Before taking office, elected officials swear to respect the US Constitution. But what happens when they are accused of doing the opposite?
While some Congressional Republicans continued to support President Donald Trump’s doomed effort to overturn the election, critics – including President-elect Joe Biden – alleged they had violated their oaths and instead pledged allegiance to Trump.
The oaths, which rarely attract much attention, became a common topic in the closing days of the Trump presidency, being invoked by members of both parties as they met on Wednesday to assert Biden’s victory and a violent mob Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“They also swore on a Bible to uphold the Constitution, and that’s where they really come out on the outside and fail in their duties,” former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said, a Republican who served as an EPA administrator under former President George W. The Bush administration. “They have sworn to uphold the Constitution against all our enemies, foreigners or nationals, and they ignore that.”
Oaths vary slightly between government bodies, but elected officials usually swear to uphold the Constitution. The Senate website says its current oath relates to the 1860s, “written by Civil War-era members of Congress with the intent to trap traitors.”
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, has vowed to honor the oath she took and affirm the results of the presidential election while urging her colleagues to do the same. Republican Senator Todd Young, of Indiana, was seen in a video posted on social media telling Trump supporters outside a Senate office building that he was sworn to the Constitution under God and asked, “Are we still taking this seriously in this country?”
Corey Brettschneider, professor of political science at Brown University and author of “The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents,” said the oath must be taken seriously and that Americans must demand its application or “the risk is to the whole system. He said he would support censorship, a formal declaration of disapproval, for officials who clearly violate their oaths.
“The worst that can happen is people roll their eyes at the oath and say, ‘Oh none of them think so,’ and I think what we need to do in times of crisis is the exact opposite. – that is to say, that means something, ”said Brettschneider. “When you break the law you have to be held accountable, and that’s what really belongs to the American people to be outraged when Trump does what he did.
Republicans who filed or supported lawsuits challenging Biden’s victory in November have claimed, without evidence, that the election was rigged against Trump. Their cases ended up in courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Republican and Democratic officials deemed the election results legitimate and free from widespread fraud.
The oaths were often mentioned Wednesday during a joint session of Congress intended to confirm Biden’s victory. Some Republicans who objected to the election results said their oaths required them to do so, while Democrats urged their counterparts to honor their oaths and affirm Biden as the next president.
“The oath I took last Sunday to defend and support the Constitution compels me to oppose this parody,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, a newly elected Republican from Colorado.
As lawmakers gathered, violent protesters loyal to Trump stormed the Capitol in an insurgency meant to prevent Biden from replacing Trump in the White House. As authorities struggled to regain control, Biden called on Trump to honor his oath and act to ease tensions.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Biden said.
The GOP effort to block formal confirmation of Biden’s victory ultimately failed after Republicans recycled arguments of fraud and other irregularities that failed to gain traction.
Democrats were quick to condemn Republicans who continued to oppose the results.
Representative Adam Schiff from California asked, “Does our oath to uphold the Constitution, taken just a few days ago, mean so little? I believe not. ”He added that“ an oath is no less broken when the rupture fails to reach its end ”.
Representative Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, said she would bring forward a resolution calling for the expulsion of Republicans who decided to invalidate the election results.
“I believe that the Republican members of Congress who instigated this domestic terrorist attack by trying to annul the elections must suffer the consequences,” she said. tweeted. “They have broken their sacred oath of office.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Democrat, said officials who continued to support Trump’s baseless fraud allegations violated their oath and their rhetoric emboldened rioters who stormed Capitol Hill.
“They have an allegiance that they have sworn – not to the Constitution and not to the United States of America, but to a man, and that man is Donald Trump,” she said. “And they refuse to walk away from it no matter what he says, whatever he does, and I think history won’t judge them kindly for that.”