On January 6, 2021, for the first time in American history, a sitting president of the United States committed sedition by publicly inciting his most rabid followers to invade the US Capitol Building, where Congress was performing its Constitutionally mandated duty of certifying the electoral votes. His goal was to have them halt that process and overturn the free and fair election that he lost in a landslide, in the vague hope that this would somehow keep him in power. This is an act that meets every legal definition of a coup.
The insurrectionist mob followed his direction precisely, though in the end they did not succeed in their larger goal.
They did, however, break into the Capitol, murder a police officer, and at least temporarily bring the peaceful transition of power to a halt for the first time in American history.
Every single person who invaded the Capitol that day is guilty of felony murder, insurrection, and treason. There are very clearly defined penalties in American law for each of these offenses, and justice demands that every single person who invaded the Capitol that day be subjected to them, without exception, without amelioration, and without delay.
But justice cannot stop there.
This treasonous mob took its direction from the top, and Donald Trump must face the consequences of his open rebellion against the United States of America.
The House of Representatives started the process, voting to impeach him for an unprecedented second time in the most bipartisan impeachment vote ever conducted in American history. The fact that ANY Republicans voted against this impeachment when mere days earlier they were hiding in their offices while frenzied hordes of insurrectionists were baying for their blood is a true testament to cowardice and the blindness of ideological fanaticism. They will be remembered in the same space as Phillipe Pétain, Vidkun Quisling, and the rest of the shameful list of those who collaborated with Fascism. They will be reviled by American patriots, their memories will be a burden to their descendants, and their lives will serve a warning to others about the dangers of cults masquerading as political parties.
Today the United States Senate takes up the impeachment and begins the trial of Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors against the United States.
This trial is necessary and appropriate, and if there is any justice left in this country it will result in a swift conviction, after which Trump can be turned over to the judicial system for criminal prosecution.
There are very clearly defined penalties in American law for sedition, after all.
As every responsible Constitutional scholar across the political spectrum has pointed out, the Founding Fathers did not conceive of impeachment as a process that ended when the impeached left office, voluntarily or otherwise. So long as the impeachment was properly done, as this was – Trump was impeached while in office, by the appointed Constitutional body, under proper procedures – the Senate has the power to try him. There is no get out of jail free card for people who leave office after committing high crimes.
The fact that nearly all of the Republican delegation to the Senate – a delegation that represents more than forty-one million fewer Americans than the Democratic delegation despite being equal in number with them, it must be pointed out – thinks that mere resignation or expiry of term is a legitimate excuse to avoid prosecution for sedition is a damning indictment of their morality, their patriotism, and their intelligence. It also speaks volumes about their collective cowardice in refusing to face squarely the grave charges levied against their party leader, preferring instead to hide behind transparently ridiculous evasions in the fond hopes that Americans will be too stupid or partisan to notice.
Those Senators too will be remembered with Pétain and Quisling, for exactly the same reason.
The evidence is overwhelming and publicly available. Death penalty cases have produced convictions with far less compelling evidence, and every day more damning information comes to light.
The only question now is whether the Republican Party has enough people in it who respect the law, honor the Constitution, and understand the perils of allowing a coup attempt to go unpunished. Given that party’s steady march toward overt Fascism in the last few years and its slavish devotion to the cult of Donald Trump, I am not holding my breath.
“A republic, if you can keep it,” said Benjamin Franklin when the Constitution was written.
This month we’ll get to see whether we can.
Justice demands that Donald Trump be tried in the Senate for his crimes. Justice demands that he be convicted and barred from ever seeking office again. Justice demands that he then be turned over to the criminal courts for trial and sentencing for his attempted coup against the United States of America.
There is nothing inevitable about justice. Nothing good happens on its own. We either deliver justice where it is needed or we suffer the consequences as a nation and a people. A coup attempt that goes unpunished is just a dress rehearsal, after all.
Justice has made its demands.
Let it be done.