Pro-Trump protestors rallied outside of the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul on January 6th, 2021. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

On Wednesday, Representative Ilhan Omar watched as armed insurrectionists encouraged by President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. Like other members of Congress, she moved to a secure location. Twenty-four hours later, she had already filed articles of impeachment, turning the tables on the president who has said she’s corrupt, hates America, and should go back to Somalia. 

“This is incitement, plain and simple, of a coup attempt against our government,” Ilhan said in a news conference Thursday evening.

Ilhan commended her colleagues for returning to the Capitol within hours, coming together and proceeding with the election certification process. As Thursday went on, top Democrats joined Ilhan’s call for the removal of the president, either through impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment. The amendment states if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet or a Congressional review group declares the president unfit, the vice president becomes acting president.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Congress should impeach and remove Trump if the Cabinet does not exercise the 25th Amendment. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that keeping Trump in office for the final 13 days of his term would be dangerous. Pelosi said the House may move forward with impeachment. 

“While it’s just 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” Pelosi said.

The House of Representatives already impeached Trump in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to Trump’s push for Ukraine to conduct investigations that would help him in the 2020 election. The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him in February. No president has ever been impeached twice.

Trump and his supporters have often attacked Ilhan, through right-wing media, rallies, campaign mailers, and social media. Last summer, Trump falsely claimed Ilhan “hates” America and sympathizes with extremist groups. 

Ilhan has also been a victim of the same false rhetoric that motivated insurrectionists to seize the U.S. Capitol—that the election results were rigged. She was falsely associated with unsubstantiated ballot harvesting allegations in Cedar-Riverside after the August 2020 primaries. During one of multiple visits to Minnesota ahead of the election, Trump called Ilhan corrupt and crooked.

Given these personal attacks, as a Muslim-American and Black woman in Congress, the insurrection especially weighed on Ilhan.

“I have felt the threat and the weight of what it meant to be targeted by the president of the United States,” Ilhan said Thursday. “I, in ways, feel vindicated as someone who has raised the alarm. And I, in some ways, feel saddened that what we thought could be possible has been made possible.”

While trapped in her office on Wednesday, Ilhan said she watched other buildings be evacuated, and heard about explosives in the building. She was eventually rushed to a safe location, but said that returning to the Capitol with her colleagues was “something to behold.”

Ilhan has been sounding the alarm about Trump for years. Now, she said, even people who have stood by him are calling for his removal, too.  

Ilhan began calling for a second impeachment of Trump earlier this week after details emerged of a phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state in which Trump urged him to find enough votes for him to win the state. 

“This is not a one-off incident,” Ilhan said in a statement Wednesday. “It is the result of years of collaboration on the part of the Republican Party, who have aided and abetted Trump’s criminal attempts to destroy our republic, and the cause of democracy around the world.”

Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota professor who specializes in studying Congress, said she was not surprised by how quickly members began calling for consequences. But she added that it’s difficult to predict what might happen.

“His attacks on Representative Omar were unprecedented,” Pearson said of Ilhan’s efforts specifically. “It’s not surprising that she would respond quickly.” 

Pearson is doubtful that a majority of the president’s Cabinet will support invoking the 25th Amendment, especially as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned Thursday. She added: “You could argue that it’s Congress’ responsibility to respond.”

The complication there, Pearson said, is whether enough Republicans would be on board.

Immigrant elected officials and community leaders in Minnesota expressed support for Ilhan’s effort and noted the significance of someone constantly berated by Trump being the one to spark the move toward impeachment.

State Senator Omar Fateh, the first Somali-American elected to the Minnesota Senate, said he stands with Ilhan’s effort to impeach Trump. He added that “anti-Democracy protesters” who attacked the Capitol have tried to subvert American democracy, at the instruction of Trump and right-wing leaders.

“It is an act of patriotism to take to the streets, to protest, and participate in civil disobedience to fight against injustice taking place in your country,” Omar said. “It is not an act of patriotism to engage in sedition and use fear-mongering and conspiracy to try to overturn the outcome of a certified election.”

Habon Abdulle, the executive director of civic engagement group Ayada Leads, said Ilhan was the first person her organization had recruited for campaign training in 2015. She remains friends with Ilhan and is an avid supporter.

Despite constantly being called “un-American,” Habon said Ilhan showed “how much she loves this country,” with her swift and bold action.

“Supporting sedition and inspiring pro-Trump riots to refuse Biden’s victory—That’s un-American,” she said.

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...