President Biden won’t have time to watch his predecessor’s second impeachment trial as it begins today, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told us Monday.
Unlike the last president who spent more time in front of his TV than he did on his golf courses, Biden will continue to busy himself with our needs. His schedule this week includes visits to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, as well as “engaging with business leaders, mayors and governors, and of course continuing to make the case and have conversations with Democrats and Republicans directly about his hopes and plans for the American Rescue Plan moving forward as quickly as possible,” Psaki said.
That’s not to say Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is not important. It’s vitally important. And Americans know it. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll found 56% of Americans want the Senate to convict Trump of inciting insurrection and bar him from future office; 43% are opposed.
Even if at least 17 Republican senators cannot bring themselves to hold Trump accountable for inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, leading to the deaths of five people, Americans need to see and hear the civics behind our Constitution’s guardrails for the peaceful transfer of power after a free and fair election.
America needs to see the case against this divisive former president who continued over and over to lie about the election to gin up his base for insurrection and — he hoped — a coup to keep him in power.
“Keep fighting,” Trump told the crowd that he and his campaign had weeks before invited to the Capitol for a “wild” time. The crowd included radical right, anti-government and white supremacists groups like the Proud Boys whom Trump had, in a September presidential debate, asked to “Stand by” in the event of a “rigged” election.
Trump invited the crowd to “protest” the certification of Biden’s win by Congress. In his speech to supporters, he exhorted them: “We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore. We will never concede. We will stop the steal,” Trump put extra emphasis on those last three words. “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
Then off the mob went to “take back our country,” chanting “Fight for Trump.”
If Trump didn’t mean this to happen, why would pleas for national guard support to help Capitol Police be ignored for days before and hours after the attack began?
If Trump didn’t mean this to happen, why would it be more than an hour before, as president, he would make his first statement, and when he did, it wasn’t a call for calm? Trump didn’t address the mob’s smashing of barriers and windows or its confrontations with the handful of visible police. Instead, he continued to inflame matters with his false claims of a so-called “stolen election,” tweeting that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done ” The raging mob inside the Capitol began chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
A while later, Trump tweeted again, ” Stay peaceful.” Stay? He was watching the same scenes on television and closed circuit cameras that we were. There was no “peaceful” with which to “stay.” The mob was smashing into chambers, battering officers, carrying zip-tie handcuffs and ransacking offices.
All told, it would be more than three hours before the then-president would step to a microphone and tell the mob to stop. And how did that message sound? “We have to have peace. Go home. We love you. You’re very special,” the president said.
Trump’s defense team on Monday accused Democrats of impeaching Trump for “political theater.” That’s rich, given the political theater of Trump’s attempted coup.
Defense attorneys also called the Senate trial “unconstitutional” because Trump is no longer president. But Trump and Republican senators can’t have it 10 different ways.
Trump and his defenders — even the elected ones — have said he couldn’t be prosecuted for crimes while he was a sitting president. They’ve said he couldn’t be impeached for that Ukrainian phone call because America should wait for the election. They’ve said he couldn’t be impeached for Jan. 6 because he will soon be out of office. Now they are saying he cannot be prosecuted afterward for his actions while he was president.
Neither Trump nor any other president can be above the law and accountability. They — and especially Donald Trump — cannot have complete and forever immunity to any and every crime.
That said, many pundits believe — and probably rightly — that 17 of the 50 Republican senators who are sitting as jurors in this impeachment trial simply don’t have the political courage to risk writing off the 30ish% of hard-right voters who were duped by Trump’s fake populism and cowered by his swagger. Instead they will pose as would-be guardians of the Constitution and remain silent about his treasonous actions.
Wherever the Senate ultimately lands in the trial of Donald Trump, America is moving on.
President Joe Biden is making sure of it. That same poll that found a clear majority of us want Trump convicted also found that 67% of us approve of the way Biden is handling the response to COVID-19.
We are all gratefully moving on, and most of us know that does not mean letting Trump go unpunished.