More than 370 political staffers have taken the unusual step of publishing an open letter calling on US senators to convict the man who they say put them in harm’s way.
Capitol Hill staffers have signed a letter calling on members of Congress to convict former president Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection that had them “hiding under desks” and “barricading” their offices.
The letter was addressed to members of the US Senate, who will hold Trump’s political fate in their hands next week during his impeachment trial.
Those who work on Capitol Hill sought to describe how they felt having their workplace “attacked by a violent mob”.
“That mob was incited by former president Donald J. Trump and his political allies, some of whom we pass every day in the hallways at work,” the staffers wrote.
“As the mob smashed through Capitol Police barricades, broke doors and windows, and charged into the Capitol with body armour and weapons, many of us hid behind chairs and under desks or barricaded ourselves in offices,” they said.
“Others watched on TV and frantically tried to reach bosses and colleagues as they fled for their lives.”
The authors referred to Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died after his encounter with the mob as “one of our co-workers who guards and greets us every day.”
The letter accused Trump of breaking the country’s 230-year tradition of a peaceful transition of power and called on Republican senators to convict the former president, and prevent him from returning to politics.
“The use of violence and lies to overturn an election is not worthy of debate. Either you stand with the Republic or against it.”
While they work in the corridors of political power, it is rare for congressional aides to so publicly take a stance on an issue like this as it is usually their bosses who make the public pronouncements.
According to the New York Times, there was tentative interest from some Republican staffers to sign the public letter, but ultimately it was only those serving on the Democrat side that put their names to it.
Among them included Drew Hammill, a deputy chief of staff for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as aides closely associated with lawmakers who have been involved with Trump’s impeachments.
Mafia laws could be used to target rioters
Justice Department is considering whether to charge members of far-right groups involved in the deadly January 6 storming of the Capitol under a federal law usually used against organised crime, law enforcement sources told Reuters.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, enables prosecutors to combat certain ongoing racketeering crimes such as murder, kidnapping, bribery and money laundering. The 1970 statute provides for hefty criminal penalties including up to 20 years in prison and seizure of assets obtained illegally through a criminal enterprise.
The sources said using the RICO statute to charge people involved in the Capitol violence is being debated within the Justice Department, with no final decision made.
The RICO law was crafted to help prosecutors convict top Mafia leaders who ordered others to commit crimes. RICO cases are complex, often take years to develop, and require approval from Justice Department leadership.
“RICO was designed to address the Godfather – the person who doesn’t get their hands bloody,” said Jeffrey Grell, an attorney who specialises in RICO law. “You would really only use RICO to go after the kingpins or the leaders.”
The Justice Department’s reported mulling of the laws suggests they could be used to go after leaders of violent right-wing groups.
President Joe Biden’s administration has warned that domestic extremism is a growing threat following the Capitol rampage, a sharp departure from the way Trump regarded extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
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