly, yesterday it became evident that not only has the president abdicated his duty to protect the American people and the people’s House, he invoked and inflamed passions that only gave fuel to the insurrection that we saw here,” Kinzinger said. “It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment and to end this nightmare.”

Rep. Steve Stivers, an Ohio Republican, shared a similar sentiment with Spectrum News.

“If the cabinet decided to (invoke the 25th Amendment), I would not oppose it, I will tell you,” Spectrum News reported him saying.

Former Trump White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told CNN today that he supports invoking the 25th Amendment. 

“I think the cabinet should meet and have a discussion,” Kelly said. I don’t think that it’ll happen, but I think the cabinet should meet and have a discussion. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I think the cabinet should meet and discuss this because the behavior yesterday and in the weeks and months before that has just been outrageous from the president.”

Two Trump cabinet officials, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also resigned today, blaming Trump for the insurrection.

“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” DeVos, a wealthy GOP donor whom first Trump first appointed in 2017, said in a resignation letter this evening.

U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Republican who represents Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, condemned violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but voted hours later to approve a failed attempt by some in his party to overturn the results of the 2020 election by refusing to certify the electoral college vote. Photo courtesy Rep. Steven Palazzo

Mississippi’s Republican members, Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo, have continued entertaining Trump’s false and unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election that helped spark yesterday’s insurrection. Even after the violent episode, all three voted for the failed attempt to block the certification of the 2020 election last night.

On the state level, though, Republicans and Democrats alike also condemned yesterday’s events.

“No man, no political party is greater than this country,” Mississippi House Rep. Missy McGee wrote on Twitter. 

Tupelo, Miss., Mayor Jason Shelton, a Democrat, tweeted that “Donald Trump’s supporters and a warring foreign nation are the only two groups to ever attack the United States’ Capitol,” referring to the 1814 Burning of Washington by British invaders. 

“Donald Trump is responsible for this and needs to be immediately impeached and removed from office,” he wrote.

Former Republican Mississippi House Rep. Mark Baker, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP nomination for Mississippi attorney general in 2019, said Trump “should be ashamed.”

“You can’t stack the wood, pour the gas, and light the match and then claim innocence. This was expected and intended,” Baker wrote.

‘People Were Willing to Die For This Man’

This evening, as talk of impeachment and the 25th Amendment heated up, Trump posted a video of a scripted speech in which he acknowledged, for the first time, that the country will inaugurate Joe Biden as the next president on January 20.

“My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” he says in the video, after falsely claiming that he “immediately deployed the National Guard yesterday.” 

In fact, numerous reports say Trump resisted calls to deploy the National Guard and that it was Vice President Pence who finally made the call hours after the insurrection began.

Trump then condemned the insurrectionists who he had, just a day before, ordered to march to the Capitol and “fight.”

President Donald J. Trump, seen here with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Jan. 6, soured on his running mate yesterday after Pence certified the 2020 election results, a constitutional duty of the vice presidency. Photo courtesy White House

“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay,” said Trump.

Just a day earlier, he told his supporters gathered in the nation’s capital that “we want to get this right.”

“Because we are going to have somebody in there that should not be in there and our country will be destroyed and we’re not going to stand for that,” Trump told the crowd hours before yesterday’s insurrection.

While the scripted video mollified some Republican senators who had flirted with the idea of supporting the president’s removal from office, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, it angered some of Trump’s supporters who gathered at the Capitol yesterday.

“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” tweeted Nicholas J. Fuentes, a pro-Trump media personality who was at the Capitol yesterday.

He reflected on the bloody insurrection this morning, writing, “Our American ancestors smile upon us.” Tonight, though, he complained that “people who stick their neck out for Trump seem to always wind up with their heads cut off.”

House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, though, did not budge on their calls for Trump’s removal from office after he posted his video.

“This morning, we placed a call to Vice President Pence to urge him to invoke the 25th Amendment which would allow the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet to remove the President for his incitement of insurrection and the danger he still poses.  We have not yet heard back from the vice president,” the Democratic leaders said in a statement this evening after Trump’s scripted remarks.

“The president’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office. We look forward to hearing from the Vice President as soon as possible and to receiving a positive answer as to whether he and the cabinet will honor their oath to the Constitution and the American people.”

Hyde-Smith Voted to Overturn Election, Wicker Opposed

If the House did impeach Trump, he would become the first president impeached twice. During his December 2019 impeachment over his attempts to extort Ukraine’s president into helping him damage Joe Biden’s candidacy, all three Republicans in Mississippi’s congressional delegation voted against impeaching him; Thompson alone voted for impeachment. 

In the Senate trial, both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Republicans Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, also voted against removing him from office. They also voted against allowing witness testimony during the trial, blocking dozens of officials and witnesses who offered to testify.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, seen here at a campaign event late last year, voted to block certification of the 2020 election results in Arizona even after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol today. Photo courtesy Hyde-Smith campaign

Last night, Hyde-Smith joined six fellow Republicans in the Senate who backed Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election by blocking certification of the 2020 election results; other Republicans who had planned to support the effort reneged after the violent insurrection. Among Mississippi’s congressional delegation, only Wicker in the Senate and Thompson in the House voted against the failed effort.

The senator noted that, under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’ role is “limited to counting electoral votes duly submitted by the states” and “anything further would not be compatible with our Constitution or the conservative principles of limited government that I have sworn to defend.”

“Congress cannot—and should not—get into the business of deciding the results of our elections,” said Wicker, who has rarely opposed Trump in the Senate.

‘One of the Worst Security Failures in Our Nation’s History’

In the House Homeland Security Committee statement today, Rep. Thompson described Trump and yesterday’s insurrection as a threat to national security.

“This domestic terrorism attack on the Capitol will go down as one of the worst security failures in our nation’s history. It was also the predictable realization of the Trump Administration’s reckless and willful ignorance of the threat posed by white supremacist extremists and other right-wing terrorists,” Thompson said. “It was well known that extremist groups, some of whom desire to foment civil war, were planning violence.

The Mississippi congressman called for “a thorough congressional investigation into the clear and massive breakdowns in preparedness and response” that made it possible for insurrectionists to storm the Capitol yesterday. Today, House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer insisted that both houses’ sergeant-at-arms step down, as well as Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund, whom Trump appointed to the position in 2019.

Hyde-Smith is the chairman of the Senate Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the United States Capitol Police. Capitol Police earned a bipartisan chorus of criticism since yesterday for its failure to secure the Capitol premises to prevent the violence on the hill. 

In addition to a clear lack of preparation for a protest by the president’s supporters, publicized well in advance, Capitol Police were captured on video moving barricades to give rioters entry to the Capitol as well as one taking a selfie with an insurrectionist who had breached the Capitol building itself.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is the ranking member second to Hyde-Smith on the Senate Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee, tweeted today that he has had two phone calls with the Capitol Police chief and one with the secretary of the Army along with Democratic House Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Tim Ryan of Ohio.

“There will be many videos, some will raise concern, some will show heroism. We need a full investigation on how the Capitol’s security was breached this quickly. As the ranking member on the committee that funds the Capitol Police, I intend to be at the forefront of that inquiry,” Murphy tweeted.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Hyde-Smith, has not publicly addressed the security lapse saying in a statement last night that “mobs will not stop the Senate from fulfilling its constitutional duty” as she vowed to “represent the people of Mississippi” by voting against certifying the electoral votes for Arizona, a key swing state Biden won and with claim of voter fraud already debunked.

This evening, Hyde-Smith’s office sent a statement to the Mississippi Free Press, saying she “continues to monitor the security situation over at the Capitol closely.”

“Committees of jurisdiction, the U.S. Capitol Police and others will examine these events thoroughly in terms of how this tragedy occurred, how to prevent a repeated occurrence, and how to improve the security of the Capitol Campus while ensuring orderly and appropriate public access,” the statement reads.

In the House Homeland Security Statement this afternoon, House Homeland Security Chairman Thompson tied yesterday’s events to the rise of white supremacist terrorism. His committee, he said, “has been examining the threat from domestic terrorism, right-wing extremism, and white nationalism for ten years and this will be at the top of our agenda for the new Congress.”

“Nearly twenty years after 9/11, we still clearly have massive gaps in the federal government’s terrorism preparedness and response capabilities that must be immediately addressed. In addition, it could not be more stark and damning to contrast the federal police response to violent gun-wielding domestic terrorists storming the Capitol yesterday with the treatment of migrant families at the border and peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters,” Thompson said.

He was referring partly to Trump’s brutal crackdown on anti-racism protesters, whether peaceful or not, over the summer, including in Washington, D.C., where he ordered a chemical attack on peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. 

For two years now, Thompson has also led inquiries into Trump’s immigration practices, including his ICE raids at Mississippi poultry plants and his practice of separating families at the border and placing immigrant children in cages and camps.

‘We Witnessed Two Systems of Justice’

During an address today, President-elect Biden exorciated the media, warning them against watering down their descriptions of the Trump faithful who stormed the Capitol with the president’s blessing yesterday.

“What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was not disorder. It was not protest. It was chaos. They weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple,” Biden said.

Like Thompson, the incoming president saw a double standard in the way law enforcement and the Trump administration responded to yesterday’s insurrection compared to his treatment of Black Lives Matter activists.

“No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they would not have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know this is true,” Biden said today.

The incoming president used the occasion to announce his nomination of Merrick Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for the nation’s next attorney general. 

Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative on the court, died in early 2016. Republicans, led by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and including Sen. Wicker, blocked the nomination and refused to allow hearings on the Garland nomination, saying they believed presidents should not be allowed to appoint new Supreme Court justices in a presidential election year. 

Most of those same senators, including Wicker, reneged on that principle late last year though, after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of cancer, rushing to quickly confirm Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett to Ginsburg’s seat. Today, though, Biden said that after conversations with lawmakers, he believed the Senate would quickly confirm Garland as attorney general.

President-elect Joe Biden, seen here in November with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will take office on Jan. 20. Photo courtesy Biden-Harris Presidential Transition

The incoming president also nominated Vanita Gupta, the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former Justice Department assistant attorney general, for the Civil Rights Division.

“When Justice Garland and I were talking we talked about the reason the Justice Department was formed in the first place back in 1870,” Biden said today. “We didn’t have a Justice Department before that, the cabinet. It was formed in 1870 to enforce the civil rights amendment that grew out of the Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, to stand up to the Klan, to stand up to racism, to take on domestic terrorism.

“This original spirit must again guide and animate its work,” Biden continued. “So as we stand here today, we do so in the wake of yesterday’s events—events that could not more have vividly demonstrated some of the most important work we have to do in this nation committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation, invigorating our domestic and democratic institutions (and) carrying out equal justice under the law in America.”

After Biden spoke, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addressed the nation.

“We witnessed two systems of justice when we saw one that let extremists storm the United States Capitol and another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer,” said Harris, a California senator who, on Jan. 20, will become the first woman, Black or person of Indian descent to serve as second in line to the president. 

Harris said the U.S. justice system needs more than a “reformation”—it needs a “transformation.”

“The American people have rightly expressed outrage,” she said. “We know this is unacceptable. We know we should be better than this.”

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