J Street is horrified and outraged by Wednesday’s unprecedented attack on a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol by far-right extremists acting at the incitement of President Trump and his allies. Our thoughts are with all of the members of Congress, congressional staffers, Capitol staff, journalists and security officers whose lives were put in danger yesterday by this act of insurrection and terror.
This attack had a clear goal: To overturn the results of a free and fair democratic election by obstructing the certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. It had clear ideological instigators: President Trump and numerous Republican leaders and members of Congress who have repeatedly refused to respect the election results, who have lied to their supporters about nonexistent election fraud and who have called on their most extreme followers to mobilize and challenge the implementation of the election results. Their seditious behavior has marked them as opponents of democracy and a danger to our country.
We are tremendously relieved that no lawmakers or their staff appear to have been physically injured during this attack, and that it disrupted the successful certification of Joe Biden as the next president for only a few hours. We are confident that responsible lawmakers and leaders who respect democracy, supported by the vast majority of Americans, can and will prevail over insurrectionists and extremists. But we also know that the threat to our democracy and our national security has not disappeared.
Even while yesterday’s attack was ongoing, President Trump told the attackers “We love you. You’re very special.” The President of the United States has shown himself to be fundamentally opposed to democracy and has actively sought to reject and prevent the peaceful transition of power to his successor — a first for a president in our history. He is a clear and present danger to our country and the world and cannot be allowed to remain in such a powerful office even for 13 more days, where the damage he could continue to do is incalculable.
J Street, therefore, calls on leaders and lawmakers to take whatever legal steps are necessary to remove him from office immediately.
If Vice President Pence and the President’s Cabinet do not invoke the 25th amendment to relieve the President of his duties, then the House must instigate impeachment proceedings and the Senate must vote to remove him. Furthermore, a responsible Department of Justice should investigate whether the president has committed any criminal acts with respect to his attempts to overturn the election results and hold him accountable if he has. Authorities should investigate and prosecute all those who participated in or contributed to yesterday’s attack.
While yesterday’s events were stunning and unbelievable, they were in other ways unsurprising. J Street has consistently highlighted the fact that Donald Trump was and is — even and especially in these final days — unfit to be President of the United States.
In March of 2016 we wrote that then-candidate Trump was “unfit to be President of the United States” and warned that “As people who experienced personally — or whose parents or grandparents experienced — the horrors of authoritarian regimes in the last century, we are particularly alert to the threat of demagogues who prey on fear and peddle prejudice while inciting their supporters to violence.”
In August 2017, following Trump’s comments on the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, we wrote that Trump “made unequivocally clear that he lacks the basic decency and moral understanding that should be required of any public official, let alone the President of the United States.”
In January of 2020, we committed to formally endorsing the eventual Democratic presidential nominee against Trump, stating that “We feel an incredible sense of urgency about doing everything we can to remove Trump from office and replace him with somebody who shares our values.”
It is with that record in mind that today we make this extraordinary call to remove a sitting president in his final weeks in office.
We didn’t have to get to this moment. It is astonishing that far too many political and communal leaders have decided that their agreement with some of Trump’s domestic or foreign policies could be allowed to outweigh or in some way mitigate the obvious danger of his bigotry, embrace of extremists and contempt for the law.
Even after Joe Biden takes office as President of the United States, it’s clear that the threat posed by violent far-right extremists and their political allies will not disappear. Trump and members of his party have crossed too many red lines and unleashed too much destruction to be repaired overnight. Even yesterday evening, with the damage done by the attackers still visible in the Capitol, a majority of House Republicans and six Republican Senators objected to the election results certification and continued to fuel the deadly conspiracy theory. They have learned no lesson and may even feel emboldened by what has occurred.
History shows us that there is nothing guaranteed about democracy or democratic freedoms. The United States is not immune to the disasters that have befallen other countries and societies. Moving forward, it will take vigilance and determination from all those who believe in democracy to defend it, strengthen it and hold accountable those who have weakened and continue to attack it. J Street is proud to be part of the vast majority of Americans and American Jews who are ready and willing to stand together and do that work.