The Disgrace on Capitol Hill


Fueled by lies about a stolen election, protesters overran police and stormed America’s seat of government on Wednesday, forcing a lockdown of the U.S. Capitol and a 6 p.m. city curfew. This sounds like a dispatch from some foreign correspondent in an unfortunate land. Instead it was President

Trump’s

parting gift to Washington, and the country, for denying him a second term.

Wednesday’s joint session of Congress was supposed to be a ritual of American democracy, memorializing

Joe Biden’s

Electoral College victory. As lawmakers met, Mr. Trump was speaking at a “Save America March,” where he vowed never to concede. “We’re going to the Capitol,” he urged the crowd, to “try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

There the protesters marched—and then some. After

Rep. Paul Gosar

and

Sen. Ted Cruz

objected to the counting of Arizona’s 11 electors, the two chambers retired to consider it. The Senate debate lasted less than an hour. Rioters breached the building, and the Vice President was suddenly whisked from the floor. In the House, lawmakers said they were given gas masks and told to lie on the floor. A woman was shot and killed, and police officers were injured.

What a disgrace. The trespassers should be arrested, and the maskless ones can probably be identified long after the fact. Where was the police presence in Washington? Once the mob was inside, the call went out for backup from Virginia and Maryland, and the National Guard was activated. But it’s a scandal that the U.S. Capitol wasn’t better protected on such a significant day.

To the extent that the congressional debate was allowed to happen, it went in the right direction. Mr. Trump has been publicly pressuring Mr. Pence, the presiding officer of the joint session, to invalidate Mr. Biden’s electors. As Congress gathered, Mr. Pence released a statement saying he would refuse to do so. “My oath to support and defend the Constitution,” he wrote, “constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

This is correct in law. Anything else from Mr. Pence would have been a power grab, precipitating a constitutional crisis. Don’t forget, as our friends at the New York Sun point out, that the Vice President is his own duly elected constitutional officer, not the President’s lackey.

But Mr. Trump’s vision of loyalty consists of loyalty only to himself. “

Mike Pence,

” he tweeted soon after, “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Senator Cruz’s effort to defend objections to Mr. Biden’s electors was woeful. “Recent polling shows that 39% of Americans believe the election that just occurred ‘was rigged,’” he said. “What does it say, to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged, if we vote not even to consider the claims of illegality and fraud?”

Mr. Cruz laments the fire as he wields a flamethrower. To the extent that Mr. Trump has made fraud claims in court, they’ve been dismissed. Yet without evidence, he keeps saying that thousands of ballots were faked or shredded or altered by hacked Dominion voting machines. The correct response is to push back against conspiracy theories, not to fan the anger and fund-raise off the credulous.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was right on point. “We are debating a step that has never been taken in American history: Whether Congress should overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election,” he said. “I have served 36 years in the Senate. This will be the most important vote I’ve ever cast.” The November election,

Mr. McConnell

added, was done under “bizarre pandemic procedures” that shouldn’t be repeated. That said: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

Sen. Pat Toomey

stepped up as well. What the objectors are asking, he said, is “to federalize elections” by “having Congress select the President of the United States instead of the American people.” As for Mr. Cruz’s idea of an Electoral Commission to do an emergency audit: “A commission? Really? It’s completely impractical, and we all know it, with 14 days to go before a constitutionally mandated inauguration.” If Congress is going to reject state electors, every losing party will want to do it every four years.

Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept his loss, and the false hope he gives to his supporters, is validating the worst things his critics have said about him. He is being enabled by

Rudy Giuliani

and

Peter Navarro,

but also by people like Mr. Cruz and Sen.

Josh Hawley,

who surely know better. The 74 million Trump voters have genuine concerns about the country, and they deserve better than to be misled. The proper response now is for all Republicans to drop their objections to the state electors and ratify them—and Joe Biden’s election—by acclamation.

Mr. Biden will become President at noon on Jan. 20, and until then the police need to restore order with as much force as necessary. Republicans especially need to speak against trespass and violence. As for Mr. Trump, to steal some famous words deployed in 1940 against

Neville Chamberlain

: “In the name of God, go.”

Wonder Land: Amid the Electoral College challenge, the president is putting the substance of his achievements at risk. Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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