We have now witnessed the President of the United States, more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives, and 14 Republican Senators attempt an unsuccessful coup d’etat against American democracy. We also heard the president commit election fraud. This cannot be dismissed as political theater; there is too much at stake.
This shameful attack on our democracy included: attempting to disenfranchise more than 80 million Americans who voted for President-elect Biden; overturning the Electoral College, which cast 306 votes for Biden (it takes 270 to elect a president); and usurping the judiciary, which more than 80 times rejected Trump’s claims of fraud for lack of evidence, including the Supreme Court twice refusing to hear his appeals. The president and his seditious cabal knew all of this.
In the recording of his conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger, President Trump clearly told the secretary to “find 11,780 votes” that would put him in the lead over President-elect Biden in Georgia. He also threatened the secretary with criminal charges unless he found the votes to overturn the election results (“you know, that’s a criminal…offense…That’s a big risk for you …”). The Republican secretary, to his credit, said: “We don’t agree that you have won.”
In 2016 Georgia Code Title 21 section 21-2-604 (a) (1): ” A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud…when… he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct”. The crime is punishable by imprisonment for one to three years. Trump violated the statue. He is not immune from Georgia law. He should be prosecuted under this statute.
What we witnessed in the Congress, however, is far more dangerous than the delusions of an outgoing president. To ignore the attempted Congressional Coup is to denigrate the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.
Sedition is defined as: “incitement of, resistance to, or insurrection against lawful authority” (Merriam-Webster). The seditious co-conspirators cannot hide behind the 1st Amendment. Sedition includes speech that tends toward rebellion against the established order. It also includes “subversion of a constitution.” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), speaking for the cabal, said he: “cannot vote to certify the electoral college results due to his belief that some states failed to follow their own state election laws”. Hawley et al knew they could not provide evidence capable of reversing the Electoral College vote.
Every state in the union certified its election results. Trump’s challenges to state procedures were considered and rejected by both Republican and Democratic officials. Our constitution set up Congressional counting of Electoral College votes as a ministerial, ceremonial process. The co-conspirators knew that. They attempted to “subvert the constitution, and incite discontent toward our established authority,” which elected Joe Biden 46th President of the United States. In other words, they committed sedition which if it had been successful would have overthrown the government of the United States, replacing it with a dictatorship. There has to be a legal response to this kind of insurrection.
18 U.S. Code section 2385 states: Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates or abets…overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States…[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.” The Congressional co-conspirators and President Trump, after January 20th, should be prosecuted under this statute by the Biden Department of Justice (DOJ).
President-elect Biden has said he will have an independent DOJ. His Attorney General should investigate this crime and prosecute the perpetrators. Ours is a deeply divided nation. The kind of insurrection we witnessed on January 6th has the capacity to incite the 74 million who voted for Trump against the U.S. government. A prosecution would allow for a public hearing capable of mitigating the damage caused by this sedition.
The ironies implicit in this rebellion are striking. The rebellious Congressionals challenged the very elections which elected many of them. And, rather than dealing with the out of control COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 20 million of their constituents, and killed more than 346,000, they chose to follow Trump down his insane rabbit hole of sedition.