Press: The case against Citizen Trump
As it begins the 117th session of Congress, the United States Senate has many pressing matters on its plate: the need to get on top of the coronavirus, recharge the economy, get serious about climate change, reform our immigration policy, and deal with racial injustice. But no Senate challenge is more important than holding former President Trump accountable for the death and destruction on the sacred grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivered to the Senate the one article — “incitement of Insurrection” — on which Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Jan. 13 by a bipartisan 232-197 vote. The delivery triggered a Senate trial, set to begin in two weeks, which is already historic in many ways: the first time a president has faced a second impeachment trial; the first time a trial’s been held for a president already out of office; and the first time every one of the Senators, soon to be sitting as jurors, is both a witness and a victim of the seditious actions with which Trump is charged.
Every member of the Senate, Republican and Democrat, was targeted by the mob, fled the mob, and was locked in a secure holding area for hours to escape the mob. There’s no doubt what happened that fateful afternoon of Jan. 6. There’s no doubt who was behind it. And there’s no doubt who must be held responsible.
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment trial, where reasonable arguments could be made that he didn’t really “intend” to bribe the president of Ukraine, or didn’t really “succeed” in obstructing justice, this case is clear cut: It was Donald Trump who stirred up the mob with lies, who invited the mob to Washington, and who unleashed the violent mob on the U.S. Capitol. It’s impossible to deny the evidence. The violence on Jan. 6 didn’t happen by accident.
For two months, Trump not only refused to accept the results of the Nov. 3 election, he also claimed the election had been “stolen” from him and repeatedly urged his supporters not to let Democrats get away with it. Then, having struck out in state courts and the Supreme Court, Trump seized upon Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results as his last chance to overturn the election — and summoned his troops to Washington. “Big protest in DC on January 6th,” he tweeted on Dec. 20. “Be there, will be wild!”
And so they came. On the morning of Jan. 6, the Pied Piper himself addressed the assembled mob and urged them to march on the Capitol. “We’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be with you, we’re going walk down … to the Capitol,” he told the crowd, to “stop the steal.”
And so they did. And while they were storming the Capitol, breaking doors and windows, desecrating the House and Senate Chambers, forcing members of Congress to flee for their lives, and killing a police officer, Trump released a video asking them to go home, but telling them: “We love you; you’re very special.”
That’s the case against Citizen Trump. As Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Jan. 6, “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president.” And, he later added, “If that’s not an impeachable offense, what is?”
The issue’s not: Is this happening too fast? Or: Will this upset our base? The only question facing senators is this: Is it OK for a president to attempt to overthrow the government of the United States? There’s only one answer to that question.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”
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