Editorial: America, we’ve got to hang on just two more weeks

Supporters of President Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol
Supporters of President Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

It pains us to write these words, but Americans need to be assured that the president of the United States will do no further damage to the republic in his remaining days in office. The public also needs to know that President Trump and his enablers will face consequences for their roles in Wednesday’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. The means to either of those ends, however, are not at all clear.

Trump, who has evinced no regret nor taken any responsibility for the riot, finally acknowledged early Thursday morning that “there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.” (He did so again in a video late Thursday afternoon.) It should never be newsworthy when a defeated incumbent says such a thing in this country, but here we are. Worse, Trump’s initial statement came only after Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and only after Trump claimed yet again that he was the real winner. Given the president’s vows to “never concede” and “never surrender,” it’s unnerving to imagine how he might use the awesome powers of his office in the waning days of his term.

For the record:

4:30 p.m. Jan. 7, 2021An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Twitter was one of the social networks that had suspended President Trump’s account until he leaves office. It suspended Trump Wednesday, but for only 24 hours.

Hence the interest shown by multiple lawmakers from both parties in impeaching Trump again, with the aim of not just removing him from office but barring him from ever serving again. We endorse the sentiment, but succeeding would require Senate Republicans to show more courage and responsibility than they have to date, and the process itself could take more time than Trump has left in his term.


Another idea bandied about is for Vice President Pence to lead an effort to remove Trump by invoking the 25th Amendment, persuading a majority of the Cabinet to declare to Congress that Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”But doing so would set a dangerous and unwelcome precedent. Set in motion by President Kennedy’s assassination, the amendment was intended to be used when a president was physically or mentally incapacitated, not when he acts recklessly or irresponsibly. And Pence reportedly wants no part of such an effort.

Realistically, we’re left counting on Pence and other members of the administration to isolate Trump and prevent him from taking any further self-aggrandizing steps. In the meantime, it will help enormously that Facebook and other social media networks have (belatedly) denied their megaphones to Trump at least until he’s no longer president.

As for consequences for the rioters and their instigators, federal prosecutors announced that they’d filed charges in 55 cases related to the disturbance, and that they were looking at “anyone that had a role.” They should go wherever the evidence leads them.

In the long run, though, the most important thing is ensuring the failure of the politicians who sought to undermine our democracy. Ushered into power on a red wave, Trump has led his party to disaster; Republicans have lost control of the House, the White House and now the Senate. It’s up to voters to bring accountability to Trump, his acolytes and his enablers — particularly the more than 120 House members and more than a dozen senators who embraced his baseless assertions of large-scale election fraud in an attempt to overturn the election. They should never win office again.