Don’t Be Stupid

On January 13, the House impeached Donald Trump again (he had been impeached before in 2019), this time finding that he “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” He “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud.” On January 6, he incited a mob to break into and vandalize the Capitol, injure and kill law enforcement personnel, menace Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and “engage in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.”

Senator Marco Rubio told Fox news reporter Chris Wallace that the impeachment of the former president was “very bad” for the country: “I think the trial is stupid.” He vowed to vote to end the Senate trial “the first chance I get.” He praised President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon in 1974 for “moving the country forward,” suggesting that the Senate should acquit—in effect, pardon—Donald Trump and simply move forward.

Most Republican senators are ready to endorse the fiction that Trump did not provoke a mob to attack Congress and trash the Capitol. We saw it with our own eyes, but for these Republicans truth has become irrelevant and facts have become alternatives.

On January 26, the Senate tabled a motion by Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who grabbed the spotlight to argue that the impeachment trial of the former president would be unconstitutional because he is now a “private citizen.” Among other failings, this argument ignores the fact that the impeachable conduct occurred while Trump held the office of president. Most Republican senators—45 of the 50—voted with Paul to avoid a trial.

The Paul ploy failed. The senate will begin its Trump trial in less than two weeks. It seems likely that most Republican senators, either lacking a conscience or choosing to ignore it, will find that Trump bears no responsibility for the insurrection that his lies caused. Acquittal will allow him, once again, to escape personal responsibility.

What message will the acquittal send to the mob that attacked the Capitol and to their fellow travelers? It will be an endorsement of the lies that fueled the insurrection. It will be to say that his words were not intended to stir the passions of the mob to unleash chaos in the Capitol and war against Congress. It will be to conclude that the lies were not even lies, that it was okay for him to say what he said and okay for the mob to do what it did. It was okay to believe that the lies were instead truth and that mob violence was justified and righteous, somehow even patriotic.

The acquittal will say (as Trump said on January 6) that “fake news” is our “single biggest problem”; that the election was “rigged” by the news media and “big tech”; that the Vice President is to blame for Trump’s (fake) defeat because he did not reject electoral votes and ask states to “recertify”; that the Democrats “used the pandemic as a way of defrauding the people in a proper election”; that we have “an illegitimate president”; that Congress must be rid of “the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world”; that Congress and state legislatures must pass sweeping election reforms “before we have no country left”; that “we have truth and justice on our side”; and that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

I think I know where truth and justice reside, and it is not in the mouth of Donald Trump.

The individuals arrested for the January 6 attack are claiming they are not guilty because Trump sent them. They are acknowledging that they were provoked by his inflammatory words. They broke into the Capitol wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump banners on a blood-thirsty rampage to hang Mike Pence and shoot Nancy Pelosi. It would not have happened if Trump had not wanted it to happen.

Soon the trial will begin. The senators know what he did because they themselves were witnesses. The case will be laid out for the record and for history. It would be a demonstration of willful stupidity not to vote to convict the former president of high crimes and misdemeanors and pass judgment that he should be disqualified from holding federal office ever again.

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