Sept. 11, 2001, was a horrific day for America – a three-pronged terrorist attack that claimed more than 3,000 lives. But, apart from the high death toll, Jan. 6, 2021 was equally as horrible.
In fact, the invasion of the United States Capitol by a huge mob intent on overthrowing a presidential election is, arguably, even more frightening than an assault by religious zealots from the other side of the planet. That mob was composed of our fellow citizens; our neighbors. These attackers were not steeped in the vengeful brine of Islamic extremism, they were consumed by lies and conspiracy theories that seeped into their brains from messages gathered on home computers, TVs and the cellphones in their pockets.
And one thing has been made crystal clear by the Democratic House managers who are conducting the prosecution of Donald Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial: The leading messenger of those lies and conspiracy theories was the 45th president of the United States.
The case against Trump is very simple. For months he raised the bogus fear that, were he to lose his re-election bid, it could only be explained as theft of an election by a shadowy cabal of anti-American, left wing subversives. After his loss, he and his lawyers promoted wild claims of election fraud that further inflamed his supporters, even as Trump leaned on state elections officials and legislators to rig the vote totals for him. Trump and his minions then organized a rally in Washington, D.C., on the very day that Congress was legally bound to certify the election results and, at that rally, the president urged his followers to march to the Capitol and stop the count of electoral votes. When that assault on the capitol turned violent, Trump did nothing to stop it. Instead, he continued to agitate the mob by attacking his own vice president.
As the insurrection subsided, a final Trump tweet indicated his affection for the mob and what they had done on a day they should “remember forever.”
Perhaps by a strict legal standard, it would be tricky to convict Trump of inciting a riot, but an impeachment trial is not a court of law. It is a political forum in which a president who has violated his oath of office can be condemned and given a political punishment. There is no doubt that, by that standard, Trump is guilty of a despicable betrayal.
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