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January 6, 2021: Attack or Protecting Democracy?: What is insurrection? And more

Response to Capitol Hill Attack

Capitol Hill

Dusk falls around the US Capitol as Trump supporters continue their occupation of its front steps

Darkness falls around the US Capitol as Trump supporters continue their occupation of its front steps.

Photo: Reuters

What is the Insurrection Act of 1807?

Sedition

West's Encyclopedia of America Law defines insurrection as A revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority, usually in the form of TREASON or DEFAMATION against government.

Generally, a person may be punished for sedition only when he or she makes statements that create a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER to rights that the government may lawfully protect 

Coup d'etat

The international Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences defines a coup d'etat as an important, often violent type of political leadership change. Coups involve a small group of conspirators plotting to seize state power and then doing so on their own or with the support of others. Coup attempts are swift, lasting hours or a few days. Often attempts fail, but if state power is taken and held, the event is a coup d’etat.

Incitement

The Dictionary of Politics and Government defines incitement as the crime of encouraging, persuading or advising someone to commit a crime,  incitement to racial hatred the offence of encouraging people to attack others because of their race, by words, actions or writing

Impeachment

West's Encyclopedia of America Law defines impeachment as a process that is used to charge, try, and remove public officials for misconduct while in office.

Insurrection

West's Encyclopedia of America Law defines insurrection as A rising or rebellion of citizens against their government, usually manifested by acts of violence.

Treason

West's Encyclopedia of America Law defines treason as the violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies.

"Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution, and basic to the treatment of this offense has been a mingling of values protective of government and of individuals. The crime of treason strikes at the foundations of the legal order and deals with the most serious threats to the existence of the state. Congress has reflected this judgment in prescribing penalties that may mount to death or life imprisonment. Where charges have fallen plainly within the bounds of the constitutional definition, judges have firmly applied the law. On the other hand, the limiting language of the Constitution (treason shall consist "only" in the two named forms of the offense), constitutional history, and the responses of judges bear witness to a restrictive approach in marking the outer boundaries of the crime. Thus the treason clause not only protects the security of the legal order but is functionally analogous to the Bill of Rights, protecting the civil liberties of individuals."

Twenty-Fifth Amendment

West's Encyclopedia of American Law lays out the 4 main parts of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

  • Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

  • Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

  • Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

  • Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

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