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EDITORIAL: Trump must go — and now

In light of Wednesday's assault on democracy at the Capitol, it is now clear — if ever there was any doubt to begin with — that Donald J. Trump incited a riot with a speech he gave on the White House lawn only an hour or so before tens of thousands of his crazed supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the presidential election.

We think it was the great H.L. Mencken who once mused that, as it progresses, democracy increasingly represents “the inner soul of the people” and that “on some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

We reached that point four years ago with the election of a reality TV host and failed businessman as president. But in light of Wednesday’s assault on democracy at the Capitol, it is now clear — if ever there was any doubt to begin with — that Donald J. Trump incited a riot with a speech he gave on the White House lawn only an hour or so before tens of thousands of his crazed supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the presidential election, breaking windows, invading offices and trashing the temple of democracy in the nation’s capital.

This act of violent sedition caused lawmakers, who were preparing to certify the lawful election of Trump’s opponent Joe Biden, to run for cover and resulted in the deaths of at least five people, including a police officer. It was the first time the U.S. Capitol building had been overrun since British troops tried to burn it down during the War of 1812.

Pissing away a chance to show leadership during the greatest crisis of his miserable presidency, Trump sat in his residence and watched it on television. The president of the United States waited for two hours before making an anodyne statement praising his followers, telling the insurrectionists he loved them, and making a tepid call for them to “go home.” Like the proverbial broken record, the liar-in-chief also repeated malicious flights of fancy about the election being “stolen” from him and them, while urging the angry rabble to “fight like hell.” He later made a speech condemning the violence, but, as he read it, Trump sounded no more sincere than an abductee in a hostage tape.

It was a monumental collapse of leadership in a presidency already littered with such failures. The situation is so grave that, with only a handful of exceptions, Republicans are abandoning their leader. Some, such as former chief of staff and recent special envoy Mick Mulvaney, have resigned, as have two other cabinet members. Others who had already jumped ship, such as former attorney general and erstwhile Trump enabler William Barr, have issued scathing rebukes of their former boss.

The president’s abysmal handling of the mutinous criminal event committed in his name has also elicited statements from state and local officials. To wit, state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who tweeted that the event is “sad & goes against everything America has stood for for 250 years”:

State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, who has worked as a United Nations negotiator in the Middle East, has seen authoritarian leaders try to change election results by undermining those in charge of counting the votes:

And proving the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, posted an image of the Statue of Liberty in tears:

Great Barrington selectboard chair Steve Bannon, whose unfortunate namesake worked previously as one of Trump’s lackeys, told The Edge that, as he watched Wednesday’s events unfold, he “got a knot in my stomach” and “became embarrassed for our country.”

“This is what happens in other countries. In my whole life I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Bannon, who also chairs the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee. “It almost brought you to tears that your country, the greatest democracy in the world, had come down to this.”

Others, including the Washington Post editorial board, have called on Trump to be removed from office before Biden takes the oath on January 20 — a measure Bannon endorses. The Edge joins Bannon, The Post, and a chorus of others in calling for Trump’s involuntary eviction from the White House before the inauguration of the new president.

There are only two means of accomplishing the removal of a president. One is to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for 15 members of the cabinet to declare that Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That action would be subject to congressional approval if Trump resists. The other is for Congress to begin the impeachment process for a second time — likely a symbolic undertaking that could easily drag on past the January 20 inauguration.

It goes without saying that the best course of action would be for Trump to resign immediately but that would run counter to his promise, made at every turn to his followers, to never give up the fight.

It’s an open question as to whether Trump could be arrested and charged with incitement, but he needs to be brought to justice one way or another, if for no other reason than to send a message to other aspiring autocrats, both here and abroad, that there is a price to be paid for reckless endangerment.

Like so many violent criminals, Trump should be considered armed and dangerous. “Armed” with the awesome powers of the presidency until January 20, Trump needs to be ushered out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue before he can inflict further harm on his battered constituents.

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