In this week’s trial, our country has relived the chilling and un-American assault on the foundations of our democracy. New video footage reinforced both the brutality of the rioters and also the heroism of members of law enforcement who, just barely, prevented further loss of life. The personal threat of that day, however, is not nearly as troubling as the threat to our democracy.
After listening to the arguments from the House Managers and former President Trump’s defense, I voted in favor of the article of impeachment. As dangerous as Donald Trump’s actions were over the course of the months, days, and hours leading up to the violent insurrection, my vote today was less about holding Trump as an individual accountable than it is about protecting our country from similar threats in the future — at his hands or at the hands of others.
Impeachment is not designed to punish — it was included in our Constitution to protect the republic from abuses of power and tyranny. I voted to protect the America that we know and love — because January 6, 2021 will be our future if we tolerate what the impeachment trial showed was Trump’s concerted campaign to prevent the peaceful transition of power.
Of all the things former President Trump did, it is actually what he did not do once he knew the Capitol was being attacked, and his own Vice President — among others — was being threatened, that was most troubling. Should there be any doubt that Trump intended to disrupt the certification of votes and encourage the violence that desecrated the Capitol, his decision to allow it to continue for hours should dispel that uncertainty. If he had not intended the violence when it began, his failure to exercise his power to secure the Capitol and protect those inside was itself a violation of his oath of office and merits conviction and disqualification from holding future office.
Before Trump’s refusal to engage in the peaceful transfer of power, the public could gather outside the Capitol — families could play soccer on the weekends and tourists could take photos of this temple of democracy. Before COVID, the public could even walk right in, after being properly screened. But today, I came to work through fences and barbed wire. There was no open space for the public because we have lost the common understanding that the Capitol is a place where we spar with words, not physical violence.
It is fitting that on Monday, we mark the birthday of George Washington, who helped establish some of the bedrock principles of our democracy not simply through his service as our first President, but by voluntarily surrendering the office, peacefully. Our union that Washington helped birth — and that Lincoln managed to preserve — is still fragile, and it cannot be taken for granted.
We will need to continue the work of investigating what led to the grim events of January 6 as well as what happened on that day, and we will need to take steps to make clear that acts of tyranny will not be tolerated in our country.
We have considerable work ahead to bring our country together and strive for greater opportunity for all, both in the face of this pandemic and beyond. I am committed to continuing that work and showing the American people — and the world — that we are resilient, strong, and willing to renew our commitment to government of, for, and by the people.