Webster: Call the insurrection what it was: domestic terrorism

The events of Jan. 6, 2021 were not a protest, a demonstration or even a riot; they were an act of domestic terrorism.

“Terrorism” is relatively simple to define: It is an act of political violence or intimidation.

What we saw at the U.S. Capitol this week perfectly fits that definition. These individuals, under incitement, forcibly entered the building and violently disrupted a lawful session of the Congress before turning to a general pattern of vandalism and harassment.

Their purpose was blatantly and patently political. It was to change the outcome of a lawful, legitimate and fair election. If this attack had been conducted by foreign agents, there is no question of what we would be calling it: This was terrorism.

This was also terrorism in pursuit of the benefit of President Trump, and with his blessing and encouragement. His communications prior to Jan. 6, as well as his remarks earlier that day, explicitly directed these individuals to go to the Capitol.

He encouraged them to “be strong” because the election was being “stolen” from them. Even after the violence forced the suspension of the joint session and ultimately cost several Americans their life, he wrote that “these are the things that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously stripped away from great patriots.” A subsequent video expressed his “love” and affection for those involved. There is no question that this was a Trump-led and Trump-supported effort, even after fatalities had occurred.

Initial reports that President Trump prevented deployment of National Guard units to quell the violence also show that, far from being surprised or overwhelmed by the events, he was actively protecting their ongoing criminal behavior. That an American president would be acting like a field commander for an invasion of the legislature is shocking in the extreme, as well as a grotesque violation of the separation of powers and our Constitutional order.

This was insurrection. It was a violent attempt to subvert the legitimate functioning of our government led by a defeated president seeking any means possible to hold onto power. These individuals – including and especially President Trump – have shamed and embarrassed the United States, and history will not forget it. Nor should we.

Any and all Constitutional means of sanctioning this president should be employed, including impeachment and a bar on holding any public office or trust of the United States. Whether criminal prosecution is appropriate is at the discretion of career prosecutors and the Department of Justice. 

But we should not – we MUST not – simply treat this as an act of political “demonstration” or protest. It was neither. And after four years of obfuscation, lies, distortion and propaganda, it is more important than ever that we call things what they are: This was a coordinated act of interstate domestic terrorism and should be treated as such.

One reason we need to prosecute this now is that Trump has other cards up his sleeve, and he should not be allowed to play them to further attack our country and its institutions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Webster, who was first elected to represent the 150th Legislative District in 2018, is a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and earned a Ph.D. in public policy from George Washington University. He managed the modernization program for Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Webster served the United States in 32 countries, spent 20 years working in the Pentagon on special government projects and served as a legislative liaison between Congress and the USAF.