They’re wrapping up their case this afternoon with two variations on the theme of “Republicans know he’s guilty.”
The first variation is to remind the Senate GOP that Trump will do this again if he’s back on the ballot in 2024. He’ll learn no lessons from this ordeal, unless it’s the lesson that he can act with absolute impunity and Republicans in Congress will never cross him. Lisa Murkowski waved off a question last night about the impact of acquittal by insisting that Trump’s reputation has been so thoroughly ruined by this episode that he couldn’t win a general election now. But that’s not true. And even if it were true, as Dem Rep. Ted Lieu argued below, it’s missing the point. No one’s afraid of Trump inciting violence if he wins. Running and losing is the scenario in which he sics his dogs on people. And by not disqualifying him, the Senate’s choosing to keep that scenario viable in 2024.
There’s no counter to that point, unless you take the position that if Americans want to be led by an authoritarian demagogue willing to use mob violence to overturn an election and end the country as we know it then they should be fully entitled to do so. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard,” wrote H.L. Mencken. Who is the Senate to stand in their way?
Rep. @TedLieu (D-CA) on the insurrection: “I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose."
"Because he can do this again.” pic.twitter.com/4mmvyJHq0K
— The Recount (@therecount) February 11, 2021
Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin hit the same note but in a more visceral way. How many dead cops are you willing to tolerate the next time Trump does this, he asked, to spare yourselves the hard decision of convicting and disqualifying him now?
.@RepRaskin: "Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way? Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that?" #ImpeachmentTrial pic.twitter.com/wKYwaoKmHz
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 11, 2021
Another way of answering the question “Would Trump do this again?” is to ask “How many times has he done this before?” Reporter Benjy Sarlin dug up this old CBS News story from all the way back during the 2016 primaries, when Ted Cruz noticed that Trump seemed a little too fond of threatening people physically by proxy. Headline: “Cruz: ‘Trump now has a consistent pattern of inciting violence.'”
“Donald needs to stop threatening the voters. He needs to stop threatening the delegates. He is not a mobster,” Cruz told Glenn Beck during a radio interview. The interview came after Trump supporters allegedly made death threats made against the Colorado GOP chairman following Cruz’s victory there and Trump ally Roger Stone’s insistence that he will release the names and hotel room info of anti-Trump delegates at the Republican convention.
“Roger Stone is threatening in Cleveland to put out the hotel room of any delegate that dare crosses Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “That is the tactic of union thugs. That is violence. It is oppressive. The idea that Donald is threatening delegates we’re seeing this pattern over and over again.”
“Donald Trump now has a consistent pattern of inciting violence,” Cruz said.
Marco Rubio also noticed Trump’s habit of nudging his fans to get rough with his enemies during the 2016 primaries, saying shortly before he left the race, “[L]eaders cannot say whatever they want, because words have consequences. They lead to actions that others take. And when the person you’re supporting for president is going around and saying things like, ‘Go ahead and slap them around, I’ll pay your legal fees,’ what do you think’s going to happen next?” All of these guys understood perfectly well who Trump was and what he was capable of before he become the owner and sole proprietor of the Republican Party. (Cruz compared him to Michael Corleone in the same interview quoted above.) But now that their careers depend upon them looking the other way at a spectacular case of Trump-incited violence even they couldn’t have imagined in 2016, somehow they can’t quite make the connection between two months of “rigged election” propaganda and a riot that nearly got Mike Pence lynched.
Which probably explains this reaction this afternoon. Even these creatures feel some shame, perhaps:
At least a dozen Senate Republicans skipped at least part of Lieu’s presentation.
Lieu warned of history repeating itself:“I’m afraid [Trump is] going to run again and lose.”
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) February 11, 2021
The other variation on the theme of “Republicans knows he’s guilty” at this afternoon’s hearing was to remind the Senate of how many Republicans seemed to think he was guilty of incitement in the immediate aftermath of the attack. House Democrats tossed out this highlight reel of centrist GOP governors condemning him after the riot, further evidence that some Republicans think he’s culpable:
House impeachment managers present a series of statements from Republican governors who called out former Pres. Trump for his actions in the aftermath of the assault on the U.S. Capitol.pic.twitter.com/JqejqDpoxi
— Norah O'Donnell 🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) February 11, 2021
This graphic went up on screen at one point too, inspiring Matt Lewis to ask the right question:
Why did they all resign if Trump's rhetoric had nothing to do with it? pic.twitter.com/Rb6gAM7JKs
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) February 11, 2021
The only conceivable answer besides the obvious one is “They didn’t think he incited the attack, they were just completely disgusted by his indifference to it as it was playing out.” Which, you know, isn’t a great answer for him either.