Editor’s Note: This was excerpted from the January 7 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
An explosion was bound to happen, after four years of incitement, conspiracy mongering, lying and pitting Americans against one another. And it happened on Wednesday in Washington, when an enraged mob sacked the US Capitol for the first time since the British in 1814.
The violent invasion saw lawmakers cowering under their seats, police guns drawn in the House of Representatives and MAGA mutineers roaming the Senate – and interrupted the ceremonial process confirming Joe Biden’s election victory. In other words, the sitting President of the United States incited thugs to attack the citadel of his nation’s democracy and block the will of the people delivered in a free election. The rest of the world looked on in horror.
The question now is whether Wednesday’s outrage will be a one-off eruption, and eventually just an awful memory of a presidency that tore the country apart. Most Trump supporters are not violent. But millions of them believe his lie that the election was stolen — and fear their country is being taken away from them. So Wednesday’s mobbing of the Capitol could be just the crest of a wave of political fury that will long outlast Trump’s term.
There is also the question of what should happen to the unstable, vengeful President himself. What worse havoc could a wrathful Trump wreak in his remaining 13 days in office? “He’s out of his mind,” one source who has frequent contact with the President told CNN’s Jim Acosta. Some Democratic lawmakers have already called for a fast-track impeachment that would allow Vice President Mike Pence to finish Trump’s term. Even members of the President’s Cabinet are exploring whether to invoke the 25th Amendment if they conclude that he is no longer fit to serve.
Many in Washington have enabled Trump’s criminal presidency this far. But even they have to answer the question: If openly inciting a coup attempt does not merit a President’s removal from office, what does?
‘Enemies of democracy will be happy’
The world watched in disbelief as US lawmakers hid or fled before rioting Trump supporters on Wednesday. “This is not America,” said Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU, voicing the general incredulity.
Several foreign diplomats posted in Washington were at a loss for words, report CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler. “This is just … ,” one foreign diplomat said before a long pause. “We are such a great friend of this wonderful country and to see that these protests are getting more violent, it’s just very, very sad to see,” this diplomat said.
“I hate to say this but it looks like a Third World scene,” said another foreign diplomat in DC.
From afar, world leaders were scathing. “A completely unacceptable attack on democracy,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, called the scenes “utterly horrifying,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg termed them “shocking” and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “disgraceful.”
And Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, warned that “the enemies of democracy will be happy to see these incredible pictures from Washington DC.”
“Riotous words turn into violent acts,” he said. “On the steps of the Reichstag, and now in the #Capitol.”