Just before his Twitter account was disabled last Friday after inspiring the sacking of the U.S. Congress, President Donald Trump boldy declared that his 75 million followers “will have a giant voice long into the future.”
That notion will soon get vetted here in Orange County – a place with a strong Trump following – as local Democrats and Republicans over the next two Monday nights take up membership votes for their leadership officers. A special election for an open seat on the Orange County board of supervisors is also now underway and ends in March.
All this comes up just as national congressional leaders on Monday consider a second impeachment against Trump, who last week triggered an assault on the U.S. Capitol building by his supporters alleging election fraud just as U.S. House and Senate members were meeting as the Electoral College to certify the election of the next President, Joe Biden.
“Look at this man’s behavior. He’s doing everything he can to stay in power,” said Congressman Lou Correa, D- Anaheim, who supports impeachment and was in D.C. when the attacks erupted last week.
“Saying he won, which is an absolute lie,” Correa said.
Correa said the assault he witnessed on Jan. 6 left him jarred
“I’m sitting in the gallery, waiting for the vote…I see Arizona come up. You see the objection. Then you see the guards running into the House and grabbing (House Speaker) Nancy (Pelosi) and other Republican and Democratic leaders.”
“The rest of us are left hanging,” Correa said. “They said no need to worry…and I’m thinking really?
A half hour later, guards come in and say hit the ground,” Correa said.
“They said look under your chairs…there were two gas masks under every chair. Then you realize there’s no safe exit. They’ve surrounded the whole exit. They were banging on the doors.
At that point, we’re all saying oh shit, we have no where to run,” he said, adding “We were sure if they ran over police, they would run over us.”
Correa said most members of Congress were “petrified” during the assault, convinced the crowd was there to physically assault them, to achieve a coup d’etat.
“I think we’re all on pins and needles. I”m concerned what this guy is going to do in his last 10 days in office,” Correa said.
“In my opinion, this is not Democrat vs. Republican…this is Trump populism overrunning our democratic institutions. Trump with his call to action is running over our constitution.”
Correa was directly confronted by Trump supporters at Reagan National Airport in D.C. in an incident captured on video and now gone viral just before he came home for the weekend.
The entire week, one Correa calls “surreal,” has him worried about the nation’s ability to hold together.
“There’s a lot of them…supporters of Trump,” Correa said.
“I respect the President, I try to work with him, but he crossed the line,” he said.
Nonetheless, Correa notes “his supporters will continue to be there…they will not go away.”
“That’s why President Biden will be focused on bringing this country back together again,” Correa said.
“We have to figure out a way to unite this country, “ he added, warning that “It won’t be easy because both sides are very passionate.”
Indeed, the assault at the U.S. Capitol last week continues to reverberate locally.
Perhaps the most complex reverberations involve those at the D.C. protests but not directly involved in the sacking of the U.S. Capitol.
At Chapman University, numerous faculty and several board members – including former Chairman Wylie Aitken – who also chairs the Voice of OC board – late last week signed onto a public letter calling on the University to cut ties with Law School Professor John Eastman.
Eastman is a high level member of the President’s legal team and appeared at last week’s rally alongside Rudy Guilliani, who issued a controversial “trial by combat” comment to the crowd before the sacking of Congress began.
In addition, there’s a local recall fueling at the Placentia school board over one member’s trip to D.C. along with a teacher at the Capistrano Unified School District who is also under fire for their attendance at the rally.
Orange County’s Democratic Party will on Monday consider leadership slots and the D.C. events have certainly put a new focus on the ongoing battle between progressive and moderate elements of the party.
Local GOP officials, who meet later in the month to decide party leaders, also face particularly tricky deliberations as President Trump is popular among Orange County Republicans.
While local GOP leaders didn’t denounce Trump by name, last week they did issue a statement critical of the assault on Congress.
“Legal, peaceful protests and member challenges in the Congress to the Electoral College are a part of our system. But breaking the law, taking over the Capitol, assaulting law enforcement officers, instigating violence, and preventing the Constitutional process from taking place is not Conservative, not Republican, and not American,” said OC GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker in a statement on Jan. 6.
“We condemned Antifa and BLM this spring and summer for doing things like this, and we fully condemn those that took this action today. Law enforcement officers were injured and a civilian lost her life. These actions are unacceptable. They work to destroy the legacy of the Trump Administration, and hurt all of our efforts for election integrity. Our Republic is bigger than any one person or election. We stand for America and the Constitution. The Republican Party of Orange County will never stand for Mob Rule.”