The recent insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol was never going to stop Joe Biden from being inaugurated as president Jan. 20, but it will pose some major challenges for him early in his term.

Biden campaigned on a promise of unifying the country, but after the attack it seems as if many of his fellow Democrats have completely abandoned the notion, arming themselves with righteous calls for retribution, including a second go at impeachment. Even if they are justified in impeaching Donald Trump in his last week in office, it probably won’t go anywhere: The Senate won’t even begin to act on it before he leaves office, so the only lasting effect it might have is if he were barred from running again. That would be a separate vote from impeachment, and it’s not clear that either would succeed in the U.S. Senate, even with Democrats now in the majority.

Calls for expelling members of Congress merely for objecting to the certification of Electoral College votes are completely absurd. Although it’s mostly been a pro forma process in the past, there has always been procedure for objections to certification — it simply hasn’t had much support.

Twenty years ago, after the disputed Florida recount kept Al Gore out of the White House, he was put in the awkward position of rejecting challenges from Democratic House members, as they lacked a Senate co-sponsor. Mike Pence handled this year’s certification vote gracefully, performing his constitutional duty without regard to politics and then using his influence to help bolster security so Congress could get back to work.

Rather than expelling members of Congress who objected to the certification, they should be left to suffer the consequences politically. That’s already begun, as major companies are saying they won’t contribute to members who challenged the results.

The problem with a rushed impeachment trial or pushing expulsions through is that either will be viewed by the opposition as inherently political actions, even if they were justified. That will only further divide the country, and make it harder for Biden to even attempt to govern early in his term. Impeachment trials tend to suck all the oxygen out of D.C. for any kind of governing, and the spectacle of the unprecedented trial of a former president will make it nearly impossible for anything else to get done in Washington.

Instead of rushing to act itself, Congress should sit back and let the Department of Justice move forward with the investigations. The department has already begun to do so, going all over the country to arrest rioters who participated in the attack on the Capitol. This has been made easier since many of them gleefully posted photos of themselves on social media in various secure areas, but it is still a massive investigation that will take months to unravel.

The Justice Department ought to focus on prosecuting the ringleaders and those who were responsible for deaths, especially of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. If the department determines that any elected officials, whether Donald Trump or anyone else, should face criminal charges, officials can prosecute them then. That’s a decision that needs to be made by the professionals in the Justice Department, not by politicians looking for a few headlines.

Instead, Congress needs to launch a major bipartisan investigation into the event, just as it did after the 9/11 attacks. It was immediately apparent that the breach of the Capitol was a massive security failure, with Capitol Police caught unprepared for a large mob storming the building. If security had been implemented at the scale that it usually is for major events, like a State of the Union speech or presidential inauguration, the building probably wouldn’t have been breached in the first place. They need to examine not only why the insurrection happened, but also who financed and organized it, and whether any secure materials were compromised. This investigation will be vital to ensure that such an attack never happens again.

Joe Biden is going to have enough on his plate when he’s sworn into office in a few short days. It will be easier for him to actually get some things done if Congress can let the professionals do their job and turn its focus to governing rather than retribution. There will be plenty of time later for those who aided and abetted the insurrectionists to pay the price, either legally or politically, but the country desperately needs leadership right now. That can’t wait.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at

Reprinted from The Portland Press Herald.