Words by Ellie Doughty
Wednesday 20 January will be a unique Inauguration day for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris in light of the recent 6 January attack on Congress and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fears concerning another potential attack have prompted the FBI to vet all 25,000 National Guard troops who will be on duty during the event.
A DC wide lockdown has been implemented in anticipation, with officials asking the public to avoid travelling to the city until after the inauguration.
Every state in the US including DC are on alert for potentially violent protests and Congress itself is currently in recess following the attack and will not reconvene until after Biden’s inauguration.
The year began much as it had ended in 2020, with President Trump staunchly denying the results of the November election, and the thousands of staff required to make arrangements for themselves and the change in Office finding themselves in a stalemate.
This stalemate ended on 3 January, when on the same day Pelosi was reelected as Speaker of the House, and a phone call tape was leaked showing Trump attempting to pressure Georgia election officials into ‘finding’ 11,780 votes to overturn the results.
Come 5 January, US media outlets declared Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock the winners of the Senate election. The Democrats would now control both Congress chambers for the first time in just over a decade.
What seemed like normal procedure ended on 6 January. Congress convened at the Capitol to certify the Electoral College results when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the building in protest. The rioters were able to break past police and enter the building, where one splayed his legs on Nancy Pelosi’s desk and left a threatening note. A makeshift gallow complete with a noose was displayed outside, pipes, guns and pipe bombs were some of the weapons found. Five people died. The attack was met with significant condemnation and has been referred to by both Pelosi and Biden as ‘domestic terrorism’.
On January 7th, Congress certified the Biden-Harris victory.
Calls from throughout the US government, the American public and global community echoed the same basic sentiment; Trump had incited a violent riot and was no longer a legitimate political leader. The UK Prime Minister said he “unreservedly condemns” the actions of the President. Perhaps even more significantly in our current tech-centric world, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms have now banned Trump in an attempt to negate further damage catalysed by his words, although they have been met with criticism regarding free speech.
On January 8th, Pelosi and the House called on Pence.
The request asked Pence to invoke the 25th amendment in removing Trump from office, an article which states that he is ‘incapable of executing the duties of his office’. The request was refused, Pence stated that he did not believe it to be in the Nation’s best interest.
On January 13th, history repeated itself in an unexpected fashion.
Trump became the first President in American history to be impeached twice. All House Democrats and ten Republicans voted to impeach charging him with ‘incitement of insurrection’ against the US government. A historical impeachment in every sense; the resolution was met with the most ever supporting votes from the President’s own party, making it the most bipartisan presidential impeachment to date.
What comes next for Trump, and the Biden-Harris administration?
If a two-third majority of the Senate vote to convict Trump he would likely become the first former president convicted by the Senate, but if it occurs – while unlikely – before Wednesday’s inauguration, Trump will be the first president to actually be removed from office as a result of impeachment. The lasting repercussions of such a move, however, are the takeaway for many pushing the resolution forward. Such consequences include a ban from running for federal office again in future, and the loss of his generous life-long pension should his removal occur before January 20th.
As far as the Biden-Harris office is concerned, they will have to temper the collective emotional response following recent events and deal with one of the most polarised American governments the US has seen thus far.
Picture credit: Gage Skidmore