U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

December 18, 2021

Fragility and Frustration 

December 18, 2021

Dear Fellow Marylander:

This is not what I expected.

After armed insurrectionists violated the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, for the first time since a foreign army invaded in 1814, I expected my Republican Senate colleagues, with whom I have served for many years, to be on the side of democracy. 

I’ve been on Capitol Hill and in politics for a few years now. I am not naïve about partisanship. But after spending hours together on January 6, sheltering in a safe space after a frightful evacuation from the Capitol, I expected Republicans would also want to get to the bottom of what happened. 

After years of standing together in a bipartisan way against mob rule and autocracies around the world, I expected that they would want to show that American democracy would not be deterred. I thought they would want to show some leadership and hold those who were responsible accountable.

I could not be more disappointed. 

This week, the House January 6 Select Committee shared with the country a sampling of the thousands of pages of texts, emails and memos that were submitted by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. As a reminder, this commission was created only after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission. Congress and the President had previously had a bipartisan track record of creating independent, bipartisan commissions to address national traumas and lessons learned, so we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our nation proudly did so after 9/11, Watergate, the assassination of President John Kennedy, and other major events in our nation’s history.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans with the guts to set partisanship aside so we can figure out what happened and make darn sure that it doesn’t happen again, read texts from the former president’s son and others. It appears that Don Jr. pleaded with Mark Meadows that he get the president to do something to stop what was happening at the Capitol: “He’s got to condemn this s**t ASAP.” Meadows’ response: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”

Based on the language, both men – and clearly the president – knew the president’s supporters were at the Capitol at his urging, and knew that only Donald Trump would be able to stop them. Yet, the insurrection continued for hours.

Don Jr.: “We need an Oval office address. He [ex-President Trump] has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

Texts also came in during this time from FOX News personalities like Laura Ingraham, administration officials – and members of Congress who were at the Capitol.

As reported by the Washington Post, here is how Congresswoman Cheney summarized some of the texts Meadows received on Jan. 6:

One text Mr. Meadows received said, quote, “We are under siege here at the Capitol.”

Another, quote, “They have breached the Capitol.”

In a third: “Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors. Rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?”

A fourth: “There’s an armed standoff at the House Chamber door.”

And another, from someone inside the Capitol: “We are all helpless.”

Quote, “POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.”

In another: “Mark, he needs to stop this now.”

A third, in all caps: “TELL THEM TO GO HOME.

A fourth: “POTUS needs to calm this … down.”

I know that I am not the only one who is frustrated and angry after confirming that the very people who spent weeks and months using their national megaphones to downplay the violence and desecration of our democracy had known exactly what was going on at the Capitol. They also understood that Donald Trump was the one person who could call them off because, despite claims to the contrary, they were indeed his supporters. 

Donald Trump’s deliberate failure to act, while knowing that the U.S. Capitol was under attack, should have been grounds to remove him from office. It was intentional malfeasance and counter to the oath of office that he and every lawmaker took to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.

Almost one year later, we are finally seeing the stark contrast between the frantic, real-time texts sent to the White House chief of staff urging the president to quell his supporters and the blanket desire to publicly marginalize and mischaracterize the seriousness of the moment.

Not only did many of these individuals know what was happening on January 6, many also knew in advance that there was a plan for breaching the Capitol. They were OK with letting it proceed. The president and the people he surrounded himself with were scheming for every possible way to ignore the Constitution and laws of the land, and keep Mr. Trump installed as president, despite his losing the election — an election that wasn’t even one of the closest in our nation’s history. 

Un-American and unconstitutional does not begin to describe the egregious actions of the president and his supporters in the lead-up to and on that fateful day.

Democracy takes hard work and it is fragile. As the House Select Committee reveals more about the timeline of January 6, we will all see how very close we came to losing our democracy on that day.

As I wrote shortly after the insurrection, “we should all agree that violent behavior and such blatant disregard for the rule of law can never be normalized – not in our country or any other.”

American democracy has demonstrated its resilience this year. We must protect it and not turn a blind eye to attempts to allow autocracy to take root. We must resolve to stem the racism, antisemitism and all-too-casual hate and lawlessness that was on display at the Capitol on January 6 and has been publicly erupting for years.

As the select committee continues its investigative work, and more information is released, I urge you to pay attention. Read what documents you can firsthand. The future of our nation is at stake.

Stay well. Stay covered when possible, and get your COVID-19 shot and booster.



Ben Cardin