Alan Zendell, January 11, 2021
There will be a reckoning for the Capitol insurrection. It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” And the when is critical right now, as right-wing militant groups enabled and incited by the president and his supporters continue to threaten further violence in Washington and at statehouses around the country. That makes “immediately” the only possible answer to when.
If there was ever a time to act with urgency and dispatch, that time is now. Strong public examples must be made of those who were responsible, whether they took part in murdering a police officer, breaking windows, or standing safely on a raised platform with a microphone inciting the crowd. We need to hear from the FBI and the Justice Department, and if it turns out that Trump has sabotaged his own DOJ to the point where they are impotent, then Merrick Garland, President-Elect Biden’s nominee for Attorney General should speak out. In normal times that would breach protocol, but Trump has trashed every notion of protocol and decorum. We need to hear, right now, that federal prosecutors will be instructed to press for maximum sentences that will put those responsible away for a long time.
We also need to hear from Congress. Their message must be bipartisan and it must be one of zero tolerance with respect to its own members. No half measures like censure or finger pointing. A good start would be the expulsion of the worst offender from each Branch: Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. This can be done quickly and painlessly. Nothing less than a call for unanimous consent will do.
There also needs to be an accounting of how many members of Congress played an active role in inciting the insurrection. Many of the 147 Republicans in the Congress who objected to certifying the Electoral Vote count were simply cowards, allowing themselves to be bullied by fears that Trump’s base would punish them at the polls. But some went further. Some helped stoke the most radical and dangerous people in that base on Twitter, Facebook, and the more dangerous fringe sites. Some helped rile the crowd that invaded the Capitol, and a few even marched with them. They all need to face public humiliation and censure; the worst of them have no business remaining in Congress and should face prosecution as co-conspirators.
There are many legal precedents that hold anyone committing a crime responsible for all the consequences of their actions. A burglar who breaks into someone’s home, unarmed, with no intent to injure or kill, can be charged with homicide if the victim suffers a heart attack and dies as a result of the crime. Likewise, former prosecutors and justice officials are lining up to state that anyone involved in the conspiracy to commit insurrection should be charged in the deaths that resulted as well as attempting a coup and destroying public property. That means everyone from Donald Trump on down who can be shown to have played a role in what we saw on January 6th, including Donald Trump Jr. and Rudolph Giuliani. And we should take a hard look at the actions of Senator Ted Cruz and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Only fast, dramatic action has a chance of limiting further violence. The anarchists and criminals who want to bring down the government and destroy our republic may not be deterred, but the thousands of hangers on and joy riders who were there just to enjoy the thrill of lawlessness and the false sense of empowerment will realize their errors. If they know they will lose their livelihoods, and in many cases, their freedom; if they know they will face humiliation and ostracism in front of their friends and family; if we make that clear to them, so that even the dimmest among them can understand, it won’t seem like fun anymore, and they’ll stay home next time.
Finally, as the number of Americans dead from COVID streaks toward 400,000 and beyond, it’s also time to investigate the vaccine distribution debacle. It was largely a result of incompetence and criminal neglect, but Americans deserve full transparency on decisions that were made by Trump political operatives. Thousands of Americans die every day because of those decisions. From the moment the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved, anyone who died because he couldn’t get vaccinated in time will have died because of them. Actions have consequences, and it’s time those responsible were held accountable.