Capitol Assault Was Act Of Terrorism, USD Prof Says

VERMILLION — This week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol represented terrorism with more battles ahead for the nation, a University of South Dakota professor says.

Tim Schorn teaches political science, specializing on the subjects of international relations and terrorism. He said, as he watched Wednesday’s unfolding events in Washington, he viewed the scene as something found in a foreign country.

“It was a shock to see the attack on the United States Capitol, while at the same time not being completely surprising,” he said. “We have been building to this for the last 4-1/2 years. President (Donald) Trump has consistently attacked the democratic process and has encouraged his supporters to doubt the veracity of election outcomes.”

Wednesday’s breach of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters represented terrorism, even if many Americans didn’t recognize it as such, Schorn said. He pointed to the 1995 bombing of the federal Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, which was committed by a white man who was an American citizen.

“It was another case of domestic terrorism that we as a country have managed to largely forget in favor of thinking only about foreign attacks on us,” Schorn said.

Americans need to realize the intent of those engaged in the action, Schorn said.

“When we talk about political terrorism, we are talking about individuals or groups who use force or the threat of force to reach a political goal,” he said. “We saw the mob attack the Capitol building in order to intimidate the members of the House and Senate, to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote in order to prevent President-elect (Joe) Biden from taking office and retaining President Trump, and to subvert the democratic process and the will of the people. This was terrorism.”

Social media quickly drew a flood of responses from those defending the Capitol activities and condemning the damage during this summer’s riots in the midst of racial tensions. They linked those uprisings around the nation to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and to Antifa, an anti-fascist collection of groups.

Schorn made a distinction between the two situations.

“BLM and Antifa never tried to overthrow the democratic process and Constitution,” he said. “BLM has been largely peaceful, and Antifa never represented any threat to the government. The (U.S. Capitol) participants were insurrectionists and terrorists.”

The violence may continue even after Trump leaves office, Schorn predicted.


The nation’s leaders must repair the divide that has torn the country apart, Schorn said. “President-elect Biden and the leaders of the House and Senate have a long, difficult road ahead of them,” he said.

Schorn listed three areas in which national leaders must restore the nation both at home and abroad.

“First, they have to reassure Americans that our election system does work and that the American government can do the people’s work,” he said. “Second, President-elect Biden and his team will have to repair relations with our allies and the doubts that they now have about the stability and trustworthiness of the U.S.

“Finally, people who attacked the Capitol and those who encouraged them, including President Trump and folks like Senators (Josh) Hawley and (Ted) Cruz, need to be held accountable. In some cases, that will mean criminal prosecution and in others official censure.”

The South Dakota congressional delegation — Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson, all Republicans — helped create the situation leading up to Wednesday’s violence, Schorn said.

“(The three lawmakers) were very aware of what President Trump and some of his followers were capable of,” Schorn said. “They needed to begin speaking out loudly and clearly months ago when President Trump began calling into question voting and vote-counting in America and sending signals to his followers.

“By remaining as quiet as they were, and only rarely speaking out, they enabled the president and allowed the lies to be spread and accepted much too easily.”

The current situation rings similar to the Watergate era in the 1970s, Schorn said.

“It reminds me of the period when President (Richard) Nixon was being investigated and losing his support, there was real concern within the White House about someone who was evidencing signs of instability still having the nuclear codes,” the professor said. “I don’t expect (Trump) to launch the weapons, but there are many actions he can take that will do lasting damage to the nation.”

In terms of foreign relations, this week’s violence at the Capitol undermined the United States’ standing in the world, Schorn said. The nation has proven itself “divided, unstable and potentially immobilized by crisis,” he added.

“Our allies were horrified by what they saw,” he said. “How can this supposed model of democracy and constitutional governance find itself in a position like this where people storm the capitol and the president attempts to overturn election results? Our ‘enemies,’ like Russia and China, have to be dancing with glee.”

Schorn expects many Trump followers will remain loyal after he leaves office. Trump will try to remain part of the national discussion, but his broad influence will quickly fade, the professor predicted.

“He will continue, though, to lob figurative grenades that continue to diminish the reputation of the Republican Party,” Schorn said. “The question becomes will the Trumpians like Cruz, Hawley and others become the face and leadership of the party, or will more moderate voices like Senators (Mitt) Romney, (Lisa) Murkowski and (Ben) Sasse become the leaders of the party.”

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.

(4) comments


Apparently I missed the professor's article speaking of all the terroristic "peaceful protests" that attacked police stations and court houses around the country prior to the election. I in no way condone the actions of ANY group that attacks government facilities. If one group is to be prosecuted for these actions then ALL the groups should be prosecuted. Be a little less party biased professor!


The professor was correct in the first part of the article describing the invasion of the Capitol as a terrorist act. HOwevefr he then lets his bias show as he defends the BLM and Antifa riots of the past summer. For some reason those are justified and not terrorism. He further goes on to state that just about anyone who not only voted for Trump but simply did not speak out is guilty of treason and terrorist activities as well. That makes 75 million terorists. He is definitely showing his left side.


I am really disappointed on your views about what happened In DC the other day. If I had a child ready to go to college i would strongly discourage them not to go but to look at a trade school. Our colleges are making socialists out of so many young Americans . Your personal views should not be conveyed to the students as the way to go. Sorry professor I do not agree with anything you said about Pres Trump. There were terrorists there but they were not the Trump supporters and if you believe that they were, I feel sorry for you.


I am very disgusted with the one-sided viewpoints that this professor and Randy Dockendorf point out. Randy may have only reported what the professor said during an interview, but it is quite obvious of his own viewpoints when reading his posts on his Facebook page, even when he reports on sporting events such as the 4th of July baseball game versus Crofton and Wynot.

The professor states that , “BLM has been largely peaceful, and Antifa never represented any threat to the government..." Correct me if I am wrong, but I do remember this summer when a federal courthouse in Portland was being targeted and vandalized on a nightly basis by BLM and Antifa members. Is that not an attack on the government?

As far as the nation being divided. The professor or at least the reporting never mentions how Nancy Pelosi and her counterparts helped create the division that has taken over our nation. Nancy Pelosi tearing up the speech after the President made last year’s STOTUA was a blatant stab at trying to send a signal that the left was not willing to work with the President or the right in the upcoming year. There are numerous other examples I could point out, but I will spare you the time and angst. My point is, this division was not created by one man. It was not even created by one party and it hasn’t happened overnight. The election results over the past 2 decades have signaled great division and at those times, President Trump was not even in politics. So, please take that into consideration. This has been a disaster in the making for quite some time!

This was a biased attempt to try and make a statement on Randy Dockendorf’s part. South Dakota is very much a red leaning state, and this was such a ridiculous piece of propaganda.

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