Living History: The Hectic Path to Biden’s Inauguration

Protesters+at+the+US+Capitol+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+on+Jan.+6+invaded+the+Capitol+building%2C+urging+the+US+to+%22stop+the+steal%22+of+the+2020+election.

Amintta Ragavanis

Protesters at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 invaded the Capitol building, urging the US to “stop the steal” of the 2020 election.

With less than three weeks left in his presidency, President Donald Trump held a “Save America Rally,” and it was followed by a storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. Protesters, wearing MAGA hats and carrying MAGA flags, went to the Capitol shouting “stop the steal” as the process to count the electoral votes began. As the day ended, the senators went back to work and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser put a curfew in place. Prior to that, windows were smashed, gas masks were put on, the Capitol was evacuated, and four were left dead. A question many Americans had was: how did we get here? 

The presidential election of 2020 was close; Joe Biden was not declared victorious for days. Poll workers in many states worked tirelessly to count the many mail-in ballots that were sent in because of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump and his allies did not accept defeat. According to NBC (nbcnews.com), there have been many hand counts, audits, legal challenges, and investigations into voter fraud that did not provide any evidence to support President Trump’s claims of fraud. The incumbent claimed that dead people were voting in battleground states, Republican poll watchers were barred from watching the voting, Democrats manipulated the polling machines to accept fake signatures, and votes for Biden were “dumped” after the in-person voting count concluded, according to Forbes (forbes.com). He and his team have filed over 50 lawsuits. The attorney general at the time, William Barr, denied that there was any serious voter fraud that occurred. Still, many Republicans continued to support Trump’s claims. Others, like Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who stated, “[This riot] is what the President has caused today, this insurrection,” do not agree with Trump’s claims of voter fraud that led to many protesters chanting “stop the steal” as they invaded the capitol building. 

After President Trump, along with Representative Mo Brooks, and other Republicans spoke at his “Save America Rally,” the protesters marched down to the Capitol. As reported by The New York Times (nytimes.com) and USA Today (usatoday.com), some Congress members, including Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nanci Pelosi, were escorted from the building. Others grabbed their gas masks and hid under their seats as Capitol police drew their guns trying to protect Congress members from the rioters banging on the doors of the Capitol building. After pushing past police, some of the rioters went into Speaker Pelosi’s office; they flipped over tables and took signs off the walls. Others were photographed sitting at desks on the House and Senate floors, climbing up walls, and smashing in windows. Among the protesters was a man holding a Confederate flag. Additionally, anti-Semitic sentiments could be seen among the Capitol protesters; one man was seen wearing a shirt that said “Camp Auschwitz,” and another was seen holding a flag with a Nazi Swastika on it. As the chaos continued, President-elect Joe Biden claimed: “At this hour, our democracy’s under an unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself.” President Trump tweeted: “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!” The Senate did not begin counting the votes again until about 8:00 pm, and the scene was not cleared until about 1:30 am, according to ABC News (abcnews.com). While the senators resumed working, many Americans wondered who the rioters were and how all this had happened.   

No definitive answers have been found to the above question. While clues as to how this all unfolded have appeared, nothing has been proven. Some protesters have been arrested, while others have not been identified. As reported by CNN (cnn.com), there have been accusations that Republican congressmen aided the rioters. Representative Mikie Sherrill, Democrat and former Navy pilot, claimed that there were “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5 for reconnaissance for the next day.” Democratic Representative Mary Scanlon added on, claiming that the day before the riot she “…had seen what appeared to be tour groups of folks dressed in MAGA attire, in the halls, in the tunnels.” Nothing has been proven, but investigations are taking place.

In a live-streamed video, Ali Alexander, a leader of right-wing conspiracy groups, claimed Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama helped him plan the riot at the Capitol. Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for Washington, explained he and other investigators are “…looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy.” Over 70 people have been arrested; those arrested included people who fought with police officers, those who violently threatened Democrats, and those who were found with guns or bombs. As of Friday, Jan. 15, at least nine of the people arrested for taking part in the Capitol riots were previously in the U.S. military. So far, at least two U.S. Capitol Police officers have been arrested, and over a dozen are being investigated for potentially aiding the rioters. 

A notable effect of the riot was the second impeachment of President Trump. President Trump was first impeached on Dec. 18, 2019, when he was accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate did not convict President Trump. After the riots at the Capitol, the House impeached the President for “inciting insurrection,” and a trial will now occur in the Senate where two-thirds of the members will have to vote for the conviction. In the House, ten Republicans voted for Trump’s impeachment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained,  “[I have] not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.” The Senate trial is set to start in the week of Feb. 8, according to Senate leaders. 

LHS Chorus Teacher Barry Wyner voiced his opinion on the riots. He explained, “I was in disbelief that something like this could happen in the USA. It looked more like something you’d see in authoritarian-led countries, like the Arab Spring in the Middle East. While it was shocking compared to what I was taught in school about American government, it was not so shocking when I look back at the past few years in our country. We have watched the seeds of this act being planted, and in a way this just felt like watching the tragic-but-inevitable end of a Shakespearean play.” He further revealed how he thinks America can move forward: “I think a broad acceptance of American multiculturalism would be a great start. I also feel that the blurring of social media and news sources has been enormously detrimental. I don’t know how we fix that without getting into free speech issues, but the reality is many Americans believe different facts. Our two-party system shouldn’t be a two-reality system. It’s hard to find unity in that situation. So, I think we need a way to keep misinformation from proliferating. This act has shown us where it can lead, and I hope it serves as a tipping point.”        

What started as claims of election fraud and ended with an impeachment just scratch the surface scandals surrounding the Trump Administration. As President Trump’s days in office have ended, he now faces a second impeachment. As the inauguration neared, security at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. and at state capitol buildings around the country prepared to protect government officials from potential violence they were worried could ensue.