Americans fear for democracy as Capitol riot anniversary looms

Polls highlight concerns about what may lie ahead for the US. A third of Americans support violence against the government in some cases

Rioters on the West Front at the US Capitol on January  6, 2021, in Washington.  AP Photo

One year after the violent assault on the US Capitol, Americans remain deeply concerned about the health of their democracy and about a third say violence against the government can sometimes be justified, according to two polls published on Sunday.

The January 6 attack on the seat of Congress, led by supporters of Donald Trump, was "a harbinger of increasing political violence," and American democracy "is threatened," according to two-thirds of those surveyed for a CBS News poll.

With the January 6 anniversary nearing, the polls offer specific causes for concern: CBS found that 28 percent of respondents believe force can be used to defend the result of an election, while 34 percent told The Washington Post that a violent action against government can sometimes be justified -- the largest percentage in decades.

The results underscore the seemingly almost irreconcilable views dividing American society, which President Joe Biden -- who took office 14 days after the Capitol rioting -- has promised to overcome.

Two-thirds of Trump supporters continue to believe his baseless charge that Biden is not the legitimately elected president.

Mr Trump had addressed thousands of supporters shortly before the Capitol assault, telling them the election had been "rigged" and that they should "fight like hell."

Some 60 percent of those polled say Trump bears heavy responsibility for the invasion of the Capitol just as lawmakers were set to certify Biden's victory.

'Co-ordinated effort'

There again, opinion follows partisan lines: 83 percent of Trump voters placed his level of responsibility at only "some" or "none," the Post survey found.

And 26 percent of Americans want him to run again in 2024, according to CBS.

A select committee of the House of Representatives has spent months working to establish the roles and responsibility of those who incited or may have organized the protest.

Despite limited cooperation from Trump's inner circle, the panel has conducted more than 300 interviews and collected thousands of documents.

"We have uncovered some things that cause us real concern, things like people trying to ... undermine the integrity of our democracy," the panel's chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, said Sunday on ABC.

"It appeared to be a co-ordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election," he said.

"It could be people in the executive branch. It could be people in the Department of Defence... and some very wealthy individuals."

He said he would not hesitate to refer any evidence of illegality to the Justice Department.

Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the panel, on Sunday strongly condemned Trump for waiting hours before urging the Capitol rioters to stand down.

He could easily have issued such a call, she told ABC's "This Week".

"He failed to do so. It's hard to imagine a more significant and more serious dereliction of duty," Ms Cheney said.

“Any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office."

A year removed from the riots, threats to members of Congress continue to increase, US Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said on “Fox News Sunday.”

While law enforcement has addressed some of the intelligence failures of January 6, the biggest challenge is a staffing shortage after 130 officers retired or resigned following the capitol siege, he said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: January 3rd 2022, 5:11 AM