And so it comes to this: a new record broken by an American. This one’s a bit odd though, I have to say: Donald Trump is the first US president to have the dubious honour of being impeached twice.
The first time Trump was impeached, it related to his asking for favours from Ukraine, stating that if Ukraine didn’t assist, funds would be withheld. This time it’s because he incited the riot at the US Capitol. One odd aspect is the lack of loyalty: the first time round, the Republicans closed ranks and so the vote concerning the impeachment was conducted along party lines. This time, however, things are different. Trump has been thrown to the wolves by his own.
The House of Representatives has voted to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection’. This relates to a speech Trump made:
“And after this, we're going to walk down there, and I'll be there with you, we're going to walk down...to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women…And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
In addition to this, Trump spoke of the rigging of the elections by radical democrats and media that creates fake news, before adding:
“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved…Our country has had enough. We're not going to take it anymore."
Now, presumably as a result of not living in the USA, I’m slightly at a loss to identify the connection between these messages on social media and the riot at the US Capitol.
“I know that everybody here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
To my mind that’s not much incitement to riot, but again…I’m here, not there. Maybe the situation in the US truly is that of a gunpowder barrel with a lighted match balanced precariously on top.
Quite aside from whether Trump’s words do amount to incitement to riot, notwithstanding whether the second impeachment can be considered anything other than a tactic by the Democrats to splash yet more mud over Trump’s presidency, there are things inside this milkshake of an event which would well repay inspection.
According to media reports about the chaotic scenes witnessed at the US Capitol, there were 10,000 people who marched to the Capitol building. That’s an awful lot of people. Of those 10,000, dozens of protesters broke through police lines around the building and ran riot inside. This is the bit which is causing me trouble. This is the USA, a country where sometimes it seems like everyone is armed, civilians, and officials alike.
This is the country of the FBI, the DEA, the CIA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, police SWAT teams, the national guard, Homeland Security, the army, the navy, and the air force, and more besides. There are plenty of people who could be called upon whose job it is to protect the property of the state.
So why weren’t they there?
According to an FBI report:
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, D.C.,”
Details of what should be expected were also provided:
“An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating, ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Antifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
Surely this, rather than what Trump tweeted, qualifies as incitement. Typically, there seems to be some confusion about what the FBI knew. In contrast to the messages above, according to a senior FBI official, they had no indication of anything planned for January 6th apart from “First Amendment-protected activity”. Clear as mud, as it might be, not only were “Operation Occupy the Capitol” pamphlets being circulated on Instagram and Facebook in advance of the march, but the FBI visited various people it identified as potential troublemakers and persuaded them to stay at home. Facts which suggest they did know what was on the cards.
Perhaps this is only due to what we experienced in Hungary in 2006. The events in Washington seem to bear a striking resemblance to what the socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, in cahoots with the head of the Budapest police, managed to set up.
In 2006, as a means of providing an excuse to crack down with all the force that the state could muster against those citizens who took offence at the admitted lies of the government, a small group of under-equipped police were essentially left to the mercy of a group of rioters at the state TV headquarters. They radioed for help, but none was forthcoming. They battled on alone. Unbeknownst to them at the time, only a couple of streets away, their well-equipped police colleagues were concealed inside various buildings. However, to utilise them would have spoilt the plan. So, having ensured that we all witnessed the bloody nose the police received, the green light to violently attack peaceful demonstrators was seen to be morally legitimate.
When the dozens of rioters stormed the Capitol building, they brushed the police aside. After they’d been sent packing, 20,000 members of the National Guard were brought in to maintain security. 20,000. Why weren’t they called in earlier? Is this not the preamble to something which we first saw in Budapest?
Now, as Biden prepares to take office, what exactly can we see?
Yes, 20,000 soldiers and extra security fences.
We’ve seen this sort of thing before. And if things progress the way they’re shaping up to, then we know where it’ll lead.
The Democrats may have pulled out a card to trump Trump, but that one card might just turn out to be a falling domino.