The hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection have already provided conclusive evidence that the effort to overturn the 2020 election was a conspiracy directed by a corrupt sitting president who knew the effort was based on lies and encouraged violence in pursuit of power.
The damning testimony before the committee and the persuasiveness of its case has been widely analyzed. But a frank discussion of accountability for the insurrection has been muted.
There is a reason for this. The gravity of the crime exceeds any that an American president has ever been suspected of committing, and the scale of culpability is greater than many citizens are comfortable contemplating.
Another reason, one that puts the country in peril, is that too many Americans continue to support the perpetrators.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, set the tone for the hearings a week ago in his opening statement.
“It was domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol who sought to thwart the will of the people to stop the transfer of power,” he said. Later he said, “Ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy … January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup. … Violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.”
Thompson’s use of the phrase “domestic enemies” was deliberate. He noted the Civil War-era adoption of language regarding “all enemies — foreign and domestic” in the federal oath to account for the South’s rebellion.
In other words, the crimes committed by Trump and his co-conspirators are categorically akin to war-waging against the United States.
What is the appropriate punishment? If Trump and those who joined him in this violent attempted coup — including lawyers John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and seditionist members of Congress such as Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona, other senior officials such as Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as well as the hundreds of extremists who stormed the Capitol — are enemies of America, what’s to be done with them?
The answer comes to mind more readily than it’s given voice. We know the essence of the appropriate punishment for the crime. We don’t know yet how to engage it. Read more