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Chaos In The Capitol And Its Aftermath

 January 7, 2021 at 12:46 PM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Washington DC remains under a state of emergency after the riot at the Capitol, Speaker 2: 00:05 Most of the businesses appear to be back up and running. And it seems to be pretty much back to normal. Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Hyman. This is KPBS midday edition. San Diego members of Congress described scenes of chaos. Speaker 2: 00:29 You don't expect that here in the Capitol in Washington, DC, it was crazy. It was the anarchist taken over. Speaker 1: 00:36 We'll ask if yesterday's ride, could fuel more political violence in the U S and a discussion on the legal ramifications of the capital riot, including the use of the 25th amendment. That's ahead on midday edition. The city of Washington DC is declaring a state of emergency for the next two weeks in response to yesterday's riot at the Capitol DC mayor Muriel Bowzer is also calling for investigations into the police conduct. During the riot, Speaker 3: 01:16 The Congress must create a nonpartisan commission to understand that catastrophic security failures that happen at the Capitol on January six, 2021, both to hold people accountable and to ensure that it never happens again. We must also understand why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protest over the summer than during yesterday's attack on Congress Speaker 1: 01:45 Today in the Capitol building boards are being put up against shattered windows, debris, and damage from hundreds of rioters who entered the house chamber and various lawmakers offices is being removed and repaired. The FBI is asking for the public's help in identifying more of the people who took part in Wednesday's riot. So far, at least 52 people out of the thousands who marched to storm the Capitol yesterday have been arrested and four people died. One of the dead was 35 year old Ashley Babbitt of San Diego and air force veteran. She was shot reportedly after she entered the Capitol through a broken window. Joining me from Washington, DC is USA today. Reporter will Carlos, who covered the riot and its aftermath will use to report for a voice of San Diego and was a frequent guest on this show. And we'll welcome. It's good to talk to you. Speaker 2: 02:37 It's nice to be talking to you again. Speaker 1: 02:39 What is the atmosphere like today in DC? Are tensions still running high? Speaker 2: 02:44 No, not really. I haven't been out on the streets much, but my colleagues have, and it's really rather quiet. Um, my aunt, uh, colleagues who were at the Capitol today, they said that they're really ramping up security that already, uh, putting up, I guess, Kline proof fences and taking other measures. But the town itself, the city itself is, is pretty quiet. I mean, it was under curfew until six o'clock this morning. Um, but most of the businesses appear to be back up and running and it seems to be, you know, pretty much back to normal. Speaker 1: 03:16 What kind of police presence did you witness yesterday? Speaker 2: 03:21 Uh, an astonishingly small one, I think is the answer to that. I, I was like really shocked, not only throughout the proceedings, but really bright from the first moment when I arrived there. I mean, I've covered, you know, I've covered riots all over the place or, you know, different countries in the world. And, and when you, when you're at a federal building, which is housing, you know, the nation's lawmakers, you expect security to be extremely tight and extremely strong and it's, and it definitely wasn't. I can't speak to myself to the contrast with the, um, you know, with the other protests, but there's been a lot said about it and I think it's accurate. I mean, it was just solely, solely, solely lacking Speaker 1: 04:00 You and other reporters yesterday expecting a violent protest. Speaker 2: 04:04 I was certainly, I mean, I had been monitoring the groups that, that I monitor, which is groups like the 3% is the oath keepers, the proud boys. I mean, I'm an extremist and reporter and I flew here from California. So we knew that there was going to be extremist activity. We didn't, I didn't think any of us thought it was going to go this far. Um, but, but the two parts of it as they did, we know there was going to be violence. And did we know there was going to be violence focused on the Capitol building? And I think the answer to both of those, the first one is definitely, yes, we knew there would be violence. We didn't know exactly where it would be focused, but as soon as Trump had made his speech and I will add the camera guy that I was with, who's been reporting in DC for the last sort of 10 years or so he knew right away, he's like, well, they're going to go to the Capitol and they're going to try and disrupt the vote and looking back at it, it seems astonishing the obvious that that was going to be the focus of people's anger. Speaker 1: 05:03 Well, what is your sense of who these writers were? You mentioned a few names of organizations. Well, where were they affiliated with proud boys, you know, that far right organizations, or were they more like conspiracy Q Anon supporters? Speaker 2: 05:19 All of the above? Um, I was talking to a, uh, I was talking to an expert on this just now, just before this call. And she described it as sort of, you know, just this amalgamation of these different groups from all different corners. Um, but they, the one thing that they all have in common of course, is that they're all supporters of president Trump, but you have this enormous kind of just bringing together of all the, the sort of, you know, conspiracy theory people. So the Q Anon conspiracy theory, there were a lot of people, a lot of supporters of Q and on there, the, um, the militia movements that, that I talked about earlier, there were a lot of those people, the proud boys were less prevalent than they have been in previous, um, in previous riots. But that's because they had made a measured decision to not kind of dress in the clothes that they regularly, where I've talked to sources who are really close to the proud boys. Speaker 2: 06:16 And they said, you know, that they were certainly out there, they just weren't as obvious. Um, but in amongst it, there were a lot of, you know, just everyday folk who are Trump supporters, um, you know, perhaps a lot more sort of conspiracy leaning, uh, Trump supporters, but, but a lot of regular Trump's supporters, nonetheless. And I will say, I did see a few people. We have talked to a lot of people who are unrepentant and I interviewed people who are unrepentant yesterday, but also I did see people sort of saying things like, what are they doing? This is totally against what we want and that sort of thing. So there was, there was some blow back like that. Speaker 1: 06:52 Now we'll, we've, we've all seen so many images by now of the writers inside and outside the Capitol yesterday, but you were there in person while this was unfolding. And I'm wondering, what did you see that we didn't, Speaker 2: 07:05 I, I mean, probably not much at this point, just because of the prevalence of cameras. I, I think it's more, the atmosphere that is kind of is very difficult to recreate. And I think what, what perhaps people don't understand is that as the, I did watch the initial sort of what I believe to be the initial breach of the, uh, of the perimeter security and the breach up onto the kind of Rampart of the building. Um, and what I think people don't realize is that, that front sort of front of that, where the first people flowed through there was that group. Then there was a huge crowd directly behind them, but then streaming in all the time, down the mall from where Trump had just given his speech where more and more and more people. So there was really just this sort of feeling of growing pressure of growing anticipation of growing force, honestly, that, that was kind of coming down the mall towards the building. So it's, it's sort of, you know, all the pictures that you see if the, the people that kind of broke through, they're really just the tip of the spear in terms of the, the vast crowds that there were kind of going right back, um, right. The way up onto the mall. There were lots of people there, Speaker 1: 08:19 The house and Senate reconvened last night to confirm Joe Biden's electoral college victory. Can you give us a sense of how badly damaged the chamber that they returned to was? Speaker 2: 08:31 I didn't go inside the building. I'm a bit of a, I'm a bit of a worst when it comes to these things. And I didn't, you know, I didn't want to get shot. And that was a very real possibility. I thought at that point of Nikos, one, one lady was shot and killed. And so I can't speak to the damage on the inside. I will say, you know, we could see broken windows, we could see the protesters inside holding things up to the windows. One of the things that really surprised Speaker 4: 08:56 Me, and I guess probably surprised a lot of people was, I guess I figured after this sort of insurrection, I think that they were going to kind of close the Capitol down and it would be closed down for sort of weeks for repairs before anything before anything happened again. And the, certainly the supporters that I talked to last night were jubilant. They were like, we've done it, we've stopped the vote. We've stopped this from happening. And I was really astonished to hear a couple of hours later, like, Oh no, they're going to reconvene. They're going to go back in and carry on voting. And I think, I think that was enormously important to do. Not only because it sort of sends a sign that look okay, you know, we're back in control, the government is still functioning and everything else, but it also sent a message to all the people who were part of that, you know, that riot, that insurrection that no, actually you didn't, you didn't win. You didn't, you didn't accomplish much really because the vote went on and, um, you know, the votes were counted and everything, everything is still the same this morning as it would have been, it was just delayed by a few hours. And I think that that, that was an important message to send. Speaker 5: 10:01 And I've been speaking with USA today. Reporter will carless from Washington, DC will thank you very much. Speaker 4: 10:07 Thanks for having me on Speaker 5: 10:13 Congressman Juan Vargas who represents the 51st district was at the Capitol yesterday when glass was smashed and security was breached. He had to take cover when the certification of the presidential election was interrupted by a violent mob of rioters Congressman Vargas joins us now to describe his experience Congressman Vargas. Welcome. Thank you. First, walk me through your experience at the Capitol yesterday, where were you when the unrest, uh, first started? Speaker 4: 10:40 Well, I was actually down in the tunnel area coming up. So I was over in the Capitol. We have offices across the street where I am now, and I heard literally a wave of people. You could hear them coming, you could hear them climbing over things. And that's when I heard some police officers yelling here, they come take, you know, take shelter. So at that point, I ran back to my office to make sure that my staff was, was fine. I had a few of my staff members here and, um, it was a scary moment. You heard people running through the hallways here. Some were police officers and a lot weren't. So again, we didn't know what was going to go on. And I told my staff we'll get anything you can to protect yourself because our doors may be breached at any moment. And thank God that didn't come to be. Speaker 4: 11:23 But, uh, but it was, it was terrible. I mean, you could hear people yelling and screaming. We do have scaffolding outside this building. We were told, you know, look outside of there, people climbing up the walls. There was one guy attempting to climb up the scaffolding. And I told my staff, if he gets up here and tries to come in through the window, we will throw them off the building. So he wasn't, he wasn't able to, I think at some point they convinced them to come down. But, uh, but you know, it was a terrible moment. I mean, you don't, you don't want to go through this to simply, um, you know, follow the constitution and do your job, which our job is very clear. Our job was to do one thing and one thing alone, and that was respect the will of the voters. And that was that they elected Joe Biden. We were supposed to certify the electors and that's all we were supposed to do. And that's what we were going to do. And ultimately that's what we did, but you know, it was going to be a fight to get there and it shouldn't have been, Speaker 5: 12:14 How did yesterday's law enforcement response compare to other days? I mean, we all noticed the lapse in security during the right. Uh, but did you notice anything strange before it happened? I mean, what questions are you asking about that? Speaker 4: 12:26 I was actually on house administration, so I wasn't in charge of the security around here, but I was involved in it. Our committee was in charge of it. So I was on it for two years. I noticed security better than most people. Again, I've met with the police normally about once a month on a security issue. So I know when they roll heavy and when they don't roll heavy, that's what they call it. And yesterday, for some reason they decided not to roll heavy, even though they knew that there were, there was going to be lots and lots of protests, I think because it wasn't black lives matter because it wasn't an immigration when it was just Trump's students. They're going to be fine. You know, they decided not to roll heavy. The reality is going to have huge security here. We have the ability to do that, but, um, you know, they decided not to. Speaker 4: 13:06 And I think it was very, very problematic. Um, obviously, I mean, it was, it led to, I think, loss of life and other things. And again, they, they could have prevented that in my view, if they simply had treated it, like they normally treat these huge manifestations by rolling heavy, I mean, go and get the security that you need set up your perimeter, protect the capital. That's what they do. And they do it successful. It's never happened before, but because these were, you know, supposedly Trumpsters and they're going to be fine. And you know, they're not black lives matter. They're not immigrant activists. Well, it turned out there was the most violent Speaker 5: 13:41 You make of it. I mean, I'm hearing reports that there were officers taking selfies with rioters. Speaker 4: 13:46 Oh yeah, no. So it was really a mixed bag. Just to be fair. I mean, there was some officers that were absolutely doing the wrong thing and not pushing back. But then at the same time, I know a lot of these officers, again, because of my former job or my former position here. And I went and talked to one of the guys that was inside as a very dear friend of mine, I call him Q I can't give his whole name, but, and he was one of the guys defending the actual floor of the Congress. And there were a number of my colleagues that were held up in there. And so he drew his weapon and he was prepared to fire if he needed to. I talked to him once we went and voted and later on and he was all shaken up, you know, he's a Marine. Speaker 4: 14:25 And I said, you okay? He goes, yeah. He goes, you know, one of my colleagues over there was the one that shot the young lady and he's all torn up about it. I mean, he didn't want to fire upon it, but, you know, he felt he had to do that. So it was, it was a terrible situation for him. How about you? And he goes, I'm a Marine. He goes, I was going to hold this position and I held it until I'm relieved and that's the way you're supposed to do so again, it was a mixed bag on, you know, which police officers are doing, what, I mean, some of the, that were, um, you know, closest, I think to my colleagues were prepared to do what they needed to do. And sadly, and in some case opening fire to make sure that others weren't killed some of the other, uh, capital officers I saw and I saw him on tape and a couple of them, I knew I was like, they're taking selfies with these guys instead of pushing them back to tuck and selfies. I mean, this was black lives matter. They wouldn't be taking selfies, it'd be whacking them in the head or something. So that really is disappointing. And that's something that we have to talk about, you know, why, you know, the disparate treatment, the, the difference between black lives matter and the difference here between Trumpsters storming the capital, actually trying to prevent us from doing our constitutional duty. I mean, something has to go, Speaker 5: 15:33 You know, you, you were sworn into your fifth term in Congress on Sunday and have just served over eight years now. How do, uh, yesterday's events at the Capitol compare to what you've seen during that time? Speaker 4: 15:45 It really is nothing comparable just to be Frank. I mean, you know, we come here and we debate issues and you know, I've been through this formality before where we simply follow the constitution and we take a look at the electors and then we certify them and we have a new president, uh, or we have a president reelected and we just simply do our duty. So there was nothing like yesterday. Now I did study to be a Jesuit priest. I was in El Salvador during part of the war there, the civil war. And then you saw stuff like that. There, you had death squads running around killing people. You had the military that would go rogue and slaughter people. I mean, you had all these manifestations, all this crazy stuff, but that was in El Salvador during civil war. You don't expect that here in the Capitol in Washington, DC, I mean, it was crazy. Speaker 4: 16:33 It was the anarchist taken over. And again, it was the president and Amman. I mean, let's, let's put blame where it was. I mean, the, the reality is here. You had the commander in chief of our armed forces, huge power aching on an angry mob to take over the Capitol and prevent him from being ousted from office when he should, because he lost the election. Instead, he said, you know, I'll go take the capital and they did, but they didn't fully take it. Obviously at the end of the day, I think our democracy is strong and cooler heads prevailed. And those officers that did ultimately fight back, fought back and Dhruv drove the mob out. And we did our duty and our duty was to count the electoral votes, which we did. And Joe Biden will be the next president. Speaker 5: 17:21 I've been speaking to Congressman Juan Vargas, Congressman Vargas. Thank you very much. Thank you. Speaker 1: 17:28 San Diego's newest member of Congress spent her third day in office sheltering from rioters in the Capitol Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs of San Diego's. 53rd district started Wednesday watching the electoral college certification from the house gallery. Then the day took a very different turn. Joining me is Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs and welcome the show. Thank you. Great to be here with you. How are you and your staff after yesterday's incredible events? Speaker 6: 17:55 We're doing okay. Only two of my staff were in the office and they sheltered in, in the office all day. Uh, I had to evacuate with chemical weapons hood had some scary incidences, but I'm just grateful and thankful that, uh, the situation wasn't worse and that we didn't lose more lives. Speaker 1: 18:16 When did you realize something was happening at the Capitol building? Speaker 6: 18:19 So I was sitting overlooking the house floor and I saw some commotion on the house floor. And then we started hearing Capitol police running behind us. They told us to pull the emergency evacuation hoods from under the chair to be ready to use them, but then we continued in session, uh, for a little bit longer until finally they told us to put the hoods on shelter under our seats. Uh, we could hear, uh, protesters banging on the doors right behind us. We heard some flash bangs and, and shooting. Uh, and then we evacuated to the other side of the house gallery had to climb under handrails and over chairs to get there and went to a couple of different secure locations until we were finally released back to our offices to resume session. Speaker 1: 19:05 Now, some members of Congress have shared with the media that they were afraid for their lives. Were you? Yes. Speaker 6: 19:12 Uh, I, uh, have been in a number of difficult situations that my background is in post-conflict stabilization, and that was probably the most scared I've ever been for my life. Uh, there was one point where, uh, Capitol police told us to take our congressional pins off because they were worried that we would be more of a target if the protesters could see who the members of Congress were. And I think that it's really clear that there were many of, uh, the mob that came in that were intent on causing harm to elected members of Congress. And that is a really dark day for America. Speaker 1: 19:51 Do you have questions about the security breach that allowed the writers did to get into the building? Speaker 6: 19:57 I think it's clear that we need an investigation into how, uh, they were allowed inside the complex and inside the building. Uh, it's clear that something went wrong and we also need to investigate why the response yesterday was so different than what we saw over the summer towards peaceful protestors. Speaker 1: 20:15 Congress was called back in session last night to complete the task of confirming Joe Biden's win as president. What was that historic session? Like? Speaker 6: 20:25 I decided to go back to the house floor. I felt like it was important to show that we were still there that no angry mob could get in the way of us conducting our constitutional duties. It was, uh, a pretty somber moment. Uh, I was disheartened to see that many of my colleagues did not change course due to the events earlier in the day, but when we got through all of the States and it was officially certified that we will be inaugurating Joe Biden and Kama Harris on January 20th, I think we all felt a real sigh of relief, uh, and really felt like that while it was such a dark and difficult day, that help was on the way and, and the future will be brighter. Speaker 1: 21:11 Now you joined with other democratic members of Congress to call for the impeachment of the president over yesterday's riot. Why would that be necessary with only two weeks to go in his chair? Speaker 6: 21:22 You know, my background is, uh, working in post-conflict transitions in conflict zones, and I think it's incredibly important that we hold everyone responsible for inciting encouraging or committing the violence that we saw yesterday, responsible and accountable to the highest level. And while we will be getting a new president on January 20th, I think it's important to show very clearly that what was done, uh, the president's attempt to overthrow an elected government, um, because he didn't like the outcome of an election is unacceptable and something that can never happen again. Speaker 1: 21:59 What about the invocation of the 25th amendment? Do you support that? Speaker 6: 22:03 I do. I'm hopeful that vice president Pence and members of the cabinet will uphold their constitutional duty to protect and defend the constitution and will invoke the 25th amendment. Okay. Speaker 1: 22:14 And do you think Congress should expel some members for obstructing the process of confirming the electoral votes? Speaker 6: 22:21 I do. I think that, uh, it's important that anyone who encouraged this violent behavior by sowing doubt in our electoral process, by encouraging, uh, these writers and, and, uh, protesters, uh, needs to be held accountable. It's the only way to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. Speaker 1: 22:42 And Congresswoman Jacobs, are you concerned about more violence in Washington in the final days of this presidency? Speaker 6: 22:50 I think we can't roll anything out and we have to be prepared for anything. Uh, I will be attending the inauguration and I believe that it's of utmost importance that we do not let an angry hate-filled mob control, how our democracy governance itself. Speaker 1: 23:06 I've been speaking with San Diego Congresswoman Sarah Jacobs, Congresswoman Jacobs. Thank you so much for your time. Speaker 6: 23:12 Of course, Speaker 1: 23:28 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann president. Trump has now said through a spokesperson that he has agreed to an orderly transition of power, but that's not enough to stop the increasing calls for Trump to step down or be removed from office before Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20th, politicians, editorial boards, and former allies of the precedent say it's time for him to go, but that's not a simple proposition. Joining me is Glenn Smith, professor of law at California Western school of law. And Glenn, welcome back to the show. Thank you. Just start off. There were a number of words used to describe what happened at the Capitol yesterday. Some of which actually have legal definitions, and I'd like to ask you what is sedition and how is it different from treason? Speaker 7: 24:21 Uh, treason in its narrow sense is thought to involve trying to help a foreign power against the U S government. Uh, it has some broader definitions, but insurrection can be, uh, any kind of violent or disruptive act to try to, to try to interfere with the legitimate processes of government. Speaker 1: 24:41 And do you think sedition or insurrection could be one of the charges against rioters at the Capitol? Speaker 7: 24:47 Uh, it definitely could, um, in turn as well as, you know, the more garden variety, but serious, uh, uh, breaches of the law that come whenever property is damaged and people are put in life's danger and, and guns are illegally toted and all those, but certainly there are laws against, uh, not only insurrection, but sedition implies, I think a greater sense of trying to overthrow the government, you know, put in the, put in a different government or create anarchy, whereas insurrection can simply be, you know, what we saw yesterday, a riot, a riot, a swab, uh, invading a sacred space of the country. As you know, Maureen, more than anyone, uh, from talking to me, law legal terms are not precisely defined and are subject to multiple interpretations. And that's certainly something that I know that, uh, I would imagine at least at a number of federal prosecutors and state prosecutors, where there are state laws against this, or looking at the definitions and trying to figure out which offense best matches the, the gravity of what happened. Speaker 1: 25:49 What about the speakers at yesterday's rally, including the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who told the people to March to the Capitol, could they be liable for inciting the riot? Speaker 7: 26:01 Uh, it gets you into a very interesting question because although there are laws against inciting riot, there's a very high bar. Uh, basically the person has to be calling for the eminent action of physical violence or death or destruction rather than doing it to generally being supportive or being, uh, encouraging or whatever. And so, uh, again, the devil's in the details with all these, all these statutes, certainly, uh, beyond the legalism of it, it would certainly be a high crime or misdemeanor in my view, that would be impeachable immediately. It would be evidence of unfitness for office that would justify the 25th amendment. So on a continuum, there's different questions of precise, legal questions. And then what are the political significance of these things? That's it. Speaker 1: 26:49 I'm going to ask you more about the 25th amendment at a moment, but just to wrap this up now that Congress has affirmed Joe Biden's win. Are there any longshot legal challenges that remain for president Trump? Speaker 7: 27:02 You're, you're going to be amazed, Maureen, I'm going to say no, we rarely have short answers in this, but that's very clear. Uh, the last constitutional requirement has been discharged by the Congress and Biden and Harris are the upcoming president and vice-president, and there's really no, uh, I mean, I, I CA if this were a law school exam, I could imagine torturing the students by asking, having a, a lawsuit brought to the Supreme court that tried to argue that the Congress acted illegitimately. That's just practically unimaginable. Speaker 1: 27:39 Okay, then, so the president is now saying that there will be an orderly transition of power when president elect Biden is sworn in, but apparently there are still a lot of calls for, and a lot of concerns about Trump's mental stability. The 25th amendment has been mentioned, how can that be invoked if a president isn't comatose or nearly dead? Speaker 7: 28:02 Well, uh, the way the procedure provides that, uh, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can certify to Congress that the president has quote, unfit a term that clearly implies what you were talking about, but also arguably implies godless disregard of the rule of law, et cetera, et cetera, in any event, the processes that the vice-president and a majority of the cabinet officials, and of course, trying to get who's in the cabinet now, and a majority and all that might be difficult. They certify to Congress that the president's unfit, if the president then certifies that no I'm fit, uh, Congress has four days to consider it. And if a super majority, two thirds in both the house and the Senate vote to permanently declare the president unfit, it can be done. Speaker 1: 28:50 Could that process be accomplished in the less than two weeks remaining in Trump's presidency Speaker 7: 28:55 In time wise? It could. And that's one of the interesting things. So of course it requires us some political assumptions and political will shown by the vice-president and the cabinet. And, um, you know, you gotta wonder after last night's vote, where more than a hundred house members, uh, still walk the plank for the president, whether in fact there would be a two thirds majority to remove him under the 25th amendment. But, um, at least in terms of the process, that would appear to be the more, the more fast track process compared to say impeachment, which again could be done, but it there's just certain internal procedures in Congress and an ability in Congress for people to stop the impeachment process or delay the trial and all that. So, um, it be done requires an extreme, uh, political will and consensus that, uh, haven't seen so far, Speaker 1: 29:50 We were in a weird constitutional place yesterday because it seems from reliable reports that it was vice-president Pence who called out the national guard to protect the capital. It seems Pence was de facto in charge for most of the afternoon, can a vice-president takeover like that? Speaker 7: 30:09 Well, again, you get one of these classic definitions between the formalities and the pragmatism, the framers of the constitution drive to create important checks and balances and formalities, but they recognize that sometimes practicalities including insurrection or the country's under attack or whatever require, uh, extraordinary measures. So I don't think there was a technical right of, uh, vice-president Pence to do what he did, but I think it would be understandable that, uh, everyone involved would think that somebody needed to do something and bring, bring calm to a dangerous situation. Speaker 1: 30:45 You know, I think we've all been watching and reading political pundits who say they are afraid of what president Trump might do in the last days of his presidency. Is there a legal way, short of impeachment or removal that can put a check on his taking some final destructive action? Speaker 7: 31:04 Uh, there probably are, if I were more of a military expert, I would probably know that there are more statutory controls on whether the president can order an attack or, you know, various kinds of things. But generally, no, generally the framers of the constitution created a system that assumed a minimum level of good faith and Goodwill and a minimum level of functional competence for in the, in the high ranking officials. And, uh, there's not any formal procedure. I would hope that, you know, the joint chiefs of staff and military officials and people in the white house are, are doing again, pragmatic things like, um, hiding the nuclear code or telling the president what he wants to hear rather than something that would make him more dangerous. But, uh, but that's all sort of practical. And it depends on the ingenuity and Goodwill of people rather than something that's provided in the constitution or the law. Speaker 1: 32:02 It sounds like you are also concerned about the final days of this presidency. Speaker 7: 32:06 I, I don't see how you could not be concerned after, uh, what we saw yesterday. I mean, I never, I was a former Senate staffer Marine back in the old days, and I never thought I would see either number one, uh, an armed mob attacking the place that I used to work in regards to those significantly or that the person in United States, uh, would egg it on and senators. So I'm, I'm, you know, I don't think we can take anything for granted. I think rationality is going to hold and we're gonna hopefully get out this without any Speaker 3: 32:40 Huge, additional worsening of the situation. But I think people that are concerned have a right to be concerned. Speaker 5: 32:47 And I've been speaking with Glenn Smith, professor of law at California Western school of law Glenn. Speaker 3: 32:52 Thank you. Very welcome. Speaker 8: 33:05 [inaudible] Speaker 5: 33:07 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Cavenaugh, the riots of the nation's capital. We're a wake-up call to many Americans who never thought something like this could happen here. Four people died including one woman from San Diego and after windows were broken offices, vandalized and Confederate flags were carried into the Capitol. We're left. Wondering what does yesterday's deadly riot say about the future of our democracy? Barbara F. Walter, a political scientist at D has been sounding the alarm about a rise in political violence. She's writing a book expected to be published this year by random house about how the us is heading toward a second civil war, Barbara. Welcome. Speaker 3: 33:50 Thank you very much. It's great to be here. Speaker 5: 33:52 You know, when we last spoke in may of 2019, you felt we were getting close to a constitutional crisis and that democracy was threatened. Uh, first, what is your reaction to what happened yesterday as writers broke into the Capitol? Speaker 3: 34:07 So yesterday was actually surprising to me as well. Um, we have seen America's democracy decline since 2016. Um, so that wasn't a surprise, you know, the U S used to be considered a full democracy like places like Norway and Switzerland and Iceland. And it's now considered a partial democracy in the same category as countries like Ecuador, Somalia and Haiti. And I think most Americans don't know that what happened yesterday dropped the U S even further on the democracy scale that scholars use to measure the level of democracy. Um, and what really was under attack yesterday was the, the cornerstone of our democracy, which is free and fair elections. So it was surprising because it was so extreme, but it's part of a larger pattern that we've been observing over the last four years. Speaker 5: 35:03 And, you know, so words matter when we talk about these events, uh, given your expertise in political science, how would you characterize what happened yesterday? Was it an insurrection, domestic terrorism, a coup I mean, how would you define that? Speaker 3: 35:16 I would characterize it as domestic terrorism. Terrorism is defined as the conscious targeting of civilians, um, with violence for political purposes. And the fact that some of these individuals were armed the fact that they placed incendiary devices in places suggest that they at least some of them, um, planned to kill civilians and or government officials, um, in an attempt to keep president Trump in power. And that is the definition of terrorism. And we have seen a rise in terror over the last few years, um, whether it's the form of mass killings, um, in synagogues or, um, in various places, um, we've seen, um, you know, attempts to kidnap and put on trial. Um, the governor of, of Michigan, the attempt there was probably to convict her of treason and kill her. Um, so this is part of a string of terrorist attacks or plans to instigate terrorist attacks that we've seen over the last few years. Almost all of it has been coming from the far right. And in fact, the department of Homeland security in 2019 beamed, um, far right domestic terror as the greatest threat to the United States. Um, and I think this is simply, um, a very clear and obvious continuation of that. Speaker 5: 36:42 Well, what blame does social media deserve for fueling the divisions that we are seeing in this country right now? Speaker 3: 36:48 Oh, that's a great question. So I actually think there's two ways that social media could actually be not just an accelerant of these divisions, but potentially a cause. Um, the first is the recommendation engines. Those are the sort of the algorithms that people talk about, um, that, um, social media platforms have created to feed their users more and more material that is similar to material that they've liked in the past. And social media companies do this because their business model is based on keeping people, um, uh, locked into their phones for as long as possible. But what tends to happen is, um, there's a psychological component to it. People tend to like material information that they receive online that tends to be more emotional, that taps into their emotions. And that oftentimes tends to be stuff that makes them angry, outraged, um, resentful, and what the recommendation engines do is not just recommend more material like that, but it's more material that's even more extremely like that. Speaker 3: 38:02 So it pushes people to the extremes of the political spectrum. So that's one way. And the second way social media feeds divisions is that, um, technology companies allow people to post basically whatever they like on social media. Um, and they've argued that this is necessary because they don't want to censure censor anybody, but what social media companies do and what they, I believe need to take responsibility four is they amplify this information and they disseminate it widely and very quickly. So if you have a platform where people can post anything they want, and in fact, the most incendiary material tends to get the most attention. And then they serve as a massive dissemination machine. Then what they're doing is they're taking the most dangerous information and they're getting it into the hands of people that otherwise never would have seen it. And that's a problem, Speaker 5: 39:09 You know, people who didn't see what happened yesterday, coming are unlikely to be able to imagine the possibility of a civil war here, but you say we've already seen things happen that are precursors to a civil war. Speaker 3: 39:23 Yes, yes. Um, so the reason why most Americans can't imagine a, a second civil war here is because they're thinking about the first one they're thinking about Gettysburg, um, and, and the big battles that happen then, and they're thinking about two big, large conventional armies, one in blue uniforms and one in gray uniforms, meeting each other and fighting on the battlefield. And that's just not the way it's going to happen. What we've been seeing over the last, um, um, you know, basically since 2010 is the rise of far right malicious. They began to grow, um, uh, when Barack Obama was first elected, we're seeing the rise of terrorist attacks. Those began to grow, um, starting in 2011, um, why 2011, 2011 was the year that the census was released. And that census showed that for the first time, a majority of the children in America who were, were being born were nonwhite. Speaker 3: 40:23 And, and, um, many of us who study extremist groups, things think that this was sort of a wake up call to them, that they had to, that, that, um, nonviolent means of keeping America white, where we're no longer working and they needed to shift to more violent methods. And then since 2019, there's been an increase in groups that call themselves accelerationist. And these are groups that actually want to speed up the move to civil war. Um, and they want to do that in order to create radical change. Um, the group that we've all heard about is, are, are called the, the Boogaloo boys. Um, but if you think back recently, the militia group in Michigan that tried to kidnap governor Whitmer, um, was also wanted to start a civil war, and that was their plan to do so. Um, so we have been seeing this and, and, um, you know, ultimately the type of civil war that, that we will see if it does happen will be more like a siege of terror. More like what, um, we saw happening in Northern Ireland or Israel where people learn to live with, um, a fairly consistent stream of terrorist attack attacks by, um, uh, uh, you know, a number of extremist groups, some of whom coordinate some of whom don't coordinate. Um, and, and that's the type of civil war we're likely to see. Speaker 5: 41:55 And based on your research, what will it take for the United States to prevent a civil war at this point? Uh, you know, how do we chart a new course? Speaker 3: 42:04 Well, what we know from, um, from past civil Wars is that there are really two big risk factors, countries that are partial democracies. Um, we call them an opera seas. They're neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. Those are the countries that are most likely to S to, um, experience the civil war. And the second big risk factor is whether a country's population, whether its citizens have broken down politically along racial, ethnic, or religious lines. And of course the United States has both of those conditions currently. And that tells us what we need to do to reduce the risk of civil war. So the two things are, we need to strengthen our democracy. We need to create stronger checks on the president. The executive branch in the United States has becoming more powerful relative to any other branch. That's one of the reasons why our democracy has been downgraded. Speaker 3: 43:03 We need to secure our elections and our electoral process so that we really do have free and fair elections. We need to remove the barriers to voting that has been increasingly placed on, um, certain citizens over the last few years. And then we need to reduce the influence of money in politics. So strengthen our democracy full democracies, don't tend to have civil Wars. Um, and then the second big thing is I do think we need to regulate big technology companies. I think it's no coincidence that, um, civil society has become more divided and more angry. Um, and, and I think social media has played a role in that. Um, I'm not saying that technology companies need to regulate the content. I think they can let people post mostly whatever they want on their platforms, but what they shouldn't be allowed to do is to give any type of information, whether it's it's, uh, misinformation or disinformation, uh, an almost instantaneous global audience. So technology companies should be regulated in terms of what type of content they then pass on to individuals not only, um, in this country, but around the world. So those would be my two biggest recommendations. I've speaking with Barbara F. Walter, Speaker 5: 44:32 Who is a university of California, San Diego political scientist. She's writing a book expected to be published this year by random house about how the us is heading toward a second civil war. Barbara, thank you so Speaker 8: 44:44 Much for joining us. It's my pleasure. Thank you.

After a mob of Trump loyalists attacked the U.S. Capitol building, the city of Washington D.C. is declaring a state of emergency for the next two weeks. There are now calls for investigations into police conduct during the riot and how it was allowed to go as far as it did. Plus, reactions from local Congressional representatives who were there when everything went down. And, increasingly more and more people are calling for President Trump’s resignation or removal, but a local law professor says it’s not as simple as it sounds.