Donald Trump’s chaotic four-year term as president entered a harrowing new phase on Wednesday, after he refused to disavow a violent mob of his supporters that stormed the Capitol, warned several presidential scholars.
“My gut reaction to today is that it’s unprecedented in American history. We’ve never had someone behave like this,” said Robert Shrum, a political-science professor and expert on presidential elections at the University of Southern California.
“This was an attempted coup,” Shrum told MarketWatch, adding that if Trump manages to stay in office, the next 13 days of January “could be very perilous.”
Violent intruders breached Capitol security Wednesday afternoon, forcing Senate and House members to evacuate and halting for hours their work to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
One woman was killed during the riot, which resulted in a standoff that prompted Vice President Mike Pence, not Trump, to call in the National Guard to quell the unrest, according to the New York Times.
The assault shook the nation, sparked condemnation from foreign leaders and delayed the restart of the certification process by Congress until late Wednesday evening.
Chris Haynes, associate professor of political science at the University of New Haven, said it appeared that many Republicans finally have “received the wake-up call,” while he watched debate resume on the Senate floor Wednesday night to ratify Biden’s win.
“A lot of this has been sown over the last four years,” Haynes said, adding that many fellow Republicans had been looking the other way as Trump exploited political divisions in America, either by outright supporting it or by saying that his words didn’t matter.
“But at this point, I don’t think I am being too overdramatic in saying that the nation could be in grave danger if we allow him to continue unchallenged,” he said.
A growing chorus of lawmakers, officials and trade groups on Wednesday said that they wanted to see Trump removed from office after the Capitol was taken over by his supporters, with some even calling on Pence and the White House cabinet to invoke for the first time the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Shrum and Haynes both said they think invoking the 25th remains on the table as an option, but that wouldn’t necessarily be easy to pull off.
“Getting a majority is one thing, but getting a majority of people that owe their jobs to the president is quite another thing,” said Haynes. “But it’s not out of the realm of reasonableness, depending on his actions over the next couple of days.”