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Constitutional expert weighs in on unrest in D.C., legal ramifications and how we move forward

Electoral College Protests
Posted at 7:31 AM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 07:41:52-05

TAMPA — Experts say what happened on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. violated many different laws.

“This goes directly against two different parts of what makes our country great. First of all, it's the election process and the peaceful transfer of power and it didn't happen this time and also that we respect our representatives to fulfill their duty which they were trying to do,” said Michael McDaniel, Constitutional Law Professor at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School.

McDaniel is also a Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security. He says riots and unrest in D.C. violated an important congressional duty.

“Really at our core when we talk about our nation we talk about one that adheres to and believes in the rule of law, which means at a fundamental level we shouldn't even need criminal laws to express this because we all have bought into the concept that the laws apply to everyone and that we have a legal process,” said McDaniel.

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 established federal procedures of counting Electoral votes by congress after a presidential election.

Officials will likely look into if it’s worth prosecuting the people who were involved in violating federal laws.

"There was no question we saw signs that said stop the vote. There's no question people broke into the capitol intending to stop the vote. There's no question that in the Electoral Count Act of 1887 it is says the two houses will vote on January 6,” said McDaniel.

He says what happened in D.C. legally comes closest to sedition.

“It does specifically say in there and it talks about conspiring to overthrow the government, that part doesn't apply, but it does go on to talk about the prohibited activities: delay the execution of any law of the united states or by taking any property of the United States- those two clauses you could make an argument,” said McDaniel.

While Wednesday’s riots shocked the nation, experts say we can come back from this.

“We have to reaffirm that we are a nation that believes in the rule of law, first and foremost. You can talk about republic and democracy and I mean those with small r's and d's and that's a really important discussion,” said McDaniel.

Experts say it’s important people remember that everyone has to respect the laws.

“The inauguration is two weeks from now. There has to be some strong statements but from all leaders, not just political, about how and why we cannot be disrupting our government,” said McDaniel.

He says the one good thing that could come from the chaos is Americans reflecting on how we handle our differences.

"This incredible polarization that it could sink so low to such base levels...hopefully everyone recoils from that and says it's more important for us to work together as a country and recognize our differences as we always have,” he said.