On Wednesday, Donald Trump made history by becoming the first American president to be impeached twice. Though ten congressional Republicans, voting against the leader of their party, made the effort the most bipartisan presidential impeachment ever, it was absolutely shameful that 197 of their GOP colleagues chose to let Trump skate.
National Review’s Kevin Williamson summed it up well:
“A paltry ten House Republicans mustered the guts and the patriotism to vote to impeach Donald Trump. By way of comparison, 139 Republicans in the House voted to overturn the 2020 election. If the American public concludes that this is a party of irresponsible crackpots who can no longer be trusted with power, it will be impossible to blame them.”
To review, a U.S. president incited a murderous act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol. He did so through months of aggressively lying to his millions of faithful supporters, as part of an attack on our democracy and electoral institutions, for the purpose of overturning the results of a free and fair election that he unequivocally lost.
If that’s not an impeachable offense, I don’t know what it is.
Remarkably, quite a few House Republicans who voted no on impeachment have outright conceded that Trump incited the January 6th violence. Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s been as reliably servile to Trump as anyone, has acknowledged that the president bears a large amount of responsibility for what happened.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw has said the same, tearing into his Republican colleagues last week on Fox News for shamelessly joining in with Trump’s two-month-long rouse.
They’ve been lying to people,” he told Martha MacCallum. “They’ve been lying to millions. They’ve been lying that January 6 was going to be this big solution for election integrity. It was never going to be.”
Crenshaw added, “It was all fun and games to them. They never knew what a real fight was. Real fights are scary. Bullets flying, that’s scary. Glass breaking, that’s really scary. … They’ve been talking about the courage to stand up to this. … But when it came down to it, there was no courage.”
But Crenshaw voted against impeachment on Wednesday. Afterwards, he tweeted this explanation:
“We can’t ignore the President’s behavior leading up to the violence in the Capitol last week. He bears enormous responsibility for it. But impeachment is not the answer. We all need to deescalate, lower the temperature, and move forward together as a country.”
With all due respect to Rep. Crenshaw, the compelling case for national unity and grace — in support of our nation’s “peaceful transfer of power” — died along with five Americans at the U.S. Capitol.
From election night of November 4th until the insurrection on January 6th, there wasn’t serious talk of a second Trump impeachment. That was true despite the president refusing to concede, lying to the public every day about who had won, amplifying one insane conspiracy theory after another, demanding other Republican leaders join him or face serious political consequences, pressuring state officials to commit election fraud (and slandering them to the point of death threats when they didn’t), and ultimately convincing millions of angry Americans that if Vice President Mike Pence didn’t overturn the election at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th (something Pence couldn’t do even if he wanted), our democracy will have been successfully hijacked, and the republic will have been lost.
None of those actions compelled a second impeachment effort, even though some of them (along with later directing a large crowd to intimidate congress) were impeachable. The spirit of “moving forward” — sentiment that fell under relentless assault by Trump in the final weeks of his presidency — prevented it.
It took the terrifying results of those actions, as witnessed on January 6th, to end two months of public sufferance, and shift the response to one of accountability and the prevention of further damage by the president.
The devastation Trump has already caused is difficult to fully grasp, as we continue to learn more details of the Capitol attack.
Five people died, including a police officer who was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. Several other officers required hospitalization, one of whom will likely lose an eye (gouged with a flagpole by a rioter), and another who suffered a heart attack from being shocked by a stun gun. One officer has since committed suicide, with others reporting suicidal thoughts to their superiors.
Active bombs were placed in the Capitol. Other weapons were brought in, along with zip-tie handcuffs, because some of the rioters were intent on capturing or killing Mike Pence and members of congress.
Serious threats of follow-up attacks on elected representatives, state capitols, and the upcoming presidential inauguration have the FBI working overtime, with immense security measures being put in place to protect our citizens and institutions.
Yet, a huge majority of congressional Republicans are arguing that the pursuit of constitutional accountability, for the man who “bears enormous responsibility” for what happened, is uncalled for. Why is it uncalled for? Because he’s almost gone, and it would be divisive.
The notion is absurd, especially coming from the roughly 150 Republican members of the House and Senate who, in the final weeks of the Trump presidency, formally voted in support of the president’s effort to overturn the will of the 81 million American voters who decided the election.
If the concern is that accountability for Trump will cause even more violence, as some Republicans (including Jim Jordan) have suggested, that’s an even worse argument. Elected leaders, when making political decisions, shouldn’t be trying to appease those inclined to join violent mobs when they don’t get their way. How would that be any different than caving to the demands of terrorists?
Let’s face it. If Trump cared one iota about national unity, he’d do the honorable thing by admitting fault and resigning. But he hasn’t, and he won’t. As usual, he’s putting his ego before the country, and it’s up to others to deal with the mess he has created.
If Trump won’t accept personal accountability, it’s up to other elected leaders to impose it. The offenses Trump committed and the violence he has incited warrant stronger action than glancing rhetorical disapproval and collective shoulder shrugs. He shouldn’t be let off the hook just because the timing is inconvenient. He shouldn’t be given a free pass just to avoid further upsetting people who don’t think he did anything wrong in the first place.
Impeachment, despite only ten Republicans doing what was right, was a good start. If the Senate trial can’t logistically happen before Trump leaves office, it still needs to happen… and be taken seriously.
The offenses he has committed demand it.
Thank you, Representatives Cheney, Newhouse, Rice, Kinzinger, Gonzalez, Upton, Meijer, Beutler, Katko, and Valadao for doing the right thing.
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