In late 2019 and early 2020, I wrote numerous columns for this website offering my thoughts on the Trump impeachment hearings and subsequent trial. While I’ve never been a fan of this president, I did not support the Democrats’ decision to pursue impeachment. This was primarily because after reading depositions from multiple witnesses, I wasn’t convinced that our president, even in attempting to extort a foreign power into digging up dirt on one of his political opponents, had committed an impeachable offense that deserved removal.
Here’s how I summed up my view in November of 2019: “Was such an attempt improper? Absolutely. An abuse of power? Undeniably. Illegal and/or impeachable? I wasn’t sure.”
Because I wasn’t sure, and because the Democrats were moving forward with impeachment anyway, I was interested in hearing more from the witnesses. I did my best to keep an open mind throughout the hearings, and felt I represented the nuances of the proceedings quite well in my writing.
Impeachment is a tricky issue to tackle because it’s a subjective political process. There isn’t a strict legal criterion that constitutes an impeachable offense. It’s largely left to the discretion of congress. But by the end of the senate trial, I had come to respect two different views.
The first one was expressed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who conceded that Trump had done what he was accused of, that he did abuse the power of the presidency, but that the abuse didn’t rise to the level of removal.
The second came from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who agreed that Trump committed the act, that he abused his power, and that the abuse was significant enough to warrant removal.
Frankly, if I had been in a position to have to vote on whether or not to remove the president that day, I’m not sure where I would have come down.
Following yesterday’s insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, however, I believe that President Trump should be impeached, removed, and never be allowed to run for public office again. And as I described above, I’m not someone who takes such measures lightly.
Make no mistake about it. Trump bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for what happened. He incited widespread political outrage for two months, selling millions of his faithful supporters on an endless stream of outrageous lies and conspiracy theories to subvert the results of a free and fair election that he unequivocally lost.
After weeks of failing to overturn the will of 81 million American voters, January 6th — according to Trump — was to be the day of reckoning. It was the date that Trump had set as America’s last chance for all the alleged electoral wrongdoings to be righted. It was the day on which Vice President Mike Pence supposedly had an ethical and patriotic duty to stop the certification of the nation’s electoral votes (a measure that was never going to happen, nor would it have made any difference). It was the last chance for the republic to be saved.
Trump delivered a rambling speech earlier that day in front of the White House, whipping up the crowd with his long list of election lies and calls to “stop the steal.” Thousands in attendance then made their way to the U.S. Capitol, as Trump had directed.
We saw on television what happened next. Protesters became rioters. They knocked over barriers, assaulted police officers, scaled walls, broke windows, and pounded through doors as they entered the Capitol.
Outside, tear gas was used. Inside, proceedings were halted and elected representatives were evacuated for their safety. Offices were vandalized. Secret Service agents blocked doors with furniture, guns drawn to protect trapped staffers. Public servants, some fitted with gas masks, hid behind desks in their offices. Others were ushered out through an underground tunnel.
Pipe bombs were found. Police officers are in the hospital. Five people are dead.
What we saw yesterday was an act of domestic terrorism. And the chaos would have never come to fruition without President Trump’s two-month-long, conspiracy-fueled efforts to convince millions of Americans that our nation’s democracy had in fact been hijacked.
But that wasn’t the end of it, as editors of The Dispatch (who are also calling for impeachment and removal) pointed out this morning. As the violence was still being carried out, Trump continued to fuel the fire:
“Yet even then—even with bloodshed in the halls of the Capitol and Congress itself under attack—the president still stoked rage and division. He tweeted his anger at Vice President Mike Pence for failing to hand him the election. Even when he called for calm and asked rioters to go home, he repeated his false claims about a stolen election. In one of the lowest moments of a very dark day, he told the rioters who stormed the Capitol, ‘We love you.’ ‘You’re very special,’ he said. ‘Law and order for thee, but not for me,’ seems to be the rule for this fundamentally disordered and lawless president.”
President Trump has proven to be a significant danger to this country. As we saw yesterday, the damage he has caused is no longer confined to the abuses of power, bad decisions, and unbecoming conduct we’ve debated over the last four years. It has produced domestic terrorism. Trump is a danger, and our nation deserves what protection we can responsibly and legally give it against any further damage he may cause.
I don’t care that there are only two weeks left in his term. The House should move to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. The Senate should vote to convict and remove, and then use its power under Article 1, Section 3 to keep him from ever holding public office again.
The time to act is now.
Editor’s Note (1/8): The death toll above was updated to reflect the passing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day from injuries sustained during the attack.
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