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.
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:
- 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.
- That crowd, having been encouraged to go to the Hill, breaks into the US Capitol around 2:15, live on television.
- 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 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.