Editorial: Trump is responsible for the violent storming of U.S. Capitol

People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol.
People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington.
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

Farce edged toward insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as a mob thousands strong — egged on by President Trump — breached barriers and forced their way into the halls of Congress, sending members and Vice President Mike Pence fleeing to safety and halting the process that would certify Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

At what point does this get called an attempted coup?

It has often been said that if the United States were to succumb, it would be because of an attack from within, not an assault by terrorists or by a foreign adversary. And indeed, democracy is under actual, physical assault, in the Capitol, by Americans inflamed by the president of the United States, because he rejected the decisions made by voters, states and courts. This display of distrust in American institutions is far beyond what Osama bin Laden or Vladimir Putin could have hoped for. This was their goal: to destabilize and de-legitimize.

In the wake of the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, the top two Democrats in Congress — Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer — called for the removal of President Trump from office.

Jan. 8, 2021

Earlier, Trump appeared at a rally of his supporters outside the White House and repeated his baseless allegations that he had been cheated out of a second term, urged attendees to march to the Capitol and even said he would join them (he did not).


The ensuing scenes were surreal. Flag-waving, chanting and cursing throngs overwhelmed security barriers and police in riot gear — injuring a number of them — and packed onto the Capitol verandas while other Trump supporters strolled through Statuary Hall and the Rotunda. Many made it into the legislative chambers themselves, reportedly by breaking through locked glass doors at one point, with reports of gunfire and warnings by police to House members to don gas masks. Tear gas swirled through the House side of the Capitol, and the building was placed on lockdown.

At least one person was shot inside the Capitol and later died, though it was unclear how that event unfolded.

With members of Congress advised to shelter in place and consider ducking under their desks should marauders enter their offices, Trump finally tweeted a lame admonition to his followers: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Then a half hour later: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

Nothing about storming the Capitol. Nothing about forcing Congress into recess. No demands for retreat by the forces he himself had urged to descend on Washington to protest the certification of the electoral college votes.

(Trump eventually — after the National Guard was called out and after a public statement by Biden condemning the mob attack — posted a video repeating his lies about the election but also urged his supporters to “go home, and go home in peace.”)

Trump supporters gather in the U.S. capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory over President Trump.

Jan. 7, 2021


Much has been said about Trump breaking norms as a politician and as a president. But this goes far beyond challenging the status quo or “draining the swamp.” The sitting president of the United States, in an effort to undo the will of the American electorate, is complicit in the storming of the U.S. Capitol to halt the peaceful transfer of power.

This is the predictable outcome of the grotesque charade being played not just by Trump but by Sens. Ted. Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and others who have aligned with Trump’s blatantly false assertions of voting fraud. Attacking democratic institutions attacks democracy itself, and what the nation witnessed Wednesday in Washington is the power of the mob to destabilize even the most stable of democracies.

The responsibility for this day of unconscionable attacks by Americans on the heart of our elective system belongs to Trump. But his enablers have much to answer for as well, and much to regret.


1:38 p.m. Jan. 6, 2021: This editorial was updated to reflect new developments.