There Is No Defense
I have been avoiding writing about the Trump impeachment trial in the Senate. It seems that it and discussions about it can never get past partisanship. Democrats want to rain holy terror down on Mr. Trump in retaliation for the dreadful fright he and his minions laid on the Congress on January 6. Republicans want to acquit the former president because: (a) you can’t try an ex-president; (b) what he directed his followers to do is no worse than what the Black Lives Matter and antifa crowd did last summer; (c) he was just exercising his First Amendment rights; and (d) this was all planned in advance by the rioters and Trump asked for a peaceful protest in his speech on January 6. Since it was preplanned, he could not have incited it.
As of this writing, Mr. Trump’s defense team has not yet made its case. But today (2/11), in The Wall Street Journal, the editorial board made it clear. Trump has no case.
Long before Election Day, Mr. Trump was preparing his followers for a loss that he said could only be the case if there was fraud on the part of the Democrats. He told them he could not lose a fair election. Then he did. Is it any wonder that they inferred that the election was stolen? Of course not. Mr. Trump’s followers are both adamant and loyal. If he says it’s true, they believe him.
After the election, Mr. Trump tried every maneuver he could do to undo the outcome. Some were certainly his to employ like taking the case to court. All the courts rejected his appeals. He tried to muscle election officials, especially in Georgia. This didn’t work and is now under investigation by Georgia state authorities. Finally, when all else failed, Mr. Trump demanded that his Vice President not certify the Electoral College results on January 6. He also did one more thing. He implored his followers to come to Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 and demonstrate to “Stop the Steal” of the election by halting the lawful counting and certification of those electoral votes. He spoke to the crowd. He revved them up. He wound them up and then sent them down Pennsylvania Avenue where they stormed the Capitol. Five people died, including a Capitol Hill policeman. Many were injured.
In the presentation over the past two days by the House Impeachment Managers, we have seen new footage of how the mob attacked the building and came within a whisper of capturing the Vice President and perhaps hanging him on the gallows erected outside the building. The mob was stalking the Speaker of the House and terrorizing every elected official regardless of party.
If the Republican Senators objected to the very existence of the trial as unconstitutional, that has been settled by the 56-44 vote in favor of going forward. Now every Senator must look at the evidence and make the call. Did President Trump incite an insurrection that almost brought down the elected government of the United States or didn’t he?
I seriously doubt that 17 GOP Senators will vote with the Democrats to convict. They are so afraid of alienating the Trump base and/or getting primaried from the right in 2022 or beyond that they will make the safe vote to acquit. That vote to acquit may be politically safe. But it will be an historical black mark on the GOP for there can be little doubt that Mr. Trump spent months setting up the attack on the Hill. He collected the firewood. He lit the kindling. He stoked the flames and then tossed on the kerosene. There can be no defense for what Mr. trump did. As one commentator said, it was like the fire marshal yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and then setting the theater ablaze. It is unprecedented in our history. It requires a guilty verdict and even if that does not happen, as the WSJ editorial says:
“Now his (Trump’s) legacy will be forever stained by this violence, and by his betrayal of his supporters in refusing to tell them the truth. Whatever the result of the impeachment trial, Republicans should remember the betrayal if Mr. Trump decides to run again in 2024.”
Of course, the right solution is conviction and a vote to bar him from ever serving in public office again. That’s not likely to happen. But it should.