Everyone knows that Donald J. Trump fomented the attempted coup of 6 January 2020 that resulted in five deaths and massive property destruction (including cybersecurity breach). Unless you were a decision-maker for law enforcment1 in Washington, DC, you expected something wild to happen in DC on that day. (See footnotes.) The rally was based on a Trump lie; that the presidential election was stolen from him.
On Wednesday, he stood behind the podium at the “stop the steal” rally2 and egged on the mob, encouraging them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the nation’s Capitol.
Is Trump alone in bearing responsibility for the failed coup attempt? No.
Too many American leaders conspired with Trump to make that assault possible. Too many knowingly affirmed Trump’s lies about the election for their own political gain.3 One hundred and fifty-seven members of the GOP supported an effort to oppose the results of a lawful and fair election. They did this in full view of the nation, and they provided positive feedback to Trump’s base. That led to the insurrection. Those elected officials made the coup attempt possible. They attempted to undermine a fair and legal election through extra-legal means. They conspired to commit sedition, (18 U.S.C. § 2384 - U.S. Code - Unannotated Title 18. Crimes and Criminal Procedure § 2384. Seditious conspiracy).
It’s fair to ask whether or not some elected officials are more guilty than others. As long as we agree that all of them need to be held accountable to some degree, it’s worth thinking about who bears the most responsibility for the coup attempt.
Consider the following.
First, there’s the autocrat-wannabe, Donald J. Trump.
Second, there are the dishonest Senators who are using Trump’s lies to fuel their own political ambitions. These are
- Vice President Mike Pence (Indiana)
- Senator Ted Cruz (Texas)
- Senator Joshua Hawley (Missouri)
- Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)4
- Representative Kevin McCarthy (California)5
Third, there are elected and administrative leaders who poured gasoline on the flammable ‘stop the steal’ rally goers. Invited speakers included:
- Donald Trump
- Donald Trump, Jr
- Mayor Rudy Giuliani
- Representative Mo Brooks (Alabama)
- Representatieve Paul Gosar (Arizona)
- Representative Marjorie Greene (Georgia)
- Representative Lauren Boebert (Colorado): 
- Representative Lance Gooden (Texas)
- Representative Ted Budd (North Carolina)
- Georgia State Represenatative Vernon Jones
- Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem
- Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano
- Arizona State Representative Anthony Kern
The rally’s website listed 47 invited speakers. Others are unknown to me or not identified as elected officials.
Fourth, there are all the elected representatives who supported opposition to the Electoral College vote, even if they changed their mind at the last moment.
Fifth, there were some state- and local-level elected representative who joined the mob’s insurrection.
- Michigan State Representative Matt Maddock: see this, this, this, and this
- Meshawn Maddock, Incoming Chair of the Michigan GOP: see this, this, this, and this
- Missouri State Representative Justin Hill: see this, and this.
- Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano: see this, this, and this.
- Tennessee State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver: see see this, this, and this
- Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase: see this, this,this, this, and this thread.
- West Virginia State Delegate Derrick Evans: see this, this, this, and this. UPDATE: He resigned.
- Alaska state Representative David Eastman: see this, this, and this.
- Arizona state Representative Mark Finchem: see this, and (tangentially related) this.
- Nevada State Assemblyman Annie Black: see this, this, and this.
- Illinois State Representative Chris Miller, see this, and this.
- Illinois State Representative Mary Miller: see this, this, and this.
- Canadian County (Oklahoma) Sheriff Chris West: see this
- Newkirk (Oklahoma) Mayor Brian Hobbs: see this and this
Sixth, there are the men and women who lead right-wing antigovernment groups like the Proud Boys, the III%ers, America First, and so forth, and I would like to list those names (with links to profiles, too), but I don’t know how to systematically go about gathering that information in a fair and relatively complete way.
Are there others?
All need to be held accountable. Decisions have consequences. We must not let anyone talk their way out of accountability.
What should the consequences be? I’ll leave that to the courts.
UPDATE: I just learned (and here and here) of the Republican Attorneys General Association and its role in the coup attempt. They made robocalls encouraging people to march on the Capitol! Who from those ranks should be pulled into this list? (2021-01-08)
UPDATE 2: It just occured to me that the wikipedia pages for the above elected officials do not report their involvement in leading the failed coup attempt. This would be a great weekend task for anyone who has a few minutes per person. (2021-01-09)
UPDATE 3: To save face, some of the above (and others) claim the attempted coup was not violent. This is an example of the tone in the Capitol building. Remember, shortly before this, the President Trump described himself as betrayed by Vice president Pence and the crowd wants revenge on Trump’s behalf. This crowd killed five people. This is the mayhem those listed above must be held accountable four.
UPDATE: I should have added Ginni Thomas to one of these lists.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Ginni Thomas—wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—endorsed the protest demanding that Congress overturn the election, then sent her “LOVE” to the demonstrators, who violently overtook the Capitol several hours later. She has not posted since. pic.twitter.com/378CHMkFN5— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) January 8, 2021
UPDATE: Added two local elected officials from Oklahoma and an article about McCarthy’s especially dispicable role in leading the House’s Sedition Caucus.
There is documentary video evidence that some Capitol Police officers may have been complicit with the insurrectionists. ↩
Organizers of the rally also call it the ‘Wild Protest’, reflecting Trump’s previous allusion to what the rally will be like. They created a web site http://www.wildprotest.com which was taken down after the coup attempt failed. Luckily for America, an archive of the stie can be found at the ‘way back machine’here. Here is the graphic design at the top of the landing page: What a sneaky and effective way to conceal their intent to march on the Capitol! ↩
I’m not sure if it’s on the record anywhere, but political talking heads have been reporting for weeks that many Republicans embraced Trump’s lies because they did not want to alienate Trump’s political base (which they viewed as their own political asset) and they ‘knew’ the vote to certify the Electoral College votes would succeed despite their ‘show’ of opposition. Only ten Republicans had a change of heart and dropped their support after the coup attempt and before the vote (but very few announced their flip-flop ahead of time). ↩
Senator Graham supported certification of the Electoral College ballots, and he spoke clearly and convincingly of this on the floor of the Senate on the 6th. But in the same speech, he continued to ↩
It appears Representative McCarthy played a particularly vile role in the conspiracy by using his power as House minority leader to convince and cajole freshmen lawmakers into opposing the certification of the Electoral College vote. If true, this doesn’t absolve those freshman lawmakers, but it certainly elevates McCarthy’s leadership role in the coup attempt. ↩