1/06 A Dark Day for Democracy

In the midst of a horrifying episode in American history, when extremists incited by President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to interrupt a process mandated by the U.S. Constitution, President-elect Joe Biden reminded us that “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are.”

VPP’s bipartisan Advisory Board members also spoke out. Christine Todd Whitman, former two-term Governor of New Jersey, said “it’s time to put an end to the court challenges, publicity stunts, and unsubtle coup attempts, and let our elected officials get on with their jobs.” Read her op-ed here. Former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer reminded us that we knew this day might be coming and now we must “focus on the reform of laws, structures and attitudes we really need.” Read his piece here. Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, President of the Major County Sheriffs of America, released a statement noting that “the outrageous actions of rioters storming the Capitol and disrupting the democratic process run counter to the ideals on which this nation is based.”

Included below and linked here are messaging guidance and frequently asked questions to respond to today’s violence in the U.S. Capitol.

National Update

Joint Session of Congress: Congressional members were in the middle certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, pursuant to procedures laid out by federal law, when a mob of Trump supporters breached security at the Capitol. Police locked down the complex and escorted lawmakers to secure locations. Prior to evacuation, GOP lawmakers had objected to results from Arizona, a move that prompted each chamber to begin debating the objection separately.

At around 8 pm tonight, Congress reconvened in the Capitol in order to complete the count. Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer vowed to complete the process this evening.

Attack on the U.S. Capitol: As extremists stormed the Capitol building, disrupting congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and creating chaos in the halls of Congress, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine called on President Trump to immediately tell his supporters to cease and desist. Watch AG Racine on CNN here.

In a statement, AG Racine said President Trump must “do what he has not yet done, but what he must do: order his supporters to leave the District of Columbia and fully embrace the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.” Read more here.

25th Amendment: The Washington Post Editorial Board quickly called for the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the President, following the violence at the Capitol. The Editorial Board rites, “President Trump’s refusal to accept his election defeat and his relentless incitement of his supporters led Wednesday to the unthinkable: an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob that overwhelmed police and drove Congress from its chambers as it was debating the counting of electoral votes. Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president, who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to U.S. democracy. He should be removed.” Read the full piece here.

Messaging Guidance and FAQ: Violence in the U.S. Capitol

  • Today, Congress met in a joint session to count the Electoral College votes submitted by the states and confirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.
  • The session was set to affirm the votes in the states and uphold the will of the American people, who voted in record numbers to choose our next President.
  • Instead, extremists breached the Capitol Building and vandalized the symbol of our democracy.
  • The President and his supporters have repeatedly incited violence from extremists. Those words resulted in today’s violence.
  • This is an active, dynamic, and dangerous situation. The first priority is public safety. Law enforcement needs our full support. Prosecutions will come later.
  • With the safety of our Capitol and our lawmakers now in hand, Congress has reconvened to finish the job of counting the electoral votes.
  • Now more than ever, we see how dangerous conspiracy theories are. Every member of Congress should condemn the violence and publicly reject the President’s lies about the election. They fueled today’s events, including when he repeated them in the middle of the rioting.
  • Political stunts have costs. Sometimes those costs are dangerous. Today is clear evidence of that.
  • Peaceful expression is protected by the First Amendment, but that is not what we are witnessing. What is happening is un-American, illegal, and goes against everything our country stands for.
  • These acts by traitors to our country will do nothing to change the outcome of the election. These are futile acts of sedition and treachery.
  • Those members of Congress who were planning to defy the will of the American people and challenge the electors to indulge President Trump’s election fantasy must reverse course.
  • The President and his enablers must disavow these acts of violence and commit to upholding the rule of law and our democracy by moving forward with a peaceful transition of power.

FAQs  

  • What happens with the Joint Session now?
    • This is an active, dangerous situation. The first priority is public safety.
    • With the safety of our Capitol and our lawmakers now in hand, Congress has reconvened to finish the job of counting the electoral votes.
    • There is no constitutional requirement to finish the Electoral College votes today.
    • The Electoral College Act contemplates it taking multiple days (3 U.S.C. 16), and so Congress can deal with any immaterial timing issues that were triggered by today’s events.
  • What are the criminal implications for those responsible for the violence? And the president?
    • Prosecutions will come later and we are confident that those who engaged in acts of violence and those who incited violence will be held accountable. But first, we need to secure our Capitol and finish counting the votes.
    • The Constitution has two mechanisms for a President who cannot be trusted to hold office: the 25th Amendment and impeachment. Congress should evaluate both.
  • What should members of Congress be doing in response to this?
    • These traitorous acts, while deeply dangerous, will do nothing to change the outcome of the election.
    • The President and his enablers must disavow these acts of violence and commit to upholding the rule of law and our democracy by moving forward with a peaceful transition of power.
    • Every member of Congress should condemn the violence and publicly reject the President’s lies about the election that fueled today’s events.
    • It’s long past time to come together as Americans and address the very real health and economic crises we face.

 

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