Emil Guillermo: Asian Americans must demand accountability for Trump's Insurrection Day
In the aftermath of last Wednesday’s insurrection, I’ve had the luxury of nursing a stunned silence. Perhaps to pray. Was I seeing this correctly—Trump declaring war on Congress? That’s what it seemed like. It leaves us with this dilemma: Can we allow the president to stay in office after he urged his seditious supporters to riot?
That’s how I felt as I watched the Capitol being ransacked and pillaged, not by an enemy force, but by our fellow Americans.
There was a sinking feeling in my heart for our country and our government.
Five are dead from the Trump riot, likely another presidential super-spreader event. At the same time, more than 4,000 have died each day from coronavirus, a record. And now we must seriously contemplate ending sooner than later one political life—that of Donald J. Trump.
Headlines say it all. The New York Times was most succinct. “Trump Incites Mob.”
It speaks of culpability and responsibility, and the actors are clear. There is no doubt what happened. And Trump was “enthusiastic” as he watched on TV, according to, news reports.
We must demand accountability.
A POTENTIALLY GREAT DAY SPOILED
I worked on the Hill for the 103rd Congress and considered it a privilege to serve as a press secretary and speechwriter to the legendary Asian American political icon, Rep. Norman Mineta.
Whenever I took a coffee break, it was more than that. All I did was explore the Capitol. It was a reminder of the greatness of our democracy. Simply walking around that building and its staircases and tunnels was for me, the son of a colonized American immigrant from the Philippines, an amazing journey through history, and into what it means to be American.
And now we were witnessing the grand citadel of our nation being disgraced by the president and his followers draped in Trump flags—all of it a sign that they pledge allegiance to a very un-American idea.
Is one man ever above the law? Not in our democracy.
And to think, Wednesday started out as a great day for Asian Americans.
On Tuesday, Asian American voters in Georgia joined a new emerging coalition with African American and Latinx voters to give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. Two out of three Asian American voters favored Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, according to a multilingual exit poll conducted by AALDEF.
It was a display of diversity and democracy to be proud of. 77 percent of the Asian American voters were foreign-born, naturalized citizens, joining in with the 23 percent of U.S.- born Asian Americans to form an undeniable bloc with other voters of color..
That was something to cheer about early Wednesday morning.
But then Trump added Georgia to his growing list of unfounded election complaints, spoke at a rally in front of the White House, and urged his supporters to storm the Capitol.
As Congress met to perform the ceremony of certifying the electoral college ballots, they were disrupted by the Trump mob.
I was getting chilled seeing what was happening to our country. Doors being bashed in. Intruders in the building. But what I felt was nothing like what Asian American Rep. Grace Meng of New York was experiencing.
She was forced off the House floor to join her colleagues in an undisclosed safe room for five hours.
“I got really nervous. I really had the feeling that even if someone were to be able to open the door or harm me, that the police might not get to me in time. So I texted some of my family and my close friends and just said I loved them,” she said on NBC News.
To its credit, Congress didn’t back down. Both houses returned to finish the certification ceremony late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The votes of Americans would not be nullified by the mob. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won, fair and square, and were certified as the new President and Vice President..
Yet some legislators had the gall both to condemn the violence of the rioters and continue the Trump charade of contesting the votes. In California, the most Asian American state in the nation, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy took the both sides approach of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) to decertify a free and fair election.
Cruz and Hawley are the ringleaders, the self-serving anti-patriots who want to be “Trump the Sequel,” or what I call “Better Trumpers.” They’ll justify their actions and hide behind debate wonkiness and procedure. But their actions are not in the public good. And ultimately, not that smart. Their acts disqualify them from public service.
Leave it to a freshman member of Congress to be just one example of the principled approach—to condemn the violence and vote for certification of the election. Newly-elected Rep. Young Kim, a South Korean-born Republican from California’s 39th C.D. in northern Orange County, knew that was right thing to do.
But there is still more to do after certification.
How do we end the ongoing threat of the Trump presidency?
Even with days left, the threat is real. Trump may be banned from Facebook until further notice, but he is able to l start a war and do damage far beyond the nation’s Capitol.
“Well, I really want to see people being held accountable,” Rep. Grace Meng said on CNN as she recalled what the president’s followers did to our democracy. “A message must be sent. There must be ramifications. There must be consequences.”
AND SO HOW DO WE PLAY THE LAST FEW HOLES?
That’s what Trump would say, as if he had a few more to play. On Thursday night, he issued a non-concession concession video on Twitter.
It was worse than a non-apology apology.
He lied about deploying the National Guard and federal law enforcement “immediately.”
He then betrayed his mob. “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said on the video. “You do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law. You will pay.”
Was he talking of himself? The possibility of mass pardons? The president can’t walk any of this back. He was empowered by the GOP. Then he empowered the fringe right that includes racists with and without hoods. And now he is disowning them?
What happens when those folks realize Trump was lying to them? Do they storm Mar-a-Lago?
What do they think when Trump says Congress has certified the results and that his focus now turns to “ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power”?
Was that his admission of a lie?
Trump didn’t even specifically reverse his belief that the election was stolen. Nor did he mention Biden by name. He ended the video, saying “our incredible journey is only just beginning.” WHAT? THERE’S MORE?
What journey into what kind of incredibly deceitful fantasy hell is he talking about? Who wants to be part of that?
Trump’s current and former associates are coming out of the woodwork, such as former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly calling Trump a “deeply flawed human.”
Not my choice of “f’ word, but damning still.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rightfully threatening another impeachment if Trump doesn’t resign immediately.
Impeachment? Again? Not enough time? Just watch. Congress can set up impeachment like a supermarket express lane. Trump will leave with 9 items or less. The draft resolution is circulating calling for impeachment on the grounds of “incitement of insurrection.” It’s a better, quicker option than invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Besides, everyone now wants to be on the record to condemn the mobster president. Even some Republican enablers can’t wait to save their own tails by going on the record to say their penance.
And forget the shortness of time. Apparently, the issue can spill over into the new Congress, when Democrats will have control of the Senate.
That makes Trump’s double-impeachment more than just a Ben and Jerry’s flavor. It’s no liberal pipe dream. Just consider how a conviction this time in the Senate would keep Trump from ever running for a federal public office again.
Of course, since Trump also announced on Friday that he won’t be attending the Biden’s inauguration—the signature move of the sore loser—I’d say he might as well resign.
He can leave on a chopper, like Nixon, and declare how we “won’t have Trump to kick around anymore.”
To American democracy’s eternal relief and glory. Just days remain and the art of the deal is near over