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America on edge as Trump’s exit nears

Editorial

The political and social upheaval in the United States as it prepares for the transition to a new president in eight days would be unfathomable if we did not have the experience of the Trump presidency, its “alternative facts”, the blind partisanship it has exacerbated, and especially Donald Trump's continuing insistence of election fraud and inflammatory messaging to riled-up supporters since his defeat.

After the events of last week, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington as Congress was in session to certify the election results, there will be further shock and angst but little surprise at the FBI memo just sent to law enforcement agencies across the country. It warns of possible armed protests by right-wing extremists at all 50 state Capitols, starting this Saturday — five days out from the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president. The memo also says an armed group has threatened to travel to Washington DC the same day to stage an uprising, if there is an attempt to remove Trump from office via the 25th Amendment.

The FBI makes clear the update is a summary of threat information, rather than an expectation there will be violent mass protests in every state, but it raises the political heat on both Trump — who surely must try now to de-escalate the situation — and his opponents.

Democrats have introduced a resolution to the House asking Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, for the “insurrectionary protests (that) were widely advertised and broadly encouraged” through his social media following and by promising activists the day “would be wild”. A group of Democrats also introduced an article of impeachment against the president, to be acted on if the above resolution fails.

The chamber adjourned within minutes after a Republican objection, to meet again tomorrow to debate and vote on the resolution — which is unlikely to advance any further as it would take so many Republicans to turn against Trump.

A second impeachment is almost a given, and it could take place after he leaves office — which would seem sensible considering the situation. Trump would face sanctions such as a ban from future office and being deprived of benefits afforded to former presidents.

Meanwhile the Pentagon has said it will release 15,000 National Guard troops to Washington to support next week's inauguration, with about 10,000 authorised to be in the city by Saturday.