Trump Deserves to be Impeached, Plain and Simple

As we assess Trump's role in all of this, it is important to think through what he did (and did not) do.

Donald J. Trump bears direct responsibility for what unfolded at the US Capitol on Wednesday. This is not hyperbole or conjecture. It is not merely an opinion or a hot take. Followers listen to leaders. The words of elites have consequences. And as President of the United States Trump is as elite as elites gets, regardless of his populist style. He is the holder of the highest office in the land. He is the elected head of state and head of government. He is the leader of his political party.

His words matter.

As such, let’s consider some of those words. I will note that part of the following is a recapitulation of some of what I wrote yesterday. However, that post was more about how people in denial (or who wish to obfuscate Trump’s culpability) will try and focus on a handful of words spoken on January 7th. I want to highlight here the sequence of events on January 6th, as well as a few antecedents.

There is a ton that could be listed as building to this moment, like the time in the debates that Trump told the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by,” but let’s just consider the last week (!).

On January 3rd he tried to encourage the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” more votes for him and to just announce that he had “recalculated.”

On January 4th, at a rally in Dalton, GA he told a crowd that if the Democrats are in charge, “The people of Georgia will be at the mercy of the left wing, socialist, communist, Marxists. That’s where it’s going. We don’t like to use the word communist”.

The Democrats are trying to steal the White House. You can not let them. You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate. You can’t let it happen. You can’t let it happen.

[…]

now they are trying to steal an election from us. We won not by a little bit. We won in numbers like nobody’s seen before.

[…]

If we don’t do something fast, there will never be another fair election in America.

[…]

America as you know it will be over. And it will never, I believe, be able to come back again.

[…]

the far left wants to destroy our country, demolish our history, and erase everything that we hold dear.

[…]

The damage they do will be permanent, and will be irreversible. Can’t let it happen.

[…]

It’s fight for our country. It’s really fight for our country, not fight for Trump. It’s fight for our country, because that’s why we’re fighting for.

All of that was in the context of constantly stating how the election in November was “rigged” and “stolen.”

And let’s not forget (not that we could) that he has been going on about a rigged/stolen election for months.

On January 5th, he tweeted “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors” (source: NYT). Which, is not true.

In regards to that issue, CNN reported (Pence informed Trump that he can’t block Biden’s win):

“The New York Times report regarding comments Vice President Pence supposedly made to me today is fake news. He never said that. The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act,” Trump said.

The President is now angry with Pence following their meeting, a source close to the White House said. Trump may “lash out” at his vice president on Wednesday morning during a speech at a rally staged to support the President’s attempts to overturn the election, which is taking place near the White House grounds.

“I think he will lash out pretty quickly” at Pence, the source said of Trump’s speech. White House officials say Trump will speak at the Ellipse 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, just as Pence is set to preside over the counting of the electoral votes.

Indeed, this issue would be relevant to his January 6th speech, in front of the White House, at around noon, when he said the following (emphasis mine):

I hope so because 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.

He is there providing false information and telling a crowd, at an event called the “Save America Rally,” that Pence can, in fact, reject electoral states and force a re-vote. He is telling a crowd that Mike Pence can stop the steal.

(And, I might add for kicks: there is no evidence of a stolen election, and the only person who could be proven to have attempted to steal an election is Trump when he spoke to Rafffensperger last Sunday).

Trumps assertions about Pence were clearly inspirational. During the storming of the Capitol insurrectionists yelled “Where’s Mike Pence? Where’s Mike Pence? Where’s Mike Pence? Where’s Mike Pence?” (you can hear the audio in Friday’s installment of The Daily).

There is also this eye-witness account from a Reuters photographer:

Keep in mind that at that rally Trump said

So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… The Democrats are hopeless. They’re never voting for anything, not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.

So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Weak Republicans like Pence, perhaps?

At a minimum, the entire speech was about, again, how the election was stolen and how the crowd in front of the White House needed to go down to the Capitol to send a message to members of Congress voting to certify the election.

We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.

Yes, he said “peacefully” but he also said the following

All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.

[…]

Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal. 

[…]

We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capitol for one very, very basic and simple reason, to save our democracy.

If democracy is being taken away, if the election was stolen, and if the only way to save it is to help the “weak” Republicans or, perhaps, to get Pence to “do the right thing” this is a clearly irresponsible, especially after weeks and weeks and weeks of saying similar things. It is clear incitement–especially if the crowd took him at his word that they were all going to the Hill together.

Indeed, prior to the passages above he said,

We’re going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. If he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country because you’re sworn to uphold our constitution. Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.

This is fascist rhetoric: strength over weakness. And it was a call for a crowd to show strength in the face of supposed electoral theft.


The timeline goes like this:

~12:00ish: Trump speaks

~1:00: Congress comes into session to count the electoral votes

~2:15: Crowds start to breach security a the Capitol. Soon thereafter they were streaming into the building.

~3:30: The National Guard is activated

~4:00: Biden speaks.

~4:17: Trump speaks via Twitter.

5:50: The building is secured.

In the statement made on Twitter, Trump says “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us” and “We love you. You’re very special.” He concluded by saying “I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

It should be noted that there were tweets from his account during the event, and prior to his speaking, that called for peace, but that decidedly did not condemn the occupation of the Capitol (and yes, I agree that it is likely he did not send those tweets, but that an aide did).

Also during the occupation of the Capitol, he was on the phone lobbying members of Congress. CNN reports: As riot raged at Capitol, Trump tried to call senators to overturn election.

Let that sink in: the Congress has had to be rushing from the floors of both chambers, and Trump is primarily worried about still getting electoral votes thrown out.

President Donald Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani both mistakenly made calls to Republican Sen. Mike Lee as deadly riots were unfolding at the US Capitol earlier this week, a spokesman for the senator confirmed to CNN — calls that were intended for another GOP senator the White House was frantically trying to convince to delay the counting of Electoral College votes.

Lee’s spokesman said the calls from Trump and his attorney were intended for Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a newly elected Republican from Alabama. The effort by the White House to get Tuberville to delay certification of the votes provides insight into the President’s thinking and priorities as a mob of his supporters lay siege to the iconic building.

Indeed.


I know the above is a lot (and it isn’t even everything that could be quoted or said), but let’s focus on the following:

  1. Trump works up a crowd between noon and 1 o’clock. He preached the need for strength and the need to go to the Capitol to stop the theft of American democracy.
  2. That crowd, having been encouraged to go to the Hill, breaks into the US Capitol around 2:15, live on television.
  3. The President of the United States does nothing of consequence regarding that assault on the US government for two hours. And the only action he undertakes is to post a short video on Twitter. And while he calls on the occupiers to go home, he tells them that he understands them and that he loves them.

He did not go on national television to seek and quell the violence and mayhem. He did not immediately condemn this clear assault on American government. He did not act as President. He did not act as a leader.

No, he watched the activity on television and tried to lobby members of Congress to vote to overturn the will of the voters.

He blatantly ignored his duty to defend the Constitution of the United States.

Remember: his supporters, that he himself encouraged go to the Hill, wearing his colors, bearing his symbols, and chanting his name were, live on television, disrupting a constitutionally mandated process.

He did not condemn.

He did not call them off.

He watched.

He made phone calls.

He told them he understood.

And then he said he loved them.

How can he not be impeached?

Even if all that means is an additional stain on his already stained record, he should be impeached.

And for his brazen disregard for the US Constitution he should be forever barred from holding federal office.

He does not deserve the benefits and honors of a former president.

No president ever deserved to be impeached more than Trump does right now.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, 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

Comments

  1. Scott F. says:

    You lay out a compelling and passionate case, Steven, and it strikes me that the charge in the single article of impeachment the House has made public is the right one – incitement of insurrection.

    And, I might add for kicks: there is no evidence of a stolen election….

    I know this isn’t central to your case, but I think it is important to note there is also no evidence for any of these other things Trump claimed during the January 4th speech in Georgia:
    – “…there will never be another fair election in America.”
    – “…America as you know it will be over. And it will never, I believe, be able to come back again.”
    “…the far left wants to destroy our country, demolish our history, and erase everything that we hold dear.”
    – “…The damage they do will be permanent, and will be irreversible.”
    -…It’s really fight for our country, not fight for Trump.”

    These are incendiary things to say about the opposition party, yet that’s all the Republican base has heard about the left from their leaders and their media sources for decades. As singularly awful Trump has been in his demagoguery, I think it is very important for us to relentlessly emphasize that the seeds of insurrection that Trump sowed and his supporters reaped were planted in soil tilled and made fertile by years and years of GOP cultivation.

    17
  2. flat earth luddite says:

    Indeed. He deserves impeachment. America deserves his impeachment. His spineless, power-hungry sycophants will certainly fail to rise to the level of doing the right thing. IIRC, it would take 17 GOP Senators to remember they are Senators first, members of the GOP second. I expect to find a unicorn in my back yard before that happens.

    7
  3. @Scott F.:

    yet that’s all the Republican base has heard about the left from their leaders and their media sources for decades.

    I largely agree with this (and thought about it when I writing this).

    I think it is important that normally these hyperbolic, and yes, untruthful statements are usually said in the context of “Therefore, vote for us.” That doesn’t make it right, but it is still a different thing to say that the election was stolen and then say all those things. Those are two different levels of rhetoric.

    I am not defending the rhetoric, but hyperbole in politics is not new. But saying these things an connecting them to a stolen election is whole new level.

    5
  4. ImProPer says:

    “now they are trying to steal an election from us. We won not by a little bit. We won in numbers like nobody’s seen before.”

    This is not hyperbole, or rhetoric. It is the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater, it is a call to arms, not the the ballot box. Impeachment should be just the beginning.

    7
  5. Scott F. says:

    While I agree that hyperbole is not new to politics, I do think it is important to acknowledge that this specific hyperbole is prerequisite to inciting people to insurrection when it comes to ‘theft’ of an election.

    If something were stolen from you by some persons you recognized or with whom you were familiar, it would be seen as an indignity and an affront. You’d want what was stolen back as a matter of justice. But if something were stolen from you by some persons you see as uniquely evil and threatening to your way of life, then recovery of the stolen item would be seen as existential.

    2
  6. @ImProPer: I was not speaking of those statements when I used the word hyperbole in my response to Scott.

    I think I have been exceptionally clear on my position as to his lies about the election.

    3
  7. @Scott F.: I think we are talking past one another, and perhaps distracting from the main point of the post.

    2
  8. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to distract from your main point that no president ever deserved to be impeached more than Trump does right now. I fully agree.

    4
  9. @Scott F.: No worries. I think we basically agree.

    1
  10. ImProPer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If my post above came across in any way critical of you Dr. Taylor, it was not intentional. It is meant as a stand-alone, to point out the statement attributed to the president, that is, unless true, criminal. It is an affirmative statement that he won the election and it was stolen, he should be compelled to either take the 5th, or provide the evidence he relied on to make it. If nothing else America needs to see him do one or the other. Not go back into private life with any chance of credibility with even the stupidest of his supporters.

    3
  11. @ImProPer: Gotcha. Sometimes it is hard to know what is stand-alone and what is part of the ongoing interchange.

    Truth be told I am probably more than a little grumpy after reading and writing about Trump all afternoon!!

    6
  12. Gustopher says:

    I think it’s also important to remember what else happened at the rally — Rudy Giuliani, and the “trial by combat” speech. Unless Trump were somehow unaware of it, he had a responsibility to sooth the crowd from that point.

    Trump deserves to be impeached, and then prosecuted and jailed.

    Giuliani cannot be impeached, but deserves the rest. I’m hoping that Trump continues to think he did nothing wrong, and so doesn’t pardon Giuliani for it.

    (I’ve hated Giuliani for decades. Since he incited a police race riot 1992, and later claimed to have just not seen police torching cars. And we cannot forget his insistence at overruling his own commission’s concerns over terrorism and putting the emergency coordination center IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, or his attempt to cancel the upcoming election and stay in power after 9/11… Giuliani is scum)

    3
  13. ImProPer says:

    I can definitely relate. I don’t see how any sentient being cannot be frustrated. Even Trump supporters, as they are not only suffering reality, but the fabricated dystopia their leader has ruthlessly sold them.

  14. Jax says:

    I only have one little nit-picking point, and that’s that he shouldn’t even be allowed to run for small-town dog-catcher, let alone any federal office, EVER AGAIN. 😉

    He would be just as terrible as a dog-catcher, I suspect, he’s probably one of those guys dogs bark at right off the bat.

    2
  15. Richard Gardner says:

    Exit stage left, or stage right. But he is exiting. PERIOD. End of story. The Narcissistic Leader of the Free World is no more. Utter Bullshit on 25th Amendment or impeachment. Pelosi is vile on her nuclear command and control stuff (I’m a subject matter expert on this from 20 years ago, and I’m way more current than Pelosi). Why is Pelosi fear-mongering? (OK, because that is what politicians do – bringing up bogus fears) [If Russia is gone tomorrow, I was wrong, oops nope]

  16. Kathy says:

    1) It is essential for GOP leaders to make it clear the election was conducted fairly, and that Trump lost. That there was no fraud, and no theft.

    2) Trump deserves to at least die behind bars.

    3) To those worried about precedents, think of the precedent set by allowing the (temporary) holder of the highest office to use his office and powers to attack the country’s fundamental institutions, and then just going off about his life as though nothing happened.

    2
  17. DrDaveT says:

    @Richard Gardner:

    Utter Bullshit on […] impeachment.

    If you do not impeach for this, you must never impeach any President for anything, ever. Establishing the bipartisan precedent that this behavior is beyond the pale is more important than avoiding a few extra days of Trumpistan.

    1
  18. @Jax: Indeed. That is beyond the scope of what Congress can do, however.

  19. @Richard Gardner:

    Utter Bullshit on 25th Amendment or impeachment.

    If fomenting an attack on the US Capitol, and ginning up a crowd against the Vice President isn’t grounds for impeachment, what is?

    Pelosi is vile on her nuclear command and control stuff

    She was wrong to make that contact, but it hardly seems “vile” for a high ranking member of the government to be concerned about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes.