Fears mount that Trump’s final 13 days in office pose a security threat

<span>Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s final 13 days as US president pose a grave national security threat and warrant his immediate removal from office, politicians and activists said on Thursday.

Trump incited a mob of supporters to stage an insurrection at the US Capitol building in Washington, leading to four deaths, 68 arrests and bipartisan outrage.

The assault on the citadel of American democracy fueled a sense of foreboding about what the president, who possesses the nuclear codes, is capable of before he makes way for Joe Biden on 20 January. He could, for example, encourage his followers to march on government buildings and other state capitols again.

“He needs to be removed,” said Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman. “He’s a threat to this country. We’re not safe with him in the White House. Our president is this country’s greatest national security threat.”

Walsh added: “What he did yesterday, he could do again tomorrow. He could call another 50,000 people to Washington DC on Sunday to do whatever. He can use the power of his office to incite violence and insurrection again any day for the next 13 days.”

Trump is reportedly in a downward spiral as his time runs out at the White House, raging about his election loss, ignoring the deadly coronavirus pandemic and ever more delusional, paranoid and out of touch with reality. He feels betrayed by allies including Mike Pence, the vice-president who rubber-stamped the election result in the early hours of Thursday.

The Axios website reported: “Some stalwart aides and confidants – after years of enduring the crazy, and trying to modulate the chaos – have given up trying to communicate with him, considering him mentally unreachable.”

Rioters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol.
Rioters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The sense of implosion in Trump’s last days was underlined by the resignations on Wednesday of four administration officials including Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and a former White House press secretary.

The president even suffered the indignity of his prized Twitter account being suspended and Facebook and Instagram banning him indefinitely. He is now in perhaps the most volatile and unpredictable phase of his presidency.

Kurt Bardella, a senior adviser at the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, said: “Twitter at one point decided he shouldn’t be able to have access to his Twitter, and yet this is someone who has access to our nuclear launch codes. There’s an incongruity there.”

He added: “He’s shown that he poses a clear and present danger to the welfare of our country. When you direct and cheer on a coup d’etat attempt while people are trying to ransack the United States Capitol, you’re not just a danger you are an enemy to the United States of America and should be treated as such.”

In a recent joint statement, all 10 living former defense secretaries issued a stark warning against the military interfering in a peaceful transfer of power. The army has also felt compelled to issue a statement asserting its independence from politics.

Congress staffers hold up their hands while Capitol Police Swat teams check everyone in the room as they secure the floor of Trump suporters in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.
Congress staffers hold up their hands while Capitol police Swat teams check everyone. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

But although Trump’s political power is draining away, his cult of personality still commands tremendous loyalty among his “Make America great again” fanbase.

After he egged on supporters on Wednesday, they stormed the Capitol building and rampaged through its marbled halls and corridors, vandalizing members’ offices and posing for photos inside the House and Senate chambers.

Yet the president offered little by way of condemnation, asking the rioters to go home peacefully but adding: “We love you – you’re very special.”

Later Congress ratified Biden’s victory, brushing aside objections from Trump loyalists. The president declared in a statement tweeted at 3.49am by aide Dan Scavino: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”

However, past form suggests that statements prepared by Trump’s aides are often quickly undermined by the president’s own public pronouncements. Such is the anxiety about Trump’s potential to lash out in a final desperate act that some of America’s most influential cable news hosts are sounding the alarm.

Anderson Cooper of CNN asked: “Can the country handle 13 more days of President Trump?” Bret Baier told Fox News viewers: “I think this is a really dangerous period, as far as what is going to happen between now and January 20.” And Chris Hayes of MSNBC said: “The president of the United States is clearly a danger and threat to the republic and needs to be lawfully removed from office as fast as is legally practicable.”

Some politicians have responded to the national sense of dread. At least eight Democratic senators and dozens of Democratic House members have demanded the president’s removal from office as soon as possible. The Republican House member Adam Kinzinger joined the calls.

Shattered reinforced glass and debris litter the east steps in the US Capitol on 7 January.
Shattered reinforced glass and debris litter the east steps in the US Capitol on 7 January. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, said: “What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer.”

Schumer urged Pence and the cabinet to immediately invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution, which allows a president to be removed from office against his will because of physical or mental incapacity. Once unthinkable, such a scenario is at least now thinkable but remains unlikely.

Michael D’Antonio, author of The Truth About Trump, said: “He has always been a monstrous narcissist – the monstrous part is key – and he is now that monster in its death throes.”

He added: “He could attempt things similar to what happened yesterday and worse. I don’t think that he recognizes that this is real. Everything to him is TV drama and people are not real to him. So I think he’s capable of seeking further violence, I just don’t know if he can carry it off. He would love to burn the whole thing down but I don’t think that he’ll be able to.”