For the first time since 1812, the United States Capitol was breached.
A mob of violent Trump supporters pushed past a police barricade, smashed windows, vandalized Congressional offices, and posed for pictures on the House floor. The joint session to certify the results of the Electoral College — the final step necessary to formalize President-elect Biden's victory — was postponed. How did it come to this?
The short answer is that Trump asked his supporters to come to D.C. and go "wild." But the reality is it did not happen overnight.
For years, the Republican Party has courted and normalized radical elements motivated by conspiracy theories. They believed doing so was essential for the party to win. And the party's political patrons, including America's most powerful corporations, were willing to play along because they believed it was in their financial interest.
After securing the Republican Party nomination in 2012, Mitt Romney traveled to Trump's Las Vegas hotel to kiss Trump's ring and accept his endorsement. At the time, Trump was aggressively promoting the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States. Romney was willing to look past that because he wanted the support of Trump's fans. The joint appearance was not enough for Romney, but it helped set up Trump's successful run for the presidency in 2016.
Romney, as a Senator, took a tougher stance against Trump and voted to impeach him last year. But his 2012 calculation to link arms with Trump despite his outlandish behavior was repeated by other Republicans again and again.
We saw it most recently in Georgia. Former Senators Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) have backgrounds as traditional Wall Street Republicans. But they decided their best chance at reelection was to become loyal acolytes to Trump. When Trump advanced the baseless conspiracy theory that Georgia's election was rigged, Loeffler and Perdue dutifully issued a statement calling on the Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger, to resign. And in the closing days before Tuesday's election, they endorsed the lawless effort to object to certifying the Electoral College vote.
Critically, aligning themselves with wild conspiracy theories and dangerous anti-democratic rhetoric did not cost Loeffler or Perdue the support of corporate America. After calling for Raffensberger's resignation, Loeffler and Perdue received large contributions from corporations like Ford, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft.
This is part of a pattern. Yesterday, Popular Information reported that the 138 conspiracy-minded Republicans who sought to cast aside millions of votes and install Trump for a second term received more than $16 million from 20 major corporations. Beyond the cash, the contributions provide these members of Congress with legitimacy.
The largest contributor to the group, AT&T, donated $4,000 this cycle to Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who continued to defend the actions of the mob even after they stormed the Capitol. He described the riot as "leftist violence," referring to the conspiracy theory that it was perpetrated by Antifa members posing as Trump supporters.
In his tweet, Gosar tagged far-right activist Ali Alexander, who chanted "victory or death" at a Tuesday night rally.
AT&T also donated $5,000 to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led the effort to overturn the election in the Senate, and $10,000 to Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA), a top member of the House leadership who said he would object to certifying the vote.
But Wednesday was an inflection point. And there are signs that the status quo might be changing.
The damn breaks
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a major trade organization that represents companies like ExxonMobil, Goodyear, and Pfizer, released a blistering statement on Wednesday's events. NAM had harsh words not only for Trump but his enablers.
The statement described Trump's actions as "sedition" and said that any elected official that defends Trump is "violating the oath of office." It even suggests that Pence "invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy."
Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
But as strong as the statement is, it is just words. Is corporate America willing to go further? They are considering it.
CEOs consider cutting off cash to politicians that supported Trump's attempted coup
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on "a virtual gathering of chief executives" to "discuss political turbulence stemming from the 2020 election." On the call, "leaders of some of the largest U.S. companies said they were considering withholding donations to Republican lawmakers seeking to impede the presidential transition."
The group included executives from Deloitte, Disney, Accenture, and Goldman Sachs, among others. Many members of the group have signed statements acknowledging Biden's victory and calling for a peaceful transfer of power. But the group also discussed "withholding political contributions, which some viewed as more meaningful than public statements." Some executives also said, "they would reconsider hiring, business and investments in states whose officials were fighting the transition."
“Just coming out with another public letter isn’t going to do much. Money is the key way,” former Thomson Reuters CEO Thomas Glocer, who participated in the meeting, said. Yale management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who organized the meeting, told CNBC that "more than two dozen CEOs are considering pulling financial support for congressional Republicans who are backing President Donald Trump’s election challenge."
Microsoft employees call for change
On Wednesday morning, Popular Information reported that Microsoft was among the top contributors to Republicans supporting Trump's attempted coup. The company donated $504,750 to 83 members of Congress who were planning to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote. Microsoft told Popular Information that the company "will consider this and other issues in making future contribution decisions."
But for some Microsoft employees, that isn't enough. CNBC, citing Popular Information's reporting, noted that several Microsoft employees are publicly calling for the company to "stop giving to people who wish to get in the way of a smooth transition."