Capitol Riot Classified As 'Attempted Dissident Coup' by Experts

The deadly riots at the Capitol on January 6 were an attempted dissident coup. That's according to experts at the Cline Center's Coup D'état Project at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The Coup D'état Project has studied the events of January 6 in light of their research into coups. Many commentators suggested at the time the storming of the Capitol was an attempted coup or putsch.

"We have concluded that under the Cline Center's Coup D'état Project definitions, what happened on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol was an attempted dissident coup," the Cline Center told Newsweek in a statement.

"Over the past two weeks, new evidence reported in multiple news sources, including court documents and first-hand accounts, has clarified what happened on January 6.

"According to our definitions, the storming of the US Capitol was an attempted coup d'état: an organized, illegal attempt to intervene in the presidential transition by displacing the power of the Congress to certify the election."

"At this time, those known to have organized and attempted this coup fall into the category of 'dissidents,' which we define as a small group of discontents that can include former government officials, religious leaders, business owners, or civilians," they said.

The Cline Center published its findings on its website, which is publicly available, and explained the parameters it uses to define coups. The Coup D'état Project is the world's largest global registry of failed and successful coups, the Cline Center said.

"Labels matter when it comes to political violence, because each type has distinctive consequences and implications for societal stability. Coups and attempted coups are among the most politically consequential forms of destabilizing events tracked by the Cline Center," they said.

The project assesses potential coups on five criteria. Based on their analysis of "voluminous reporting about the event" since January 6, the Coup D'état Project is now satisfied the Capitol riot meets all five requirements.

"Our team has concluded from publicly-available reporting that one or more groups attempted to intervene in the presidential transition in order to extend President Trump's time in officer past the constitutionally-imposed limit of January 20, 2021," the Cline Center said.

"Ample evidence demonstrates that one or more groups within the ranks of those who illegally entered the Capitol intended to usurp congressional authority to certify the election, arrogating control of the transition to themselves or to the executive branch. This would change who controls the federal government, rather than merely disrupt the process of governing."

Though they have defined the event as a dissident coup, the Cline Center offered a caveat that further information arising from investigations could expand that definition.

"For example, if further investigation were to reveal clear evidence of executive branch involvement, then the events of January 6 would also be considered an attempted auto-coup," they said.

The Cline Center said that an auto-coup occurs when "the incumbent chief executive uses illegal or extra-legal means to assume extraordinary powers, seize the power of other branches of government, or render powerless other components of the government such as the legislature or judiciary."

The Capitol riot left five people dead, including a police office. Federal authorities have been seeking and arresting dozens of suspects and hundreds of people could face federal charges.

Pro-Trump Protesters Outside the Capitol
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Cline Center's Coup D'état Project has defined the later storming of the Capitol as an attempted dissident coup. Brent Stirton/Getty Images