‘Inciting a Riot’: Legal Community Erupts in Calls for Trump’s Removal as Mob Storms Capitol

Calls for President Donald Trump’s removal from office are erupting after hundreds of his supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol building as lawmakers attempted to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.

The takeover of the building forced the evacuation of lawmakers, staffers and members of the press. Members of Congress said they put on gas masks after tear gas was deployed inside the building, and videos and photos showed police officers with guns drawn and protesters smashing in windows of the Capitol.

Reports from inside the building state that members of the pro-Trump mob scaled the Senate dais to declare the president won the election, and that others attempted to enter the House chamber. Both chambers were sealed and members were evacuated, as were other personnel and reporters inside.

The violent rioting took place hours after Trump encouraged his supporters—thousands of whom have descended upon the city—to march to the Capitol to protest the ratification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, after he’s spent the last weeks and months falsely insisting he won the election and the results are fraudulent. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has worked on the president’s failed legal attempts to overturn the election, earlier in the day urged the crowd to use “trial by combat.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the Senate debate after declining to follow Trump’s urging that he unconstitutionally reject the slate of electors, was quickly removed from the chamber just minutes into the proceedings as the rioters breached the Capitol.

Many have started to call for the president’s removal from office, either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment. Trump eventually in a video message told his supporters to “go home,” but only after law enforcement was in the process of clearing the building. And he reiterated that he understood his supporters’ pain, and again falsely insisted that the election was stolen from him. 

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that the president has deployed the National Guard. Former Attorney General William Barr, who left office late last month, said through a spokeswoman: “The violence at the Capitol Building is outrageous and despicable. federal agencies should move immediately to disperse it.”

Biden, in a televised address before the president issued his video message, urged Trump to also appear on television and call for his supporters to back down. “This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy go forward,” the president-elect said.

Calls for another impeachment of Trump, days before his departure from office, had already begun to circulate over the weekend after leaked audio revealed he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the election results in his state in Trump’s favor.

Here’s what the legal community is saying about the violence:

>> George Conway III: “When the Capitol is cleared and secured, and the joint session of Congress and the electoral vote count is completed, the House and the Senate should proceed immediately to the impeachment and removal of @realDonaldTrump.” [Twitter]

>> Steve Vladeck, University of Texas School of Law: “Impeach him again. Force Senators to vote on whether he should be removed again.” [Twitter]

>> D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine: “We call on President Trump to immediately tell his supporters, who are trampling on the District of Columbia and have breached the U.S. Capitol, to cease and desist and return from whence they came in a peaceful manner. The United States of America is the world’s greatest democracy, and that rests on a peaceful transition of power. We urge President Trump to do what he has not yet done, but what he must do: order his supporters to leave the District of Columbia and fully embrace the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.”

>> Rick Hasen, University of California, Irvine: “When law enforcement clear the Capitol and secure things, the debate and counting of electoral college votes will resume. Perhaps these events will deter stretching out these objections and this vote counting can get done expeditiously.” [Twitter]

>> Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York: “The House should impeach the President and the Senate should remove him as soon as order is restored.” [Twitter]

>> Charles Blanchard, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer partner and former general counsel for the Air Force and Army: “Tell your thugs to leave the Capitol.” [Twitter]

>> Ned Foley, Ohio State University: “The Constitution is still the ‘supreme law of the land.’ The Twentieth Amendment is still part of the Constitution. The Twentieth Amendment is unambiguous that the current terms of the president and vice president end at noon on January 20, no matter what. At some point, the Twelfth Amendment process for counting the electoral votes will resume, once order is restored. Presumably it will finish, with the will of Congress prevailing, before January 20, Inauguration Day. But even if not, then there will [be] an acting president under the Twentieth Amendment. None of the above is intended to minimize the seriousness, or the awfulness, of what is happening right now … The status of the current president from now until January 20 remains to be considered. Obviously, both impeachment & the Twenty-fifth Amendment need to be considered. Until then, the president is constitutionally the president, but law enforcement authorities need to make sure Congress can do its work.” [Twitter]

>> Michael C. Dorf, Cornell Law School: “I’m seeing many calls for Trump to be immediately impeached, removed and permanently disqualified from holding further office. I support them. Also prosecution and imprisonment for inciting a riot.” [Twitter]

>> Judge Tina Clinton, of Dallas County’s Criminal District Court No. 1: “When I tweeted earlier, I referenced a coup and was thinking about Congressional schedule today. Lord knows I had no idea that individuals would truly try to overthrow the government by breaching Congress.  What a sad sad day. America is burning.” [Twitter]

>> Perkins Coie firmwide managing partner Bill Malley: “We are appalled by the scenes we are witnessing at the US Capitol today and the unprecedented violence and assault that has been launched against our seat of Government and our democratic representatives. Our thoughts are with the men and women of the US Capitol Police and all the other law enforcement officers who are bravely responding to this situation and we hope it is safely resolved very soon.”

>> Robert Barnett of Williams & Connolly: “It’s a fundamental assault on American democracy, a seditious interference with the people’s business being done to certify the votes of the Electoral College. It’s shameful, it’s frightening, it’s tragic.”

>>Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison chairman Brad Karp: “The president, aided and abetted by a complicit group of senators and Congressmen, is seditiously seeking to undermine our democracy, disenfranchise more than 80 million voters, and remain in power despite having decisively lost a hotly contested election. Like so many across the globe, I watched in horror today as the disgraceful results of this attempted coup spilled into the hallowed halls of Congress.”

Kim Koopersmith, chairperson of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: “It’s a really sad day for our country. It has caused many of us to reflect on what our country is about. And I hope that this day marks the beginning of people seeing what we all need to do to move forward together and not take our democracy for granted,  and to recognize that when you fan the flames of violence, it can cause that fire to get out of control. We all need to do what we can to make sure we are all safe, and if we disagree, we do it with civility.”

>> Walter Dellinger, O’Melveny & Myers partner and former acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton: “Rioters taking down the American flag from the Capitol and replacing it with a Trump flag. God help America.” [Twitter]

>> New York State Bar Association President Scott Karson: “We condemn the siege of the U.S. Capitol by a violent and unruly mob in the strongest possible terms. It proves just how fragile and precarious the rule of law is when order can turn to chaos in a matter of minutes, holding our democracy hostage in the process. We call upon President Trump to stand up for the democracy he was sworn to uphold and to renounce his brazen and meritless attempts to disenfranchise millions of voters. He has damaged many Americans’ faith in our democratic institutions – all under the guise of protecting our election system despite offering no evidence of widespread voter fraud in over 60 court cases across the country.”

Reporters Alaina Lancaster, Angela Morris, Patrick Smith, Dan Roe, Christine Simmons and Dan Packel contributed to this report.

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