Many of their statements use various words to refer to what took place — “insurrection,” “sedition” and “coup.”
Here’s a breakdown of what those terms mean.
The words “insurrection” and “insurrectionists” are being widely used by news outlets and others to define the storming of the Capitol building and the rioters involved.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States,” Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in his remarks on the Senate floor late Wednesday after the Capitol was secured.
Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday that he has given his prosecutors “marching orders” to pursue significant sedition and conspiracy cases related to the attack.
Some elected officials have leveled the accusation of sedition squarely at President Trump, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, California, and a former federal prosecutor. In a statement, he said that the President “should be tried for sedition.”
A “coup,” shorthand for “coup d’état,” is broadly characterized by Merriam-Webster as a “sudden decisive exercise of force in politics,” but particularly the “violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.”
Some have described the event as a “failed” or “attempted” coup, since apparent efforts to overturn the presidential election have been unsuccessful.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wrote in a statement Wednesday evening: “We must call today’s violence what it actually is: a failed attempt at a coup.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment hearings against President Trump, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday he thought the events at the Capitol could be categorized as a “failed coup.”