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A man carries the Confederate flag outside the Senate Chamber on Wednesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Rev. Rob Lee, a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, says the presence of the Confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol this week was an "attack on democracy."

Why it matters: Historians say the flag — a symbol of white supremacy and racial segregation — never entered the Capitol with such fanfare during the Civil War. It was seen many times Wednesday in possession of white rioters who waved it without interference from police.

What he's saying: "A flag of treasonous and seditious movement entered our Capitol, and that was an attack on our democracy," Lee, a pastor at Unifour Church in Newton, North Carolina, told Axios.

  • While the searing image may embolden racists, it could also invigorate activists in their efforts to remove Confederate symbols from military bases and public buildings and spaces, said Lee, who speaks out against racism.

Flashback: “When people proudly had their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag. It represents the South. They like the South,” President Trump said in July.

  • He also criticized NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag from its events, and he attacked the plans to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases.

The big picture: The Confederate flag-waving and the looting of the Capitol occurred in a building built by enslaved African Americans, according to Jesse Holland, a Black journalist who wrote a book about hidden African American history in the nation's capital.

  • Holland said the use of the flag at the Capitol and the riot was a reaction to the growing political power of African Americans and other people of color in the U.S.
  • Now the Confederate flag "has been used as a symbol of insurrection for the second time in the last 200 years," Holland said. "It shook my very core."

Go deeper

After impeachment, Trump says he "unequivocally" condemns U.S. Capitol violence

Photo: MANDEL NGAN via Getty

President Trump condemned political violence in a video Wednesday evening exactly one week after a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol in a deadly siege, and hours after the House voted to impeach him for a second time.

Why it matters: The video, posted to the White House's official Twitter account, came as the president faces an impeachment trial in the Senate after 10 Republicans voted with House Democrats for impeachment.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

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