My Turn: Impeachment plays into Trump’s hands

For the Monitor
Published: 1/13/2021 6:15:07 AM

Words matter. Facts matter. In John Adams’s successful defense of British soldiers who were charged in the Boston Massacre, he argued, “Facts are stubbom things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

On Jan. 6, seditionists stormed the Capitol to prevent the certification of the Electoral College’s vote, affirming the presidential election of Joe Biden. With the advice and consent of Donald Trump, they invaded the Capitol to “Stop the Steal,” a tawdry campaign slogan, designed to inflame the false claim that the election belonged to Trump and not the 80 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden. Most Americans were disgusted and appalled by these motley and misguided agents of anarchy and conspiratorial delusions; the sights of the Capitol under siege remain vivid and haunting. These are facts.

Donald Trump’s words fueled this rampage. Even before the election, he claimed the election was rigged. His torrent of deceit and distortion of the election results increased following the election. The question today is, should Donald Trump be impeached even though his term ends on Jan. 20 at noon?

To the question of whether Donald Trump committed acts that warrant impeachment, the answer is an unqualified yes. There is no evidence to support a claim that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Former attorney general William Barr confirmed this; Christopher Krebs, a Trump appointee who was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency dismissed Trump’s claims with the categorical statement that “59 election security experts all agree, in every case of which we are aware, these claims (of fraud) either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.” Krebs was fired the day after he made this statement. Barr quit before he was fired. Repeated audits in battleground states affirmed Biden’s victory.

Trump was the Propaganda Agent in Chief of the big lie: the election was rigged and stolen from him and his supporters. Aided in this alternative universe by a band of disgraced and deranged lawyers and politicians, over 60 lawsuits were filed seeking to disenfranchise millions of American voters. These cases were dismissed with withering opinions, often written by conservative state and federal judges, many of them appointed by Trump. As John Adams presaged, courts are where facts are presented and determined, consistent with the rule of law. The stubborn fact was the election reflected the will of the American people. Trump lost the 60 cases because he had no real evidence to support his claim that the election was stolen from him.

Trump’s guilt in inciting the assault on the Capitol is evidenced by his words and grotesque efforts to put undue pressure on public officials to defy their oaths of office and undermine certified election results. Despite three hand recounts in Georgia, Trump called the secretary of state, like a bankrupt borrower seeking a loan of $11,780, and begged, implored, and flattered in a perverse effort to just “find” 11,780 votes. To Trump, there was “nothing wrong” with vote “finding,” all the secretary needed to do was tell the people “that you’ve recalculated.” Simple.

For Jan. 6, Trump planned and staged a rally to Save America. He made repeated appeals to his core base that they should attend the rally and promised it would be “wild.” The crowd came, armed.

Trump’s hour-long “speech,” which will be the basis for any impeachment, needs to be fully read to be appreciated. At the outset Trump implored Vice President Mike Pence to violate his constitutional oath and refuse to certify the election and send it back to the states. (To his credit, Pence followed the law, not Trump.) Trump told the crowd, if Pence follows his directed course of action” we (sic) become president, and you are the happiest people.” Trump explained the alternative is the collapse of the country and “then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot, and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen.”

And to prevent “that” from happening and to embolden Congress to “confront this egregious assault on our democracy,” Trump called for a march to the Capitol, assuring his listeners, “I’ll be there with you.”

Trump’s exhortations were clear: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. . . . The Republicans have to get tougher. You’re not going to have a Republican Party if you don’t get tougher. . . . If we allow this group of people to illegally take over our country, because it’s illegal when the votes are illegal, when the way they got there is illegal, when the states that vote are given false and fraudulent information. . . . We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you re not going to have a country anymore. . . . So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue. . . . But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. . . . So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

And the march began and then the assault, bringing our democracy within the shadow of the abyss.

The moment of the peaceful transition of power was turned to a violent freak show: Zombies took over the Capitol; the Confederate flag, the symbol of violent secession and racism, was waved in the halls of Congress for the only time in our nation’s history; gleeful seditionists sat on the Senate dais and pronounced Trump president; dead bodies laid on the marble floors of the Capitol and the surrounding grounds. Trump’s only complaint was the seditionists looked “low class.”

Despite being warranted, should Congress move to impeach? Unless there are 60 Senate votes guaranteed, my answer is no. This view comes from the age-old riddle, “What did the sadist do to the masochist?” “Nothing,” is the answer. Do not give Trump another reason to claim the title of Victim in Chief.

A congressional resolution of public condemnation and censure, barring him from the floors of the Senate and House, would be quick and to the point. It would deprive Trump of a magisterial public venue and trial to air his grievances. Filing lawsuits that you cannot win makes bad law and bad policy. The filing may feel good, but the loss has consequences.

Let a censured Trump be banished to his gilded estate, a sullen and morose toxic creature without Twitter and Facebook, and let Joe Biden build a record of reconciliation and pandemic relief in his first 100 days.

(Steven Gordon lives in Hopkinton.)

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