Last night a television pundit said something so remarkable, I almost threw the remote at the screen. “The further we get from the events of January 6,” she observed, “the more difficult it becomes to get Republicans senators to vote to convict.”
What? The comment was made off-handedly, as if everyone should understand why it matters that time has elapsed since Trump incited a riot that attempted to nullify the election and take over the government by force of a coup.
But as absurd as it was, she made a valid point: Republicans are hoping the passage of time will cancel what Trump did. They just want the whole assault-on-the-Capitol thing to go away. In the case of Mitch McConnell, it’s interrupting his plans to obstruct Biden’s agenda. For sycophants like House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Freedom Caucus ringleader Jim Jordan, continuing to defend Trump puts a pin in their ambitions to move up in Republican ranks.
The challenge faced by the House managers when they present their case against Donald Trump two weeks from now will be making the assault on our Constitution and citadel of government feel as real as it was when it happened.
The simple facts ought to be enough: Trump whipped up a mob of his followers and sent them down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to stop what was taking place there that day.
In a joint session of congress, Vice President Pence was presiding over the certification of the election that would send Joe Biden to the White House in just two short weeks. He told the mob all about it. He singled out Pence as the one who, in Trump’s estimation, was not following his oath to the Constitution by stopping the certification and declaring Trump the winner.
The house managers could begin their case by playing the “Fight for Trump” video recently released by JustSecurity.org. It’s only 10 minutes long, but making use of cell phone video taken from Parler and other right-wing sources, the video presents shocking and disgusting evidence of what the mob intended to do, and why they intended to do it. They “stormed the Capitol,” in the words of one of the insurgents, because “we were sent by Donald Trump.”
In fact, a chant goes up that lasts almost a minute: “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” the crowd yells over and over again as they confront helmeted riot control police who are defending the Capitol. And then, as everyone knows, they began attacking the cops and pushing them and beating them with clubs and pipes and even the staff of an American flag until they were able to break through the doors of the Capitol and get inside.
It’s all there on the Just Security video. Once inside the Capitol, one of the rioters shouts into a phone, “Pelosi! We’re coming for you, bitch! Mike Pence! We’re coming for you too, you fucking traitor!” Outside, the crowd is still fighting with the cops and pushing their way through the doors of the Capitol as a wooden gallows is being erected and a noose is being tied to the cross-beam. “Pence should be put under the gallows,” one rioter shouts into a bullhorn. “I hope he’s put under the firing squad and found guilty of treason because men like him are the only reason this country is falling apart!”
Inside, a gaggle of rioters are confronting a line of cops, shouting at them to “get out of our way! You’re outnumbered! There’s a fucking million of us out there!” Another shout goes up in the faces of the cops who are backing away, but still holding their line: “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!”
The rioters are now everywhere inside the Capitol. Some are shown inside a congressman’s offices rifling through papers.
They are shouting, “Where is Pence? Bring him out! Bring him out!” Suddenly the screen goes to black, and a tweet time-stamped 2:24 p.m. appears:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify.” The name on the Twitter account is @realdonaldtrump.
At that moment, rioters are still fighting cops, shouting “We were invited here! Trump sent us!”
Then we hear the voice of Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska on the Hugh Hewitt podcast: “As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was, as you had rioters pushing against Capitol police trying to get into the building.”
The screen fades to black again, and another tweet appears from the account of @realdonaldtrump time-stamped 6:02 p.m.: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from the great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace! Remember this day forever!”
At the moment of Trump’s tweet, the Capitol was still under assault. Capitol police would not declare the building secure until 8:00 p.m. The Senate would not reconvene until eight minutes later.
The house managers should quote Trump’s challenge to his followers, to “remember this day forever.” That’s what the Republican senators should be made to do. They should be shown again and again what happened right there in the senate chamber where they will be hearing the case against Trump as jurors. They should be made to remember the day that a mob attacked the place where they work and sent them scurrying into hiding, afraid for their lives.
They should be made to remember forever that they were sitting at their desks and Mike Pence was on the senate podium presiding at the moment rioters breached the doors of the Capitol, having beaten several Capitol policemen and stomped them down the Capitol steps.
And they should be made to remember forever what the rioters were screaming outside the doors as senators fled the chamber: “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” They should be made to remember forever rioters shouting “Where’s Pence? Bring him out! Bring him out!”
The evidence of the coup against our government is shocking and disgusting and it should be shown for however long it takes for the Republicans in the senate to do their duty and condemn Trump’s incitement of the riot that drove them from the seat of government that they should have defended with their lives but didn’t. They ran away in the face of Trump’s mob, and they should be made to pay with their votes to convict.