Donald Trump famously boasted in 2016: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
He is testing that loyalty again this week as he goes on trial before the US Senate for leading an insurrection in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.
Although he lost by more than 7 million votes, he still refuses to accept the outcome despite not being able to produce a shred of evidence to support his case. His legal challenges have failed in more than 60 cases brought before the courts, including many judges all the way up to the Supreme Court that he himself appointed.
Yet it is almost a foregone conclusion that enough Republican senators will vote to acquit him, meaning, in effect, he will get away with murder. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, were killed in Trump’s attempted coup, and hundreds more were injured, including at least 140 law enforcement personnel.
45 Senators voted against even holding the trial, claiming that Trump can’t be tried because he is out of office. The preponderance of legal scholars dismiss that claim and cite historic precedent. The loyalists say former presidents cannot be tried. Trump insists he is not a “former” president and that he actually won the election. In fact, he refuses to use the title “former” and demands the identification “45th President of the United States.” That would seem to undercut his argument. If he thinks he’s still the president, he can’t claim immunity as a former president.
More than 20 times, according to Reuters, he incited the mob on the Mall to “fight” and march on to the Capitol because “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
They left his incendiary rally fired up and headed for the Capitol chanting “Fight for Trump.”
Trump’s lawyers are arguing he was just exercising his First Amendment right to free speech and it wasn’t his fault that his followers attacked the Capitol. House impeachment manager can be expected to cite Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ in the 1919 Schenk v. United States case in which he wrote that free speech does not include the right to “falsely shouting fire in a theatre.” (The case has legal roots in a lethal 1887 fire at the Hebrew Dramatic Club in London highlighted by Henry Abramson of Brooklyn’s Touro College.)
Trump’s marauding loyalists of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, QAnon conspirators and assorted terrorists – he called them “patriots” — violently stormed the US Capitol, shouting they were there for Donald Trump and threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and shoot Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On trial this week will also be the integrity of 50 Republican Senators. They are being asked to make a choice: do they stand with the disgraced former president or with the Constitution of the United States. It should be an easy decision, but apparently not for this crowd of cowards terrified of Trump’s lust for revenge.
A handful of Republican House members have had the courage to face the truth. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), number three in the House GOP leadership.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) said Trump “broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection.” Trump “misinformed and inflamed a violent mob,” declared Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington state). Several Republican senators are being coy, hinting they have an open mind.
But these brave souls are outnumbered by Trump’s close-minded enablers whose motto is “you lie, I’ll swear to it.” Eight Trump Senate loyalists objected to the Congress certifying Joe Biden’s election – most prominently Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri plus six other colleagues — and have said they‘ve already made up their minds to acquit. So far, 39 Republican senators have said they will go into the trial with their minds made up.
If Trump really did go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, who do you think would be the first to the cameras to praise their leader’s marksmanship? I’m betting on Lindsey Graham followed closely by Cruz, Hawley and Rand Paul.