By Brandon Martin
As the incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Alexandria, is calling for “a full and thorough investigation” into events that led to four dead and almost 60 injured in a breach of the U.S. Capitol Building by supporters of President Donald Trump.
On the day that Congress affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s November election win, Warner credits domestic terrorism and “disinformation spread by the President” on social media platforms for the unrest.
“This needs to be focused on as an act of domestic terrorism,” Warner said. “Our country needs a full and thorough investigation into what went wrong in terms of preparation. They (Capitol police) reassured me that they had the resources and the appropriate intelligence to take on this threat. They were flat wrong. Why were we not better prepared? Why were there not more resources available?”
Warner also hinted that some security officials could lose their jobs over the breach.
“The ability for criminal elements and terrorist elements, in this country or abroad, to look at those images of what happened yesterday and plan for potential future attacks against the Capitol, absolutely requires us to have a thorough and full investigation,” he said. “And if need be, make significant changes in some of the law enforcement leadership to make sure this will never happen again.”
Warner attributed a bulk of the unrest to disinformation on social media from the president and foreign adversaries.
“The ability for lies to be fanned and disinformation to be fomented both domestically and from foreign sources and unfortunately, Congress has not acted,” he said. “This mob led by disinformation, oftentimes emanating from Donald Trump, was gathered, fomented, and organized on social media platforms.”
In the aftermath of the escalation, Warner is calling for more attention to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act.
“Social media companies are hiding behind something called Section 230 which relieves them of any obligation or responsibility to police their own platform,” he said. “Our failure to act and their failure to be responsible, and their willingness to put their short-term profits ahead of any obligation or civic duty all came home to roost. My message to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter–the blood and destruction that took place in our Capitol yesterday, at least part of that responsibility is on your hands. I’m committed to go after these firms with a new set of policies to make sure that this kind of fomenting of violence will not continue.”
After violence at the Capitol, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter blocked Trump’s accounts, freezing him from communicating with his more than 120 million followers over both platforms.
“Now this after-action, action past the eleventh hour of suddenly banning Donald Trump’s hate speech for his last two weeks is too little, too late,” Warner added.
The president isn’t the only one involved with encouraging protesters, according to Warner.
“I’ve seen images of senators giving raised fist, support indications before the Capitol was breached to these thugs,” he said. “I was proud of the fact that about half of the senators that said they were going to be part of this effort changed their mind after the violence. Many of these folks will have to live with their conscience of at least not discouraging these efforts and their kind of self-righteous comments on the floor of the Senate afterwards.”
During certification of the November election results, several Republican lawmakers raised objections to the results of the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Among the members that objected were all four of Virginia’s Republican congressmen, including Ninth District Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Fifth District Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell.
Good said his opposition was about “ensuring the will of the American people is accurately, justly and constitutionally followed.”
“Peaceful assembly, protesting and petitioning our government to express our grievances is fundamental to our constitutional republic,” he wrote in a statement. “We are also a nation established on the rule of law, and we must never resort to violence.”
Griffith also denounced the violence of the evening before voting to nullify electors for Biden.
“The Capitol is the place where Americans debate issues peacefully and according to our rules and Constitution,” he wrote on social media. “It should not be subject to break-ins and violence. Its occupiers must leave and face justice, and the business of the people must continue.”
In the House, a majority of Republicans voted to object to the results before failing 303-121 for the vote in Arizona and 282-138 for Pennsylvania. The Senate voted 93-6 to dismiss the objection raised in Arizona’s results, and 92-7 to reject the objection in Pennsylvania.
The congressmen argued that changes to voting procedures removed protections against fraud. They also posit that the procedures were unlawful due to the reforms being made without approval from the state legislatures.
“When some of my colleagues stand up and say well ‘35 or 40 percent of Americans think there was something wrong with the election,’ the reason they think there was something wrong with the election was not because the court of law had found something wrong, not because a recount had been taken offline, not because there has been record numbers of voters,” Warner said. “They think something was wrong because the President of the United States and his enablers lie to them on a regular basis.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Richmond, also called on Republican colleagues to take responsibility along with the president.
“But we all must condemn—in the strongest possible terms—the attempt yesterday to rob the American people of their duly elected leaders,” he said. “Goaded by the President and abetted by some of my fellow Senators, right-wing insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in support of an effort to overturn the presidential election results and install an unelected government. We know exactly how we got to this point. What will the Republican leaders who have enabled the outgoing President to restore peace, law, and order after this four-year flirt with authoritarianism?”
Both Virginia senators have spoken out in support of invoking the 25th Amendment which would allow Vice President Mike Pence and members of the president’s Cabinet to submit “written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and “the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
“The 25th Amendment–absolutely it should be on the table,” Warner said. “I’ve been in contact with members of the Trump Cabinet that I have relationships with and urging them to decide how they want to be recorded in history.”
In addition, Warner also said that a second or even third impeachment could be appropriate.
“If there was someone who felt that Donald Trump’s illegal actions–trying to harass and cajole the Ukrainian president–I thought that reached the level of an impeachable offense,” he said. “Obviously his inciting of violence or trying to steal an election in Georgia, they meet that criteria as well. On a practical basis, whether or not that can come together in 13 or 14 days, I candidly doubt.”
While Trump’s first term in office soon ends, the prospect of a successful impeachment could prevent him from seeking office again.
Per Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution, a “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”
If not fully disqualified from office, Warner said he would settle for his colleagues “expunging (Trump) from the Republican Party” in the best interest of “the Republican Party and in the best interest of the United States of America.”
In addition to internal turmoil, Warner also warned that foreign countries would capitalize on the moment.
“What breaks my heart more than anything was one of the pictures that I saw last night on one of the German newspapers. It appeared on newspapers, television feeds and internet postings all over the world. A picture of a bunch of these thugs walking through the halls of Congress,” Warner said. “Vladimir Putin and our adversaries gained more from those images in terms of strengthening their brand and undermining our democracy, then virtually anything that has happened over the last couple of decades.”