A Jury of Accomplices
Plus: The House Managers Connect the Dots
“I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God.” — Senate oath.
Try not to laugh. Or cry.
As we watch the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, there are two things to keep in mind: There is always a reason not to do the right thing. And there is always a way to justify looking away.
Here are some random takes from yesterday’s remarkable presentation of evidence.
This really shouldn’t be hard.
The evidence is overwhelming and the House managers are doing an extraordinarily good job of connecting the dots.
Yesterday they used new video to make it graphically clear that Donald Trump (1) stoked the fire by lying about the election (2) summoned the mob, (3) incited the assault on the Capitol, (4) failed to condemn it even once, (5) tweeted attacks on VP Mike Pence even as he sheltered in place, (6) was derelict in his duty, and (7) afterward, celebrated the insurrection.
This ought to test the capacity of even the most hardened Trumpist to deny the enormity of Trump’s conduct. But, don’t worry, they will find a way.
The rioters got close. Very close.
They were just steps and moments away from senators, including Mitt Romney and Chuck Schumer.
Watching the video it is hard to escape the conclusion that the rioters would have assaulted, and perhaps murdered, any officials (including Romney, Schumer, Pence, and Pelosi) they found.
Trump egged on the mob.
One video showed a rioter with a bullhorn reading one of Trump’s tweets attacking Pence.
Even worse, as the House impeachment managers made plain, Trump egged on his mob, tweeting that Pence was a coward—a tweet sent out after footage was already swirling on the internet showing rioters trolling the halls of the Capitol building, hunting Pence like an animal. Meanwhile, never-before-seen security camera footage showed Pence and his family fleeing down a set of back stairs. Senators Mitt Romney and Chuck Schumer were shown abruptly backtracking when security officers realized that exits were blocked by angry crowds, armed and bloodthirsty….
When Trump finally spoke to tell his mob to go home, he added “We love you. You’re very special,” and at 6:01 p.m., tweeted that his people should “Remember this day forever!
Trump’s day summed up in once sentence:
The competition for worst person in the world is ongoing.
But we have an early leader.
GOP Senators accepted the January exception.
So say a hypothetical President Smith, a lame duck in his last weeks in office, commits a federal crime—such as inciting an insurrection or committing a murder on Pennsylvania Avenue. He then immediately pardons himself and resigns.
According to Trump’s lawyers, this hypothetical President Smith, now a private citizen, cannot be impeached and tried.…
Those 44 senators, all Republicans, who voted on Tuesday to stop the trial essentially all accept the January exception. Not a single one of them seems to have responded in public to that aspect of the House managers’ case. With their votes, they have shown that they believe a president cannot be held accountable by Congress for high crimes and misdemeanors during his final weeks in office.
David Frum’s take in the Atlantic: “ [Marco Rubio] has already committed to do the wrong thing, as will so many other Senate Republicans. But he’s not happy about it. He’s angry about it. He knows he’s being inscribed as one of the villains of American history, one of the saps and weaklings of the American present. Trapped, helpless, and embarrassed, he seethes with resentment about a predicament he cannot see a way to escape.”
A jury of accomplices.
Why won’t the Senate convict Trump? Just look around the room. Many of those jurors are not just complicit… they are actual accomplices to Trump’s Deep Lie. Sarah Longwell has been on this for weeks. She wrote about it in the Bulwark and yesterday was a guest on NPR’s Morning Edition:
PFEIFFER: Glad to have you. And, Sarah, spoiler alert basically for our listeners, you wrote that, yes, congresspeople should be held accountable. You basically say if Trump is at the top of the chain and voters at the bottom, then Congress are the elites in the middle. Why do you feel so strongly that they should be held accountable in some way?
LONGWELL: Well, look, people are going to jail. Their lives are going to be ruined for what happened at the Capitol. And there were a lot of people responsible for filling their heads with poison prior to the insurrection. It wasn't just Donald Trump's words right before the attack.
It was the two months that preceded it where people like Kevin McCarthy said, yes, Donald Trump won this election, where people like Madison Cawthorn, newly elected representative, said, hey, call your representatives, you can lightly threaten them.
Louie Gohmert said, you're going to have to go to the streets and be violent. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, you know, a quarter of Republicans in the Senate, these people are not just witnesses right now; they're accomplices. They were going to object to the certification of a free and fair election.
And so I think we just - we can't just look at Donald Trump. We have to look at the entire ecosystem that perpetrated these lies and filled those rioters' heads with poison and then turned them toward the Capitol.
Fox News is getting even worse.
And all of this….
ICYMI: the Proud Boys may break from Trump before the GOP.
Politico reports on the case of Dominic Pezzola, who was indicted last month and charged with conspiracy for his role in the insurrection. His lawyers are asking a judge for early release, but “the most notable part of Pezzola's 15-page motion for leniency was his thorough repudiation of Trump.”
"[D]efendant acted out of the delusional belief that he was a 'patriot' protecting his country ... He was responding to the entreaties of the-then commander in chief, President Trump," Pezzola's lawyer argued in the filing. "The President maintained that the election had been stolen and it was the duty of loyal citizens to 'stop the steal.' Admittedly there was no rational basis for the claim, but it is apparent defendant was one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President’s deception."
"Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," Pezzola's attorney wrote. "Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege."
Trump’s media accomplices. As a former talk radio host myself, this story in today’s NYT made me wince.
Two days before a mob of Trump supporters invaded the United States Capitol, upending the nation’s peaceful transition of power and leaving at least five people dead, the right-wing radio star Glenn Beck delivered a message to his flock of 10.5 million listeners: “It is time to fight.”
“It is time to rip and claw and rake,” Mr. Beck said on his Jan. 4 broadcast. “It is time to go to war, as the left went to war four years ago.”…
Mark Levin, who reaches an estimated 11 million listeners a week, said in a Christmas broadcast that stealing elections “is becoming the norm for the Democrat Party” and called on his listeners to “crush them, crush them. We need to kick their ass.” …
On Dec. 16, Mr. Limbaugh — the country’s No. 1 radio host, with an audience of about 15.5 million a week — told listeners that Mr. Biden “didn’t win this thing fair and square, and we are not going to be docile like we’ve been in the past, and go away and wait till the next election.”
Ah, the defenders will say, this is just metaphorical. These are figures of speech that shouldn’t be taken literally… or seriously (?).
But what is “rip and claw and rake” supposed to mean? How are folks supposed to “crush them, crush them”? How are listeners supposed to go about kicking their ass?
What kind of “war” were they talking about?
Protesting peacefully? Sending harshly worded tweets? Boat parades?
Or… is it just possible… that they meant exactly what happened on January 6?
1. Donald Trump Isn’t on Trial. The Republican Party Is.
Whether Donald Trump is convicted or not, America is going to have to confront the political forces that brought him to power. The real question in this trial isn’t whether or not Donald Trump is guilty.
It’s whether Republicans are going to confront those forces too, or simply surrender to them.
2. Mitt Romney Is Trying to Save Policymaking
Niskanen estimates that Romney’s proposal would reduce child poverty by one third and cut deep poverty in half. It would accomplish this without adding to the deficit, since the proposal contains offsets (specifically, eliminating the state and local tax exemption that mostly benefits wealthy individuals in high tax states).
This is what policymaking is supposed to look like. With any luck, Romney’s proposal will at least spark debate on a critical challenge for our country. A few years ago, that would have been normal. In 2021, it would be nirvana.
Elise Stefanik, hack.
Elise Stefanik @EliseStefanikThe Democrats' second impeachment of President Trump is unconstitutional, hypocritical, and divisive. They are using impeachment as nothing more than another political attack on President Trump & YOU, the American voter. https://t.co/ylHLM35wY6
Posted without further comment.
MSNBC @MSNBCSen. Rick Scott told reporters after viewing explicit videos of the attack on the Capitol that the Senate impeachment trial is a "complete waste of time." https://t.co/fo6OYttKAR
Andrew Sullivan @sullydishThis alone reveals a recklessness about disorder and a willingness to foment it. But is this literally incitement? https://t.co/rGi4KJ0Rbd