Friday marks the second anniversary of the deadly Capitol riot in which Trump supporters tried to stop the certification of the 2020 election.
With the White House in the background, Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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As of Friday, two years will have passed since a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, disrupting but failing to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s win over former President Donald Trump. As we said on Jan. 7, 2021, it was “an awful day for anyone who believes in law and order, and who believes in America’s brave democratic experiment.”

That much was clear the day after the attack. So too was Trump’s responsibility for fueling the violence, and his failure to quickly and firmly respond to it.

There was much we already knew, or at least should have known, simply by watching events unfold with our own eyes that day. We knew that Trump’s false election claims inspired a group of his supporters to assault the U.S. Capitol, and assault U.S. Capitol Police officers. We knew that then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress had to be whisked away, just in time, from the mob. And we knew that Trump’s message at the end of such a chaotic day was one of defiance and near-celebration (“Remember this day forever!”).

What we already knew was bad enough. The additional information that has come to light during the Jan. 6 committee process in the U.S. House of Representatives has shined even more light on Trump’s dangerous effort to overturn an election he lost, and how it boiled over into violence two years ago.

In spring 2021, we and others wanted to see the creation of a nonpartisan panel styled after the 9/11 Commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. However, Republican opposition, led by Trump and other party leaders, derailed that sensible effort. So the House Jan. 6 committee was what America got instead.

A mix of public hearings, testimony, taped depositions and documents — distilled in a final report from the committee released in late December — further underscores Trump’s culpability. Many of the people the committee heard from were not only Republicans, but people close to the former president and his top advisers. These weren’t “Never Trumpers,” they were members of Trump’s inner circle — even members of his family.

We heard explosive testimony from people like Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and learned about the White House’s awareness of the potential for things to get “real, real bad” that day, and more about how Trump responded (and didn’t respond) when the violence erupted.

We also learned that Trump was told repeatedly by advisers that he lost in 2020, and acknowledged it himself at times in private. He knew he was peddling fiction, but pushed forward anyway.

Then-Attorney General Bill Barr told Trump the stolen election claims were “bullshit.” Hope Hicks, a former top Trump aide, testified that during a conference call when attorney Sidney Powell (who Trump considered making a special counsel) was outlining theories of other countries manipulating U.S. voting machines, Trump “muted his speakerphone and laughed at Powell, telling the others in the room, ‘This does sound crazy, doesn’t it?’”

That’s because it was, and the craziness may cost Powell her law license. There must be accountability for everyone involved.

Hundreds of people have pleaded guilty to charges related to Jan. 6 so far. Notably, leaders of the Oath Keepers were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges this fall. The House committee made criminal referrals for Trump and lawyer John Eastman, but the decision whether to prosecute will ultimately be up to the Department of Justice — as it should be.

In other committee testimony, retired federal judge Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative in the legal field, called Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election “the most reckless, insidious, and calamitous failures in both legal and political judgment in American history.”

Luttig is right, surely, but we’d summarize it in a slightly different way: Trump lied, and people died.

The need for accountability, and for action to prevent another Jan. 6-like event, is not a theoretical exercise. Trump and his allies have already made it plain that they’d have few qualms about trying something similar again.

Trump has made excuses for the violence, and even said he would “very, very strongly” consider pardons and apologies to Jan. 6 rioters if he is reelected. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose power in Congress has only grown, recently pushed back against the notion that she or former Trump adviser Steve Bannon were involved in planning Jan. 6. What she said was nothing short of incendiary.

“If Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed,” Taylor Greene said at a Republican gala in December. This cannot simply be dismissed as sarcasm. This is not normal. It cannot become normal.

Despite a Trump impeachment lawyer assuring senators in February 2021 that, “You will not hear any member of the team representing former President Trump say anything but in the strongest possible way denounce the violence of the rioters and those that breached the Capitol,” their former client and his allies have gone out of their way to do the opposite. They have not only downplayed and excused Jan. 6, but now have openly wished it was worse.

This is why accountability, along with action like the Electoral Count Act reforms passed at the end of the year, are so critical. America’s democratic process must be safeguarded from those who would exploit it for their own gain. That was clear two years ago, and it remains clear today.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...