WASHINGTON—Jan. 20, 2021: It was a Presidential Inauguration like never before, like that of a scene in a banana republic that this country’s pundits are fond of mocking.
At least 25,000 armed federal troops occupied the Capital City—five times more troops than in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. They established a “red zone,” surrounded by a larger “green zone” in downtown D.C. The city looked like a slum, full of boarded up buildings, blocked off streets.
The Capitol complex, where the swearing-in was set to take place, to the White House were surrounded by nine-foot-tall fences. The outgoing president, who was impeached with bi-partisan support for an unprecedented second time in his one term, was not present. His absence complicated important protocols, including the transfer of nuclear weapons codes.
And right up until his last minutes in office Donald J. Trump made mischief, adding $7.8 trillion to the national debt, and leaving with a bleak 29 percent approval rating, with state prosecutors in New York and Georgia—in addition to federal investigators—circling over his head like condors.
Mr. Trump even tried to coerce a resistant Pentagon to regale him with “a military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters,” and he announced he wanted to raise $2 billion to build his presidential library in Florida.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris—wanting desperately for the day to be about their victory and a “peaceful” transition of power—were made to watch as sitting members of Congress, the wife of a Supreme Court justice, state legislators, doctors, a retired military flag-rank officer, off-duty police and firefighters, an Olympic gold medalist, the son of a police chief, and the son of a judge were all implicated in a desperate attempted coup d’état Jan. 6, when thousands of Mr. Trump’s supporters breeched and defiled the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the lawful and certified 2020 presidential election which Mr. Biden won.
Numerous state capitols nationwide were also on lockdown, with windows boarded up, National Guard troops deployed and states of emergency declared as authorities in those places braced for potential violence mimicking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of pro-Trump rioters.
It was a U.S. presidential inauguration like never before.
“This president’s refusal to take part in a peaceful transfer of power—and his role in causing last week’s violence—pose an existential threat to our constitutional democracy,” Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a floor speech supporting Mr. Trump’s removal from office. “This threat must be extinguished immediately. This president must be impeached and convicted, and he must be prevented from attempting to seize power ever again.”
“The survival of our democracy depends on defeated candidates accepting their defeats. It has been done in every presidential election since 1864, however stark the differences between the candidates,” Mr. Clyburn continued.
But first, House members insisted they had several scores to settle. “This has moved past the insurrection attempt,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) via social media. “We’ve learned that GOP members gave tours to insurrectionists, coordinated with their leaders, and are trying to carry guns on the House floor.” One GOP member allegedly even tweeted the whereabouts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Capitol invaders on Jan. 6, while sheltered from the mob in a secure location. “They’re putting barriers around the Capitol, but the threat is on the inside right now,” said Rep. Bush.
In addition, Capitol building closed circuit TV recordings showed Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) involved in giving “reconnaissance” tours to groups, allegedly members of the riotous horde, who returned the following day to sack the building, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” because the vice president declined to violate his constitutional oath and not certify the Biden election victory on Jan. 6.
Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) reported that the so-called “panic buttons” in their offices, to alert security of an imminent threat, had been removed ahead of the Jan. 6 attack.
At least 30 House Democrats have signed a letter calling for those and other members to be expelled, citing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, under the United States, or under any State, who … shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Mr. Trump’s second impeachment charges him with “… high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States,” when he provoked the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
In 1861, shortly after the Civil War erupted, 15 Senators and five House members were expelled from Congress for their sympathies with the Confederacy.
Before the Trump inspired mob stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, posted support for the insurrection to Facebook.
She urged people to pay attention to the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally to be held on grounds near the White House. “LOVE MAGA people!!!!” she posted, adding minutes later, “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING.” There are also allegations that she personally financed as many as 80 busloads of people coming to Washington for the protest.
Going forward, the Biden agenda—almost obscured from public attention by news of the insurrection and its potential high-level collaborators—was intended to address the worsening Covid-19 pandemic and the disastrous economic consequences it caused.
On his very first day in office, Mr. Biden planned to return the U.S. to the Paris climate accords; to repeal the ban on U.S. entry for citizens of some majority-Muslim countries; to sign an order extending nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures; and to implement a mandate requiring face masks be worn on all federal property.
In addition, the new president planned to take executive actions to help schools reopen, expand coronavirus testing and to establish clearer public health standards. “President-elect Biden will take action—not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration—but also to start moving our country forward,” incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain wrote in a memo released Jan. 16.
Mr. Biden also intended to send to Congress several pieces of legislation including an immigration bill. In remarks Jan. 15, he outlined legislation that he views as most urgent—a $1.9 trillion plan aimed at stabilizing the economy to be followed in February by another economic relief, stimulus proposal.
But it will be difficult to ignore the lasting impact of Mr. Trump who was described by one critic as “a living, breathing, impeachable offense.” Mr. Trump was impeached, or charged with wrongdoing by the House, twice. The Senate would have to vote to remove him or punish him in a trial. Mr. Trump lost the popular vote in both his elections, and yet he managed to appoint a third of the members of the Supreme Court and fourth of federal judiciary.