Opinion: The House could have made a much stronger case for impeaching Trump

The problem is that Democrats and Republicans who want to impeach the president are focusing on the wrong impeachment. Right now, an impeachment bill has been passed accusing Trump of calling on the mob to attack Capitol Hill and threatening the lives of lawmakers and even his vice president. Which, in a way, is the most emotionally satisfying charge. He’s also the weakest.

The House should have added an article accusing Trump of not honoring his oath of office because he hesitated to respond when the riots on Capitol Hill began.

I understand that I am running on legitimate grounds and that I am not a lawyer. But lawyers don’t make judgments about guilt or innocence. That’s what juries do. And in this case, a Senate jury will have to weigh the words Trump addressed to his supporters at the Save America meeting before they set out to wreak havoc, and decide whether he encouraged them to act violently.

Much has been said about Trump urging the crowd outside the Capitol not to be weak and to fight like hell. But Trump’s defense will likely argue that much of this rhetoric is part of Trump’s standard package, which has not led to riots and is likely protected by the First Amendment. In addition, his defense will underscore these remarks: …we’ll go to Capitol Hill and applaud our brave senators and congressmen, and we probably won’t applaud some of them as much.

Trump continued by saying: I know that everyone here will soon be marching to Capitol Hill to make their voices heard in a peaceful and patriotic manner.

Some have argued that Mr. Trump knew full well that he was intimidating his supporters and that he could not pretend that he did not know what they could do. However, one can hardly ignore the fact that his speech contained no explicit call to violence and two explicit exhortations to the crowd to participate in a peaceful protest. How will Republican senators, whose votes are needed for impeachment, explain to their constituents, who are still loyal to the president, why they ignored such exculpatory evidence?

A much smarter strategy would be to add a section to the impeachment clause accusing Trump of dereliction of duty and breach of oath for his behavior after the attack on Capitol Hill began.

According to a chilling article in the Washington Post, Trump sat on his hands as he watched the Capitol invasion on television, ignoring calls from current and former staffers and terrified Republican lawmakers hiding from the angry crowd to do something to recall his supporters, and immediately ordering the deployment of the National Guard to chase the rioters out of the halls of Congress.

The Post, quoting officials, reports that several Republican congressmen have also called White House aides and begged them to draw Trump’s attention to the situation and call on him to stop the violence. The MPs have admitted that they were staunch supporters of Trump and were even willing to vote against the Electoral College result, but now they fear for their lives, officials said.

It seems that Trump was unable to divert his attention from the destruction scenes on television to the safety of those threatened by the destruction, perhaps because he sympathizes with the rebels. It took a while for him to realize the gravity of the situation, Senator Lindsey Graham, normally a staunch ally of Trump, told the Post. The president considered these people allies in his path and sympathized with the idea that the election had been stolen.

Thirty minutes after the initial hack of the Capitol, Trump posted a boring tweet at the instigation of key staffers, according to the Post. Please support our Capitol Police and law enforcement, he wrote. You really are on our side. Stay calm! The tweet did nothing to hurt lawmakers, members of Congress or Vice President Pence, who was also hiding from the rebels. According to the Post, Trump didn’t even add a call for calm to his tweet.

Less than an hour later, Trump posted a slightly stronger tweet. I ask that everyone on U.S. Capitol Hill remain at peace, he wrote. No violence! Remember we are the party of law and order – Respect the law and our great men and women in blue. Thank you. Shortly after 4 p.m., the White House finally released a video in which Trump tells the rebels We must have peace. Then go home, he said. We love you. You’re very special.

Neither the tweets nor the video message contained any indication that no harm had been done to lawmakers or congressional staffers. Nor did they mention the call for additional police, National Guard or active troops to quell the unrest. So far, there is no indication that the president has been in contact with the Pentagon about the possibility of military intervention to protect Congress.

And if Mr. Trump can state that he did not incite violence, what is his defense for not acting to stop the violence? That he was too busy watching TV?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 to protect nine black schoolchildren who were trying to integrate into the schools. Sixty-four years later, Trump has failed to pick up the phone to protect hundreds of duly elected members of the first chamber.

This is a blatant violation of his oath of office, in which Mr. Trump promised to serve faithfully as President of the United States. What is more important for a president than to protect the people and their representatives from all enemies, foreign and domestic?

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, said she would vote for impeachment and summed up the situation. The president could take immediate and decisive action to stop the violence, she said. He didn’t.

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