To mitigate this unprecedented domestic threat — albeit belatedly — law enforcement, along with the intelligence community, will need to reallocate resources. This is necessary, although malign actors not associated with the recent violence may take advantage of this perceived window of opportunity to hit us in other areas. Certainly Russia, which has long used influence operations to sow division and amplify conspiracy theories in the United States, will attempt to exploit this period for its own purposes.
This reality may further inspire bad actors — both foreign and domestic — to leverage this moment for their own dangerous purposes.
Trump officials who are choosing to step down from their posts are only adding to the risks now. To be blunt, these resignations are not profiles in courage. These are people who served Trump up until he inspired a deadly insurrection. They served Trump despite his incendiary rhetoric, praise for extremists and attacks on democracy. Resigning now is a profile in cowardice — we need people to stay put and keep the wheels of government running to ensure the smoothest transition of power possible. Trump officials should speak up if they feel a moral obligation to take a stand, but the important thing at this point is to keep working. For cabinet officials, they have a constitutional obligation to consider the 25th Amendment and that requires them to stay on the job.
The indelible scene of the United States failing to protect itself from its own citizens deeply tarnishes our image when it comes to signaling that we are able to fend off external threats. The inability, or unwillingness, of officials to secure the US Capitol despite weeks of warning makes it seem that we are asleep at the wheel.
These threats are only adding to the serious national security challenges posed by Covid-19, an ongoing cyberattack, and the transition period.
After Wednesday’s insurrection, we may be given the backseat in global democratization efforts going forward — at least until we repair some of the damage here at home. This will delight adversaries like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who have long fought to undermine US credibility, and it will horrify people around the world who have relied on the United States to protect democracy in their own countries.
Americans now face a stark reality. Donald Trump wasn’t born yesterday — despots don’t appear out of thin air, they grow emboldened over time with the help of enablers, and we have watched it happen. There are no statements or resignations in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack that can erase any of that. So many stood up and supported a yearslong attack on our homeland by the very man charged with protecting us. So many others stood by and excused or rationalized inexcusable, dangerous and unpatriotic behavior.
Similarly, terrorists aren’t radicalized overnight. They plan and execute violent and criminal acts after being supported, inspired, and incited over time. We have seen extremists egged on by the very leader who was ultimately responsible for countering them. And so many people — whether through active support or silent, blind obedience — enabled this violence.
In the days ahead, we need to focus on securing the homeland and restoring our democracy. Doing so requires judiciously examining and acknowledging all of those who made possible this attack on our homeland. Our security depends on it. We need to understand what happened and who is accountable so that we can work to prevent it from happening again.
Ever since I can remember, my father has taught me lessons from his childhood. He taught me about the cost of enabling violence, whether through actively supporting it or remaining silent. We saw this fatally play out before our eyes on Wednesday.