They do so when opposing parties continually raise the stakes, the rhetoric, then the violence, and finally the arsenal of political weaponry. President Trump did a deeply reckless thing when he spoke before his supporters as they assembled on Wednesday. But I do not believe there is conclusive evidence that Trump intended the storming of the Capitol, or any sort of sedition. His negligence in urging the crowd to fight on and to march on the Capitol, and Rudolph W. Giuliani’s call for “trial by combat,” added incendiaries to the demonstration, but Trump also said he expected the protesters to march “peacefully and patriotically.” My guess is that the movie in Trump’s mind had the Capitol surrounded by supporters shouting his name along with “Stop the steal!”
I don’t believe he intended deaths, which did occur. Or even rioting within the Capitol halls. Sen. Ben Sasse (R.-Neb.) said that Trump has been in “flagrant dereliction of duty" and that “he wanted there to be chaos." My Post colleague Michael Gerson has concluded that sedition by Trump is proven and impeachment and removal should follow so that justice can be served. There are many in his camp. Certainly all the TDS-suffering pundits who have hated Trump for the past five years cheer the idea of him bearing a second Scarlet I and fantasize about his becoming the first president to be convicted and removed from office.
Proponents of a rushed impeachment during the 12 days Trump has left in office are not interested in the fact that there would be no time for the president to present evidence of his contrary intent or any mitigating factors. He isn’t owed any due process, they say, because it’s a “political” process. The Red Queen’s “sentence first — verdict afterwards” is on their exercised minds.
Opponents cite the precedent that a rushed impeachment would constitute for every future president. It is no small thing to attempt the bum’s rush on an elected president who survived one impeachment easily but who is weakened now as a lame duck. No time to find and introduce exculpatory evidence that might show Trump intended only for demonstrators to circle the Capitol and chant, a perfect constitutional exercise. No time to learn what Trump did when he returned to the White House after his speech.
Mostly the high passions of politics do not concern the prosecutors of Trump. The views of his 74 million voters do not matter. That some large slice of them would be more outraged and estranged by a punitive mission based on cable talking heads “hot takes” concerns them not at all.
As former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — who also said he sees no evidence that the president intended to spur an assault on the Capitol — noted to me, Trump may face civil liability for the wrongful death of the police officer killed while defending the Capitol. Criminal charges are not impossible, even if a self-pardon issues from the Resolute Desk.
What ought to drive discussions at this moment is what’s best for the country now and hereafter. Precedents about impeachment are significant disturbances in the constitutional order. There isn’t time to even consider them seriously.
Passions are running high — which is why this is exactly the moment to allow them to cool. Allow the 12 days to pass in somber silence and reflection. Why burden the new president with a country even more deeply divided than it is now?
Many object to the term “TDS” — Trump Derangement Syndrome. But it rightly applies to anyone who can only see the bad things Trump has done, not his real and lasting accomplishments. Many with TDS have been raging about him since 2015, and the only thing they care about concerning those 74 million American citizens is that they come to understand themselves as stupid and/or blind.
Whatever the impeachment chorus is, it isn’t principled, it isn’t concerned with justice and it isn’t concerned with the future. TDS lives deeply within many of the proponents of rapid impeachment. Of concern for the country, well, concern for that part of the country they don’t inhabit, there is none. A shameful week finds ways to continue to fall off the floor.
For 75 years the Romans continually upped the ante, with every battle between the two parties escalating tactics and violence, until riots were routine and civil war an occasional disaster to be endured. Departures from norms led to more departures from more norms, until first Sulla arrived and killed everyone, then left, followed by Julius Caesar and dictatorship and his assassination, then Augustus Caesar, who killed and stayed.
We have not had a rushed impeachment in all our history. Those enthusiasts who pursue it now are resolutely not studying history. They are seeking revenge — pointless, anti-American revenge.