It’s possible to imagine even more shameful behavior from an American president than the nation witnessed from Donald Trump.
He could have literally murdered someone in the middle of the street with his own hands — the act he once infamously bragged he could pull off without punishment.
He could have directly consorted with a foreign power to abet an invasion of the U.S. (though his shocking behavior toward his pal Vladimir Putin and remarkable inaction toward Russian bounties on the lives of American soldiers came pretty close).
He could have tried to suspend the Constitution and proclaim himself dictator for life (another act that he came frighteningly close to trying).
Short of those acts, however, it’s hard to conceive of anything worse than what Trump did during the waning day of his disastrous presidency. This chilling reality has been on full display this week during the Senate impeachment trial.
As numerous analysts have explained, the impeachment case presented by House managers has made it crystal clear that Donald Trump attempted to overthrow American democracy and must be brought to justice. This is from today’s lead editorial in the Washington Post:
On Wednesday, the managers demonstrated that the violence was predictable. Mr. Trump planned the rally with the organizers of the second Million MAGA March, a previous pro-Trump event that had turned violent. House members detailed how Trump fanatics openly planned the Capitol invasion on pro-Trump websites that the White House reportedly monitored, and how government officials warned about the threat of extremist violence. And they showed how Mr. Trump nevertheless told his mob, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” His acolytes, the presentation documented, had been primed by his previous support for violent acts, such as a Trump caravan’s attempt to run a bus of Biden supporters off a Texas highway.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers cannot credibly claim that the case is about a few careless words the then-president uttered in a single speech. He fed his mob lies, told them they were losing their country and directed them to the Capitol when it was obvious they did not mean to conduct orderly protest.
Tragically, as numerous observers and analysts have noted, a formal conviction is unlikely given the pathetic loyalty that most Republican senators still harbor toward Trump. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis even sent out a preposterous fundraising letter this week in which he condemned the impeachment trial as an effort by “the radical left” (you mean like Bill Cassidy and Liz Cheney, Senator?) that constitutes “an INSULT to every citizen struggling right now.”
As veteran Post columnist E.J. Dionne observed this morning, however, there is reason to to take some solace in the fact that this cowardly failure to convict won’t ultimately make that much difference when it comes to the trial’s most important function — documenting the truth for posterity and identifying the elected leaders in our country who are willing to abandon democracy:
The punditry says that fewer than 10 Republican Senators are likely to vote for Trump’s conviction. This will be an outrage, a sign that a once great party has surrendered to craven opportunism or, worse, brutal authoritarianism. But thanks to the work of the impeachment managers, the country will know how spineless the party has become.
The editorial board of the Financial Times summed it up neatly this way on Monday:
What happened last month was an attempted seizure of power by force. No democracy can tolerate such a crime or allow its orchestrator to hold public office again. It is important to know which senators disagree.
Indeed. One hopes fervently that they live to regret their cowardly decision.