Nine Hopkins professors have signed an open letter calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office after his actions encouraged far-right rioters to storm the Capitol building on Wednesday, Jan 6.
As of publication, the open letter has been signed by over 1300 political scientists, including Hopkins professors Filipe Campante, Hahrie Han, Dan Honig, Margaret E. Keck, Renée Marlin-Bennett, Adam Seth Levine, Olga Oliker, Sarah E. Parkinson and Adam Sheingate.
The letter urges lawmakers to either impeach Trump or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
“The President’s actions threaten American democracy,” the letter reads. “Our profession seeks to understand politics, not engage in it, but we share a commitment to democratic values. The President’s actions show he is unwilling or unable to fulfill his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. He should be removed from office immediately before further violence takes place or further damage is done to our democracy.”
In an interview with The News-Letter, Parkinson, who is an Aronson assistant professor of Political Science and International Studies, argued that the issue has far surpassed party politics.
“We’re into the realm of an executive who is actively trying to subvert the Constitution and American democracy,” she said. “If the 25th Amendment is supposed to be invoked when someone is unable to carry out the duties of office... and if impeachment is supposed to be in the case of a crime... then, in terms of the Constitution of the United States and the way that the presidential oath of office works, this is an executive who should be removed.”
Sheingate, a professor of Political Science, explained in an email to The News-Letter that he signed the open letter for similar reasons, labeling Trump’s actions as “treason.”
“Signing the letter is a symbolic act. In joining with other political scientists, I wish to express my deep concern for the future of American democracy. These are perilous times,” he wrote.
Similar statements have been made by Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who has called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.
During the riots, many far-right extremists successfully broke into the Capitol building, interrupting representatives and senators as they counted the Electoral College votes. Congress was ultimately forced to leave the House Chamber, stalling their confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Many rioters were directly encouraged by Trump, who urged his supporters to go to the Capitol building earlier that day at his “Save America Rally.” At the rally, he falsely claimed that he had won the election in a landslide.
During the riots, Trump continued to insist that the election had been stolen from him as he requested rioters back down.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” he wrote in a now-removed tweet.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Campante, the vice dean for Education and Academic Affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies, argued that Trump’s rhetoric and encouragement directly caused and exacerbated the riots.
“There’s absolutely no question. It’s as direct as can be,” he said. “It’s not even coded [language], it’s an open call.”
Trump has since pledged to transfer the presidency to Biden in an “orderly” manner at the end of his term, but those who signed the open letter believe that this is too little too late.
Despite Trump having less than two weeks left in office, Campante argued that it is still necessary to begin the steps to remove him.
“It’s not an over-reaction,” he said. “The president has enormous powers and he has demonstrated that he is willing to use those in very destructive ways ... Not doing anything implicitly sends the message that that’s okay ... There’s value in taking as many steps as possible to signal that this is not okay.”
The events of Jan. 6 also prompted an immediate response from University President Ronald J. Daniels, who sent out an email to University affiliates shortly after midnight.
“I watched with horror, as did so many of you, the tragic, sobering, and unfathomable scenes of violence that unfolded earlier today at the U.S. Capitol,” he wrote. “The norms and institutions that define our democracy are so difficult to build but so easy to deform and damage, which is why communities like ours must continually join in the hard work of embodying democratic values.”
Additionally, the Homewood Student Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Team held an open forum on Jan. 7 for University affiliates to discuss their thoughts — both anonymously and with their peers. Overall, the students who attended expressed significant frustration, fear and anger over the previous day’s events.
Assistant Chaplain of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life Rev. Maeba Jonas, who introduced the forum, emphasized that there was support available for students who needed it. She stressed that this was an important moment to reflect.
“If what you see surprises you, you need to start listening to those who aren’t surprised,” she said.
Several student groups have also responded to the riots, including the College Democrats at Hopkins (HopDems), who have joined other chapters in calling for Trump’s removal.
In an email to The News-Letter, HopDems co-president Ryan Ebrahimy shared that he is proud of the professors who are speaking out against Trump’s actions. He also argued that Trump was only one of many problems highlighted by the riots.
“More infuriating than the domestic terrorism we witnessed yesterday, or the authoritarian leader and his colleagues in Congress who helped fan the flames, is the stark differences in which the police treated the Trump supporters compared to peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors this past summer,” he wrote. “A racist system of policing in our country was and continues to be disgustingly glaring.”
Fellow HopDems co-president Sylvana Schaffer shared similar views in an email to The News-Letter.
“While the president is clearly responsible for inciting yesterday’s coup attempt, Republican members of Congress who have spent the last four years enabling him (including Hopkins alum and Maryland Representative Andy Harris) should be held accountable as well,” she wrote.
Chris H. Park, the vice president of HopDems, is a News & Features Editor for The News-Letter. He did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.