Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Equipment of media crews damaged during clashes after the US President Donald Trumps supporters breached the US Capitol security in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were set to sign off Wednesday on President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory in what was supposed to be a routine process headed to Inauguration Day. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Equipment of media crews damaged during clashes after the US President Donald Trumps supporters breached the US Capitol security in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were set to sign off Wednesday on President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory in what was supposed to be a routine process headed to Inauguration Day. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Impeach Trump. Then Arrest Trump. Then Prosecute Him for Sedition

Unless all who participated in or abetted the attempted overthrow of the United States government are held accountable, it will happen again. Next time it may succeed.

Robert Reich

 by RobertReich.org

Call me old-fashioned, but when the president of the United States encourages armed insurgents to breach the Capitol and threaten the physical safety of Congress, in order to remain in power, I call it an attempted coup.

Last week’ rampage left five dead, including a Capitol Hill police officer who was injured when he tangled with the pro-Trump mob. We’re fortunate the carnage wasn’t greater.

That the attempted coup failed shouldn’t blind us to its significance or the stain it has left on America. Nor to the importance of holding those responsible fully accountable.

Trump’s culpability is beyond dispute. “There’s no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” said Rep. Elizabeth Cheney, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House.

He should be impeached, convicted, and removed from office – immediately.  

To let the clock run out on his presidency and allow Trump to seek the presidency again would signal that attempted coups are part of the American system. If Senate Republicans can install a new Supreme Court justice in eight days, Trump can be removed from office within ten.

He should then be arrested and tried for inciting violence and sedition (along with Trump Jr. and Rudy “trial-by-combat” Giuliani).

Those who attacked the Capitol should also be prosecuted. They have no First Amendment right to try to overthrow the U.S. government.

Trump’s accomplices on Capitol Hill, most notably Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, should be forced to resign. Knowing Trump’s allegations of voting fraud were false, Cruz and Hawley nonetheless led an attempt to exclude Biden electors, even after the storming of the Capitol.

The United States Constitution says that “no Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress” who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the Constitution, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.“

McConnell should also resign or be censured and stripped of committee assignments. Pence should be barred from any future public office.

Both Cruz and Hawley are eyeing runs for the presidency in 2024. They should be barred from running.

Other abettors are now trying to distance themselves, but their conversions come too late.

Senator Lindsey Graham now says Trump must “understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution,” and criticizes the White House for making “accusations that cannot be proven.”

Graham had been one of Trump’s key attack dogs, even bullying state election officials to change voting tallies. If Graham is not forced to resign, he should at least be censured and stripped of his ranking membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Michael Pence finally broke with Trump, but only after remaining mute as Trump lied and bullied his way through the last eight weeks, thereby signaling agreement with his preposterous claims.

McConnell should also resign or be censured and stripped of committee assignments. Pence should be barred from any future public office.

Some administration officials have already resigned in response to the attempted coup. Transportation secretary Elaine Chao said it was “entirely avoidable,” and education secretary Betsy DeVos told Trump there was “no mistake the impact your rhetoric had.” Other Trumpers are reportedly jumping ship, too.

Yet before Wednesday most of them defended Trump’s antics, lavished him with praise, and willingly did his dirty work. Their complicity should forever haunt their reputations and consciences.

Other accessories are Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai,CEO of Alphabet, YouTube’s parent company.

For four years, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have functioned as Trump’s megaphones, amplifying his every lie and rant. When pressured to remove Trump’s fabrications about the election, they labeled them “disputed.”  

Twitter has now permanently suspended Trump, preventing him from sending messages to his more than 88 million followers “due to the risk of further incitement for violence.” Facebook has banned him indefinitely. YouTube should be next.

But why did it take an attempted coup for them to act?

Many business leaders who are now denouncing the violence enthusiastically bankrolled Trump’s re-election campaign, knowing full well who he was and what he was capable of doing. And they’ve had no qualms about advertising on his largest megaphones, including Fox News. All are complicit because they knew Trump would stop at nothing.

Fox News’s mendacious hosts and producers have no excuse. After repeatedly telling Trump supporters the election was stolen, they’re now saying the attempted coup was “understandable” because Trump supporters believed the election was stolen. Morally, if not legally, they share responsibility for this travesty.

All are all part of the ecosystem that led to Trump’s sedition. That ecosystem is still in place.

Those who say we should “look forward” to a new administration and forget or dismiss what occurred last week are delusional. Unless all who participated in or abetted the attempted overthrow of the United States government are held accountable, it will happen again. Next time it may succeed.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

'A Deeply Dangerous Order': Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Biden From Pausing New Oil Drilling Leases

"The judge's order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that's devastating our planet."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


After Far-Right Marchers Chant 'Death to Arabs,' New Israeli Government Bombs Gaza

"The problem is bigger than Netanyahu—it's apartheid."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·