DAVID CORN: The greatest political crime in American history
While campaigning in Iowa in early 2016, Donald Trump proclaimed, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay. It’s, like, incredible.” Trump essentially did that in the last days of his presidency. He promoted a January 6 rally for what he called a “wild” day in Washington. After an incendiary speech from Trump at that event, the crowd that he had assembled - which was full of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, QAnoners, Christian insurrectionists, and other extremists - turned into a murderous mob that followed Trump’s instruction to march on the Capitol to “fight like hell” and “stop the steal.”
There his marauders attacked the citadel of American democracy, killing one police officer and seriously harming scores of others, with some trying to hunt down the vice president and House speaker, possibly to assassinate them. For hours, while the violent mayhem ensued, Trump did nothing to stop it or protect the lawmakers and cops targeted by his brownshirts.
On Saturday February 13, a month later, Republican senators proved Trump’s “shoot somebody” boast had been dead-on accurate: in his second impeachment trial they voted to let the man who had incited a lethal and seditious riot off the hook.
There is good news for adherents of the rule of law. In a historic move, a bipartisan majority of the Senate - 48 Democrats, two Independents, and seven Republicans - did vote to convict a president who had been impeached by the House (also with a bipartisan majority). This has never happened before. Neither of the two presidents previously impeached - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - ended their impeachment trials with a bipartisan majority condemnation. And that did not occur with Trump’s first impeachment. The impressive presentation of the House managers did persuade members of Trump’s own party that he was guilty of inciting an insurrection. So now it is on Trump’s permanent record. More than half of the members of Congress, including Democrats and Republicans, have rendered a severe verdict: the 45th president was responsible for a deadly assault on the Capitol.
Trump will escape punishment for this act of betrayal, the greatest political crime in American history. But he will not escape judgment. This partial reckoning - Trump declared a villain - will stand forever...