The Key Number: Two Hours

The pivot point in the impeachment charges: two hours of silence.

I know that I am retreading ground that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, but as I watch the Republican Party work mightily to talk itself into the notion that Trump does not deserve constitutional sanction for his actions on January 6, 2021, I say: two hours of silence.

To Senator Paul (R-KY), who downplayed the events of January 6th thusly on the floor of the Senate last week, I say: two hours of silence.

I want the Democrats to raise their hands if they have ever given a speech that says, take back, fight for your country. Who hasn’t used the words fight figuratively? And are we going to put every politician in jail? Are we going to impeach every politician who has used the words fight figuratively in a speech?

To pretend like that some standard political cliches are what is being dealt with by the article of impeachment is profoundly disingenuous. And anyone who wants to convince themselves that all of this is about fleeting fiery rhetoric, I give you the opposite: two hours of silence coupled with kind, soothing words.

Here’s the simple version (with even more detail below).

~2:10pm eastern time: live video of protesters with Trump flags and MAGA hats streaming into the US Capitol starts. Reports and video of violence and mayhem continue on TV, including a report of a shooting (video of the aftermath was tweeted out).

4:17pm Trump issues a video via Twitter telling the protesters to go home in peace. In that statement he sympathized with the insurrectionists, telling them, among other things (full text down below) that he “loved” them and that he understood them.

So, for roughly two hours the President of the United States did nothing to try and stop a mob flying and wearing his colors.

Any other president would have been on national television to try and talk down the mob. This should not be a partisan issue.

Consider the following.

Option one: if he didn’t want his supporters to attack the capitol, then he could have gone on TV and Twitter to tell them to stop (he did not do either).

Option two: if he thought it was Antifa (or whatever version of that he wanted to assert), he could have gone on TV and Twitter and denounced the fake crowd and distanced himself from it (he did not, and again, he said kind things about the mob).

He chose option three: watch it all on television while calls were being made to allies in the Senate to lobby them to vote against electoral slates.

What other explanation can there be than he was in support of what the mob did?

He watched (there is zero doubt he knew exactly what was going on).

He did not use the most obvious tools at his disposal to quell the mob (he did not use TV nor Twitter to communicate). And there was no immediate action to use federal law enforcement nor the National Guard to deal with the situation.

He never addressed the nation in any substantive way about these events. He released a few short videos. The US Capitol was assaulted, a police offer was killed by the mob, and others died as a result, the President of the United States couldn’t be bothered to address the American people.

He did have time, however, at 4:17 and later at 6:01, to validate the feelings of the insurrectionists.

6:01 p.m. Trump tweets a message to his supporters. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

I do not understand how anyone can defend this, unless one thinks that yes, the election was stolen, and therefore that violence was warranted against the US Capitol, the Congress of the United States, and the Vice President. If one is in that camp, then one has quit regular politics in support of violence and insurrection with all the implications that entails.

A more detailed version is as follows:

Insurrectionists carrying Trump flags and wearing MAGA hats, many (most? all?) of whom had been attending a Trump speech just prior, stormed the US Capitol on live television starting at somewhere between 2:00 and 2:15 eastern time. Not only does the reporting confirm this but I can confirm seeing live streaming myself at least by 2:15 eastern (I think I had the WaPo feed on mute on my computer as I was about to enter a video meeting at 2:30 eastern).

As the insurrectionists streamed into the Captiol, Trump tweeted (and later deleted):

2:24 p.m. Trump tweets criticism of Vice President Pence: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Keep in mind that it was clear that a huge number of the crowd had their phones. There can be little doubt some of those in the building saw this tweet. Also, keep in mind that Trump had told the crowd a little over an hour prior:

if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do. This is from the number one or certainly one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it. We’re supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our constitution, and protect our constitution. States want to revote. The States got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.

Some of the crowd chanted “where’s Mike Pence?” and “hang Mike Pence!” as they breached the building and roamed the halls of the US Capitol.

During the breach, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump were making calls to lobby Senators. Consider that for a moment: members of Congress were sheltering in place at undisclosed locations because of a clear and present danger to their safety and the President and his lawyers are making calls from the White House to lobby to have legitimately cast and certified electoral votes tossed out.

One more time for the back of the room: the President used a moment of violence to try and leverage his political position, a position that required overturning an election.

(Note: even if he sincerely believed that some of the slates should be rejected, that does not justify him trying to leverage violence against members of Congress to get his way. Thinks about that for a moment).

After watching the violence for two hours and trying to use that time to his political advantage, he makes a video wherein he says this (in full):

I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.

It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil.

I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.

This is a message of sympathy and solidarity with a crowd that vandalized the US Capitol, threatened the safety of Congress and the Vice President, killed a Capitol police officer, and contributed to the deaths of at least four others.



And issued on Twitter directly to them.

(And he is lying about the election being stolen. There has been no evidence presented to back this claim. Indeed, all the evidence shows a free a fair election).

And, again, no immediate addressing of the American people (there would be some stilted video messages later). I cannot think of another American tragedy in my lifetime of the scale of having the US Capitol stormed that the President did not address the public live from the White House.

A man who could not be bothered to act for two hours as violence was perpetrated against the US government and who expressed sympathy and solidarity for the perpetrators deserves to be barred from holding federal office, as the US Constitution allows, plain and simple.

And those facts don’t even require discussing the way in which he clearly fomented the violence in the first place with his words.

And if anyone is reading this thinks I am compromised because of my electoral preferences in 2016 and 2020, or because I am a pointy-headed intellectual who dwells in the halls of Ivory Towers, I give you Liz Cheney (she of deep Republican roots and from an arch-conservative political family):

The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. 

And Mitch McConnell (the Leader of the Republicans in the Senate):

The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like.

Trump deserves to be barred from future office and to have his post-presidency perks removed. The fact that Leader McCarthy was down in Florida to try and get Trump’s support is a sad indictment of the direction the GOP is heading. Republicans who do not want to see the party go down that road should support Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Yes. Trump is clearly guilty as charged. Yes, Republican senators will acquit him. He was clearly guilty last time. And they acquitted him. Yes, they’re gutless scum. What’s your point.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Republicans who do not want to see the party go down that road should support Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

    And yet they won’t, meaning… They’re a bunch of gutless weasels who in the end think only of themselves.

  3. DrDaveT says:

    I do not understand how anyone can defend this

    I think that framing misses the point. The Republicans in the Senate are not defending this — they are saying that it doesn’t matter whether it was atrocious, heinous, criminal behavior. Republicans will not impeach a Republican — no matter what crimes against America and its people have been committed. (Oh, but they will vote to impeach a Democrat the next chance they get, on any convenient pretext.) They may not say this out loud, and mustelids like Paul may offer sham defenses, but no one is fooled who matters.

    I actually find that more contemptible than a sincere defense of Trump’s actions would be.

  4. reid says:

    Nice chronology and explanation of why Trump is guilty. Not that there was any doubt, of course; we’ve known these details for awhile. It’s further proof that Trump is a psychopath. I can’t even find the words to express how horrific it all was and how the near-universal Republican response has been beneath contempt.

  5. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: I don’t think that it’s fair to weasels, ferrets, and wolverines to say that Rand Paul is of a type with them. What did they ever do that is anything like what Rand Paul does on a nearly daily basis?

  6. dmichael says:

    Excellent post detailing the timeline of events and
    Trump’s conduct. I would appreciate someone getting me the link to the video posted by Don Jr of the party (complete with music and dancing) of all of the crime family, including Trump himself, intently watching the insurrection live on TV. (I saw it once but no longer have the link). Will the impeachment managers please show this on video during the trial. The Senate repubs won’t vote to convict but I would like to see them squirm.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Have you ever seen the mayhem that is unleashed by a weasel in a chicken coop? They kill everything. They don’t even bother to eat what they kill. They just take the tops of the heads off and drink the blood.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @dmichael: The video is of them watching the rally before the insurrection.

  9. charon says:
  10. Scott F. says:

    Careful now, Steven. If you keep pointing out that Rand Paul is a liar, the esteemed Senator’s going to get indignant about it on national TV.

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    This is not just about what happened that day either:

    1) Trump spent two months spreading baseless conspiracy theories about the election and whipping his followers up into a frenzy.

    2) His conspiracy garbage included pressuring the SoS of Georgia to find votes for him and apparently crafting a half-baked plot with a mid-level DOJ employees to get rid of the acting AG and falsely proclaim that they’d found fraud in Georgia.

    3) He specifically called for this rally on January 6 and gave them a specific target, supporting false and legally laughable theories that Mike Pence and/or Congress could overturn the election

    4) In the days leading up to it, the Admin was alerted to growing online threats. The Capitol asked them six times for additional support for the rally day. He declined. Most rallies of this size have more police presence.

    Then there’s the stuff you mention.

    Donald Trump whipped his supporters up into a frenzy, gave them a target, left that target unprotected, watched as they went after him and did nothing to stop it. I strongly suspect that what happened on January 6th was that Mike Pence and the cabinet effectively 25th Amendment’d him and took over the operation of the federal government.

    If you don’t punish him for this, all you’re saying to him is, “Next time, send a bigger mob.”

  12. CSK says:

    Oh, absolutely Pence was acting president from the evening of Jan. 6 to noon on Jan. 20.

    The Trump Fan Club is still stoutly maintaining that the true villains in the Capitol insurrection were Antifa and BLM members disguised as Trump supporters. I don’t know how they reconcile that with Trump blowing them kisses and telling them he loved them.

  13. reid says:

    @Hal_10000: Yes, nicely written. Most or all of that should have been included in the impeachment document. (I haven’t actually read it, but I think it only deals with the events of the 6th.) The acts involving the DOJ (which came out later) and the calls and pressure to the states is all also worthy of impeachment. Put it all together and it’s that much more compelling.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Don’t raise chickens and don’t know of weasels being native to where I live, so no, I haven’t. Given your expertise on this matter if you say weasels are worse than Rand Paul, I’ll take your word on it.

    I stand corrected. It is fair to weasels to say that Rand Paul is of the same kind as they are.

  15. @Hal_10000:

    This is not just about what happened that day either:

    To be clear I wholeheartedly agree (and I have written about that as well). I focus here on those two hours and his words at 4:17 because there is simply no good way to explain those away. And also because focusing on those discrete elements avoids playing whack-a-mole with all of the rationalizing about his behavior.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Weasels are true to their nature. They don’t pretend to be otherwise. They are murderous sonsabithches for whom once the blood lust takes hold they just can’t stop. Rand Paul on the other hand,…

    Is worse. He could stop. But he chooses not to.

    I’m just saying that weasels aren’t paragons of virtue and you wouldn’t want to be in an enclosed space with them. Same as with Rand Paul.

  17. flat earth luddite says:

    Actually, I’d be more inclined to say that Rand Paul wouldn’t want to be in an enclosed space with me. But then again, that particular (alleged) human is an affront to weasels, psychopaths, and sociopaths. Back on the farm, I’d expect him to meet the same fate as an aggressive rabid dog. In prison he’d be “bitched” and shanked in the yard. Generally a complete waste of communal oxygen, much like his orange puppet master.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @flat earth luddite: Back on the farm, I’d expect him to meet the same fate as an aggressive rabid dog.

    Nah. Rabid dogs get shot at the first opportunity. PITA roosters on the other hand…. I’ve had roosters named Rand. Both of them met their ends at the hands of a weasel, locked out of the coop, left to fend for themselves because I was plain and simply tired of their shit and didn’t care whether they met their end in decapitation or… Well, to be honest, decapitation. The only question was who was going to clean up the mess.

    Turned out it was me no matter what…. sigh…..

  19. Jax says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s what I did with my troublesome roosters, too. I have a really great rooster, now, he’s huge and he chases the shit out of any interlopers that come in his yard (dogs, cats, any large birds, troublesome kids). I like to keep him humble, so he gets to wear costumes and make funny videos with me. I have some tiny T-Rex arms on order for our next funny video. 😉

  20. Unsympathetic says:

    Steven, I think you do understand exactly how people can and do defend Trump’s actions.
    They don’t have any objective standard for reality other than “R good, D bad.”

    Therefore, because Trump has claimed the title of R, he is by definition Good!

    And of course elected national R officials won’t go against that primary-school-level logic.. because they wouldn’t get out of a primary if they had either personal integrity or a spine.

  21. dmichael says:

    @Gustopher: Hmm, okay. I still want to re watch it again.

  22. Kathy says:

    Republicans today only say one thing:

    Four legs good. Two legs baaaad.

  23. Hal_10000 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yep. I agree that the two hours are the most damning part. *Maybe* you could argue he didn’t understand what he was doing in the lead-up. But after the Capitol was stormed, to hold back? That’s where it crosses yet another line.

  24. Ken_L says:

    Trump Republicans are playing their usual childish semantic games. “Cite the exact words Trump said that incited insurrection!” they smirk. “HA! You can’t! In fact he explicitly told them to be peaceful! Owned again, liberal fools!”

    Hopefully the House managers present a narrative of the way Trump incited the belief the election would be rigged starting months before November, when the polls continued to show him losing convincingly. It’s tragic that Americans are going to have to spend the next four years arguing about who won the 2020 election, but Trump Republicans have left them with no choice. The first thing Democrats need to do is tell the powerful, straightforward story of what happened. And keep telling it again and again in the face of the torrent of bad faith arguments Trump Republicans will continue to make.

  25. Mikey says:


    Trump Republicans are playing their usual childish semantic games. “Cite the exact words Trump said that incited insurrection!” they smirk. “HA! You can’t! In fact he explicitly told them to be peaceful! Owned again, liberal fools!”

    They must also believe when Paulie Walnuts walks into a business and says “Nice place you have here! Be a shame if something happened to it” it’s an expression of sincere concern.

  26. @Ken_L: Exactly. That is why I think that the silence and the video to the mob are especially damning.

    @Mikey: Indeed.


    *Maybe* you could argue he didn’t understand what he was doing in the lead-up.

    Exactly. If people want to pretend he was just using normal rhetoric or claim he didn’t understand what he was doing, then they still need to explain the silence and that video.

  27. Teve says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    they still need to explain the silence and that video.

    pfft. Trump spends nearly every waking moment directing the Covid vaccine response, duh. He was obviously spending all that time on the phone demanding more refrigerated trucks or checking clinical trial data or something.

    I hear he was nominated for The Nobel Prize in Medicine. Some people are saying that.

  28. Ken_L says:

    @Teve: We do know – because it was on his daily schedule – that from early until late he Took Many Calls and Held Many Meetings.