Coalition warns Trump and GOP allies pose 'unprecedented' threat to democracy
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to reporters as he and his wife Melania Trump arrive for a New Year's Eve celebration with members and guests at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Donald Trump's recent threat to unleash his supporters on major U.S. cities and suggestion that—if reelected—he would consider pardoning January 6 insurrectionists underscore the dire need to defeat the former president and his far-right GOP allies, both of which represent "a clear and present danger" to democracy.

"Little has been done to hold Trump accountable or stop future presidents from similarly abusing their power."

That's the message of an open letter released Thursday by a coalition of advocacy organizations including Public Citizen, MoveOn Civic Action, Stand Up America, and the Digital Democracy Project.

With Trump gearing up for another presidential run in 2024, the coalition's new letter implores the U.S. Congress, the Biden White House, state legislatures, prosecutors, and the public to "respond to the ongoing legitimization of political violence and invocation of the pardon power to defend insurrectionists."

"Neither Congress nor the courts nor the White House can afford to slumber while the threat of authoritarianism grows and festers in the open," the letter states. "Federal and state prosecutors can and should evaluate whether the former president's public and private actions to date constitute obstruction of justice. The U.S. government must not allow conspirators at any level of government to evade accountability for subversion, sedition, or inciting an armed insurrection to try to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power."

"Every American must respond to this unprecedented threat to our democracy and the rule of law," the groups write. "Trump's public rhetoric increases the threat of stochastic terrorism—'lone wolf' attacks—or 'protests' that could escalate into mob violence like we saw on January 6th."

Trump is currently facing both civil and criminal investigations in several states, including New York—where the attorney general is probing possible fraud by the Trump Organization—and Georgia, where the Fulton County district attorney is examining the former president's efforts to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

A U.S. House select committee is also investigating the role Trump played in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was carried out by a mob of the former president's supporters in thrall to the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump has refused to cooperate with the committee's probe and has attempted to obstruct its work at every turn.

"A corrupt demagogue is requiring loyalty to himself over party or Constitution and legitimizing political violence."

"In the year-plus since the insurrection Donald Trump incited at our Capitol, the threats to our democracy have escalated," Sean Eldridge, president and founder of Stand Up America, said in a statement Thursday. "Republican state legislators are enacting election subversion laws across the country and violent insurrectionists are still looking to Trump as their leader. Yet little has been done to hold Trump accountable or stop future presidents from similarly abusing their power."

While the U.S. House impeached Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, the Senate—then controlled by Republicans—did not convict him, leaving the door wide open for the former president to run for office again in 2024.

Far from condemning the Capitol attack and the former president's role in provoking it, the Republican National Committee earlier this month formally declared the insurrection "legitimate political discourse," echoing Trump's defense of the far-right mob.

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, said Thursday that "the actions of the former president and the Republican National Committee are intended to minimize the atrocity of the January 6th attack on our democracy."

"The inappropriateness of dangling pardons when out of office is just one more example of Donald Trump's disdain for the rule of law," said Gilbert. "The prospect of pardons could potentially change the calculus of the hundreds of seditionists facing prosecution who might consider the possibility of ultimately being pardoned when choosing whether or not to plead guilty to their crimes."

"We expect the upcoming robust public airing of the findings of the January 6th investigation will shine a bright spotlight on the wrongdoing and harms from the insurrection and help push back on all bad actors working to undercut the important work of the investigation," Gilbert added.

Alex Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project, added that "Congress, state legislatures, and prosecutors must not tolerate further obstruction of justice or undermining the rule of law."

"A corrupt demagogue is requiring loyalty to himself over party or Constitution and legitimizing political violence as a valid form of expression," said Howard. "It is a clear and present danger to American democracy itself."