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Swift justice needed to save America

If there are no consequences for the Jan. 6 mob raid on the U.S. Capitol, we are in real trouble, because this was just a dress rehearsal for what could come in the future.

Inaction would signal it is OK for armed rebels to assault the seat of our national government in an attempt to stop Congress from doing its job — the constitutionally prescribed job the American people elected these lawmakers to do.

We’re all fighting for our lives here, hoping not to get COVID-19, but let’s put the coronavirus pandemic aside for a moment. The United States of America is in survival mode today.

And it’s all because of one man — Donald J. Trump, soon to be ex-president of the U.S. When all else failed, he incited a mob to violence.

When millions of people obey your every word, you are responsible when they do terrible things at your urging. Trump, saying the election was stolen from him, invited his followers to the Jan. 6 rally and told them to march over to the Capitol and let loose their anger. He said it was time to stop being fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. “We are going to have to fight much harder,” he told them. “You will never take back our country with weakness.” His lawyer Rudy Giuliani called from the stage for “trial by combat.”

That’s a textbook example of how to turn an angry crowd into a violent mob, and it worked. That armed mob walked directly to the Capitol, broke in, fought with police, smashed, vandalized, stole from lawmakers’ offices and prompted the congressional session to be evacuated.

Members of Congress were meeting at that moment to ratify the Electoral College’s votes naming Joe Biden as the new president, as prescribed by the Constitution’s 12th Amendment. Some challenges were expected, but not enough to overturn Biden’s victory. Trump had plenty of chances to contest the result, including more than 60 failed lawsuits. Every state certified its results.

But the Jan. 6 attack was a long time in the making. Trump and his allies — including Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville and other Republican members of Congress– continually spew lies, most recently about the election. Those lies galvanized Trump’s followers, who are ready to do and believe whatever he says. Without those lies, this assault would never have happened.

“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor Wednesday night after the attack. “That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.”

As the mob forced its way in, police shot and killed one of Trump’s supporters, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran who believed this was “the storm,” an apocalyptic battle in which QAnon conspiracy theorists believe Trump will lead them to victory over the establishment, which they believe is run by pedophiles. Four more died, including a Capitol Police officer. Many others were injured, including police. Tear gas was all over, people running and hiding. Members of Congress, their staff and the media whisked away from the House and Senate chambers for their own safety. Pandemonium ensued. Anarchy.

No, it wasn’t Antifa activists disguised as Trumpers — a disinformation campaign that caught the imagination of many people. It was exactly what it looked like. It’s not like the rioters were ashamed of what they did, and Trump had egged them on to do it.

There’s no doubt what Trump has been trying to do — stay on as president. That’s a government takeover from the legally elected president, Biden.

These streams of rioters were not peaceful protesters. They were criminals. So are those who incited them to take over the Capitol. Whether you call these actions treason, rebellion, insurrection, seditious conspiracy or advocating to overthrow the government, they are all against the law.

Arrest and prosecute those responsible, as the government is doing, but don’t forget Trump. We need to lock him up.

If we don’t take serious action, it will give the impression that this attack on our government was OK — that votes can be overturned by violence. After all, if a mob can overtake the Capitol, what about a paramilitary group with more armaments intent on injuring or killing people?

This chaos has already encouraged similar incidents at statehouses around the nation, including New York’s Capitol in Albany, where two people were stabbed at a pro-Trump protest Jan. 6.

Swift punishment will ensure the safety of Americans and make sure our federal government survives these final days of Trump’s presidency.