Five Horrifying Truths About What Occurred Three Years Ago – OpEd


Three years ago, the United States Capitol was attacked by thousands of armed loyalists to Donald Trump, some intent on killing members of Congress. 

Roughly 140 officers were injured in the attack. Four people died during the storming, while Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who participated in the response, passed away the following day. Another Capitol Police officer and one D.C. police officer who also responded to the attack have since died by suicide. 

January 6, 2021, will be remembered as one of the most shameful days in American history. 

Yet three years later, Americans remain confused and divided about the significance of what occurred. 

Let me offer five basic truths:

1. The events of January 6 capped two months during which Donald Trump sought to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election.

In the wake of the election, Trump repeatedly asserted that he had won and Biden had lost, without any basis in fact or law. Sixty federal courts as well as Trump’s own Departments of Justice and Homeland Security concluded that there was no evidence of substantial fraud.

Trump summoned to the White House Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania and Michigan to inquire about how they might alter the election results. 

He called two local canvassing board officials in Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county and one that overwhelmingly favored Biden.

He phoned Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes,” according to a recording of that conversation, adding “the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

He threatened Georgia’s secretary of state with criminal prosecution if he did not do as Trump told him. “You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”

He pressed the acting U.S. attorney general and deputy attorney general to declare the election fraudulent. 

When the deputy said the department had found no evidence of widespread fraud and warned that it had no power to change the outcome of the election, Trump replied, “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to Trump’s congressional allies.

Trump and his allies continued to harangue the attorney general and top Justice Department officials nearly every day until January 6.

Trump plotted with an assistant attorney general to oust the acting attorney general and pressure lawmakers in Georgia to overturn the state’s election results. Trump ultimately decided against it after top department leaders pledged to resign en masse.

2. Trump then incited the attack on the Capitol.

For weeks before the attack, Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington for a “Save America” protest on January 6, when Congress was to ceremonially count the electoral votes of Joe Biden’s win. 

He tweeted on December 19: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” On December 26: “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow.” 

On December 30, he tweeted: “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” On January 1: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”

At a rally he held just before the violence, Trump repeated his lies about how the election was stolen. “We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He told the crowd that Republicans were fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back, respectful of everyone — “including bad people.”

He said:

“We’re going to have to fight much harder…. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong….We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.“

He then told the crowd that “different rules” applied to them. 

“When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike [Pence] has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

Then — knowing that members of the crowd were armed — he dispatched them to the Capitol as the electoral count was about to start. The attack on the Capitol came immediately after.

He watched the attack on television from the White House. For three hours, he made no attempt to stop it or tweet to his supporters asking they refrain from violence. 

3. Trump’s attempted coup continues to this day.

Trump still refuses to concede the 2020 election. He continues to assert it was stolen. 

He has presided over a network of loyalists and allies who sought to overturn the election and erode public confidence in it by mounting partisan state “audits” and escalating attacks on state election officials. 

A year later, on January 6, 2022, Trump hosted a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“Remember,” he said, “the insurrection took place on November 3rd. It was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th.” (Reminder: they were armed.) 

Trump then referred to the House investigation of the attack on the Capitol: “Why isn’t the Unselect Committee of highly partisan political hacks investigating the CAUSE of the January 6th protest, which was the rigged Presidential Election of 2020?”

He went on to castigate “Rinos,” presumably referring to his opponents within the party, such as Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who sat on the January 6 committee. “In many ways a Rino is worse than a Radical Left Democrat,” Trump said, “because you don’t know where they are coming from and you have no idea how bad they really are for our Country.” He added, “the good news is there are fewer and fewer RINOs left as we elect strong Patriots who love America.”

Trump then led a purge of congressional Republicans who had failed to support him. He endorsed a primary challenger to Cheney, who then lost her reelection bid in Wyoming. Kinzinger left Congress. 

Trump is now running for president again, with a wide lead over other Republican candidates for the nomination. 

Since he launched his campaign, he has called January 6, 2021, “a beautiful day” and described those imprisoned for the insurrection as “great, great patriots”and “hostages.” 

At his campaign rallies, he has played a recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by jailed rioters, accompanied by his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Today, Trump will spend the third anniversary of the January 6 attack at two rallies in Iowa.

4. Trump has still not been held accountable.

Trump’s post-riot impeachment was rejected by Republican senators, including Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who claimed there were better ways to hold him accountable than impeaching him. 

Although the House January 6 committee had no direct power to hold Trump accountable, its revelations did affect the 2022 midterms, in which many Republican candidates who had supported Trump’s lies were defeated. It also laid a foundation for the Justice Department’s indictment of Trump.

The Republican presidential primaries have not held Trump accountable. To the contrary, the Justice Department’s indictment and a similar indictment in Georgia have apparently strengthened Trump’s grip on the nomination, as he uses them as evidence that he’s being persecuted. 

The Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s secretary of state have determined that Trump should not be on their state ballots because of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which bars someone who previously swore allegiance to the Constitution but then engaged in an insurrection from holding public office. Trump has appealed the decisions. 

5. Trump maintains a demagogic hold over the Republican Party.

According to recent polls, 70 percent of Republican voters believe his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Thirty-four percent of Republicans believe the FBI organized and encouraged the insurrection (compared with 30 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats).

The Republican Party is close to becoming a cult whose central animating idea is that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Trump has had help, of course. Fox News hosts and social media groups have promoted and amplified his ravings for their own purposes. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress and in the states have played along.

The 2024 election will likely be the final opportunity to hold Trump accountable for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including his attempted coup three years ago today. 

The 2024 election may therefore be the last chance for American democracy to function.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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