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Capitol riot was the culmination of four years of 'American carnage'

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Capitol riot
Capitol Police push back demonstrators who were trying to enter the Capitol, on Jan. 6, 2021.Jose Luis Magana / AP

WASHINGTON — The unprecedented political insurrection, the violence and the vandalism at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was no spontaneous accident.

It was the culmination of the last four years, which started with Donald Trump’s words of “American carnage” at his inaugural address.

It carried over to Charlottesville (after which Trump said he condemned “many sides”), to last September’s first presidential debate (“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by”), to Trump’s inability to denounce QAnon (“I know nothing about them”), and then finally to Trump’s words to his supporters before they stormed the Capitol.

“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. You don't concede when there is theft involved.”

“You will have an illegitimate president. That's what you will have. And we can't let that happen.”

"We've got to get rid of the weak congresspeople. The ones that aren't any good. The Liz Cheneys of the world."

“We are going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, congressmen and women. And we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Let’s also not forget the foiled plots to kidnap the sitting governors of Michigan and Virginia.

Wednesday was a day that so many of us feared.

And that so many others either ignored or dismissed.

So what happens next?

Since there was never a consequence for Trump after Charlottesville, after his winks and nods to QAnon and right-wing extremist groups, and after all of his conspiracy theories — other than his loss in November — we have to ask: Is there finally going to be a bipartisan consequence for Trump’s actions yesterday?

How does the separate and equal branch of government — Congress — ensure that Trump doesn’t abuse his immense powers these next 14 days?

There’s been talk of impeachment and invoking the 25th amendment. But for Congress, one of those instruments (the 25th amendment) passes the responsibility to those serving under Trump.

The other (impeachment) was designed for Congress to take action.

A Republican Party in tatters

That brings us to the current state of the Republican Party.

There are essentially three categories of Republicans right now.

One, there are the Trump skeptics (like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney), who make up a clear minority of the party.

Two, there are the Republicans (think Lindsey Graham) who started out as critics, then who became allies and supporters, and who returned to being critics yesterday.

And three, there are the True Believers (or those who want their voters to think they’re True Believers) – the majority of House members (see here and here) and sliver of GOP senators (here and here) who supported the objections to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

How can these three different groups live together and trust each other with these fundamentally different views of Trump?

The country’s informational crisis

Finally, when trying to answer how Wednesday happened, we have to address the elephant in the room.

The rioters and mob that stormed the Capitol were part of a movement weaponized by misinformation and a right-wing media ecosystem.

If we’re going to fix what happened Wednesday, and have peaceful transitions of power in the future, that misinformation infrastructure has to be fixed first.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7: The number of Republican senators who voted to uphold an objection to theofficial electoral vote count from Pennsylvania. (Six objected to the count in Arizona.)

138: The number of Republican House members who voted to uphold the Pennsylvania objection.

4: The number of people who are dead after yesterday’s violence on the Hill, with one woman shot and three others suffering medical emergencies.

At least 52: The number of people arrested

At least 14: The number of law enforcement officers who sustained injuries in the chaos.

15 days: The extension of D.C.’s public emergency by Mayor Muriel Bowser after yesterday’s violence.

Nearly 100: The members of the House and Senate who have called for Trump’s removal from office, either through impeachment or of the 25th amendment.

21,457,777: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 261,465 more than yesterday.)

361,999: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,041 more than yesterday.)

260.11 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

132,476: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

13: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Biden picks Garland for attorney general

Before rioters descended on the Capitol yesterday, NBC News confirmed President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland as his attorney general. And while Biden won’t need Republican votes to confirm his nominees (assuming all Democrats vote together), the pick was well received by some Senate Republicans.

Current Senate Judiciary chair Sen. Lindsey Graham had this to say: “I believe Judge Garland would be a sound choice to be the next Attorney General. He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law.”

This morning, Biden formally announced the Garland pick, as well as his nominations for deputy attorney general (Lisa Monaco), associate attorney general (Vanita Gupta) and assistant attorney general for civil rights (Kristen Clarke).

Biden transition watch

Filled Cabinet positions

State: Tony Blinken

Treasury: Janet Yellen

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines

EPA: Michael Regan

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

Unfilled Cabinet positions

Commerce: TBD

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

CIA: Michael Morell

SBA: Diana Taylor

Other top Biden staffers

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan

Climate Envoy: John Kerry

Domestic Policy Council Director: Susan Rice

National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese

Surgeon General: Dr. Vivek Murthy

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky

Covid-19 Czar: Jeff Zients

White House Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield

White House Press Secretary: Jen Psaki

VP Communications Director: Ashley Etienne

VP Chief Spokesperson: Symone Sanders

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

World leaders are expressing concern about the state of democracy in America.

Facebook and Twitter have temporarily locked Trump’s accounts after he posted videos that repeated falsehoods about fraud and praised the rioters.

Vice President Mike Pence’s relationship with Trump has reached a breaking point.

Where was the Department of Defense during the melee?

Some aides are weighing resignation after yesterday, with a few already announcing their departures.

NBC’s Ginger Gibson gives her first-person report of what yesterday was like at the Capitol.

Before the chaos: Biden is expected to nominate Merrick Garland as AG.

Also yesterday: NBC News officially projected that Jon Ossoff will win in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

Meanwhile, the CDC expects that the highly contagious variant of coronavirus will spread in the U.S.