“The Capitol Riot revealed a new force in American politics – not just a mixture of right-wing organizations, but a larger mass political movement that has violence at its heart and draws its strength even from the places where Trump supporters are in the minority, ”he wrote in The Atlantic.
- A trial is underway to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a murderous mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on January 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers go underground as they convene to certify President Biden. victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the United States government” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove him.
- To condemn Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to agree. That means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to be sentenced.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with the Democrats in pushing back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided on whether to condemn Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate condemns Mr. Trump, convicting him of “inciting violence against the United States government,” then senators could vote on whether to prevent him from performing his future duties. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it boiled down to party lines, Democrats would win with Vice President Kamala Harris voting for the tiebreaker.
- If the Senate does not condemn Mr. Trump, the former president could again be eligible for public office. Public opinion polls show he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
This force shows little sign of backing down: Two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a rare terrorism alert warning that violent extremists were emboldened by the attack and motivated by “the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives. “
It appears that these acts of violence enjoy the support of some Americans, especially within the Republican Party. A survey by the American Enterprise Institute this week found that 55% of Republicans support the use of force as a way to “stop the decline of the traditional American way of life,” compared with 35% of independents and 22% of democrats. .
In their impeachment defense, Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not focus on the attackers but on the former president, arguing that he did not intend to incite a violent attack. The portions of his rhetoric cited by House impeachment officials were “selectively edited” and the video manipulated, they said. The Trump team showed video montages of Democrats using the word “combat” – further torturing an already worn piece of political rhetoric. (Of course, none of these politicians, it should be noted, have been tried for incitement to riot.)
And they used Mr. Trump’s comments in 2017 after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia – that there were “very good people on both sides” – to argue that his words have long been misinterpreted. Former internal security officials cited the remarks as a defining moment that encouraged extremists.
Many Republicans in Congress are likely to grasp this question of intent. Even with Mr. Trump out of office, running into the former president would mean alienating a significant portion of their base. Those, like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who promoted Mr. Trump’s baseless allegations of electoral fraud leading to the rampage of the Capitol, show no sign of changing his mind. Chances are, the final number of Republicans who vote for conviction will be well below the required two-thirds majority.
Ultimately, the debate over Mr. Trump’s guilt will be left to the history books. What will remain indisputable, however, is that his words mattered. Extremist violence flourished under his leadership. And uprooting will be a much more difficult national undertaking than a few long days in the Senate.