The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion If Republicans want to promote unity, they should join Democrats in impeaching Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

Imagine if the U.S. Capitol had been sacked on Jan. 6 not by Trump supporters but by Black Lives Matter activists egged on by the left-wing “Squad” of House members. It is a safe bet that Republicans would not be preaching unity and resisting attempts to hold the instigators accountable. They would be baying for blood — demanding that Democratic lawmakers not only be expelled but tried for treason.

Yet because this unprecedented and intolerable assault on representative government was carried out by their own supporters, Republicans are now ducking responsibility and trying to protect the instigator in chief. With only a few honorable exceptions, much of the party is making itself complicit in sedition.

There was a brief, fleeting moment of sobriety in Republican ranks after the Capitol was stormed by insurrectionists. Seven of the GOP senators who planned to vote against certifying the electoral vote changed their minds. There was talk that this time President Trump had finally gone too far. A few of his appointees — including two Cabinet members — resigned in protest. “Count me out. Enough is enough,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

In the days since the attack, we have learned that it was actually much worse than it initially appeared. The rioters killed a police officer, and the FBI is investigating whether they intended to kidnap or kill lawmakers. The former Capitol Police chief summed it up: “As soon as they hit the fence line, the fight was on. Violent confrontations from the start. They came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear — climbing gear! — explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years of events in Washington.”

Trump’s responsibility — and those of his Republican enablers — for this rampage has also become clearer. The New York Times quoted one of the rioters: “Our president wants us here. We wait and take orders from our president.” Another one told the Wall Street Journal: “[Trump] said, `Hey, I need my digital soldiers to show up on January 6.’ And we all did.”

It’s an open and shut case. The president incited a violent insurrection against another branch of the U.S. government. He needs to leave office immediately — either via resignation, the 25th Amendment or impeachment. His most egregious enablers — such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R.-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R.-Tex.) — should be either censured or expelled for violating their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution.

But while Democrats are moving forward with impeachment, Republicans are rushing forward with a litany of lame excuses. “Impeaching the President … will only divide our country more,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.) after having attempted to throw out the votes of Biden supporters. “We must work together to lower the temperature and unite the country.” Republicans seem less exercised about Trump instigating an insurrection than they are about social media companies preventing Trump from provoking more violence and sedition.

So let me get this straight. Republicans spent the whole campaign predicting that a Democratic victory would, as Trump said, “destroy our country as we know it.” And then they spent the past two months arguing that Joe Biden’s victory was tainted by fraud. Even after the riot, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans still voted not to certify the election results in at least one state.

And now they want unity? Now they want to put divisiveness behind us? This isn’t an attempt to heal the country; it’s an attempt to avoid accountability for those who attacked it.

Once again, we hear the pleas to understand the rage of the poor misunderstood Trump supporters. Fox host Ainsley Earhardt: “There are 75 million people that voted for President Trump. And they are scared. They are worried. … They are confused and heartbroken … and they don’t want to be forgotten.”

I’m sick of being told that I need to cater to the delicate feelings of Trump’s snowflake supporters. (And, by the way, 74.2 million people voted for Trump — not 75 million.) They don’t need to be understood; they need to be deprogrammed. I don’t want to feel the pain of Trump fans. I want them to feel the pain of the family of Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died from injuries suffered during the attack by Trump’s rioters. I want them to feel the pain of all those families who have lost loved ones to covid-19. I want them to feel the pain of the immigrant families whose parents and children were separated on Trump’s orders.

Trump supporters are not being victimized by liberal elites. They are victims of their own worthless leaders. Trump, Hawley, Cruz: They are all unprincipled self-promoters who have been fundraising on the false promise of uncovering nonexistent election fraud.

“The best way we could show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in a Senate speech for the ages. “That’s the burden. That’s the duty of leadership.”

Republican grandees failed to exercise leadership before Jan. 6, and they are failing still. If they want to heal our divisions, they should come together with Democrats to expel Trump and prevent him from running for office again. If they fail to do that, they are the ones promoting disunity — and subverting our democracy.

Trump loyalists scream threats and profanities at The Post's Kate Woodsome and other journalists after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Video: The Washington Post)

Read more:

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Trump should be impeached. But that alone won’t remove white supremacy from America.

James Downie: It’s still Donald Trump’s party

David Kendall: There’s no time to impeach Trump. Censure him instead.

Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua Matz: Yes, Congress should impeach Trump before he leaves office

E.J. Dionne: In the Capitol nightmare, democracy prevailed

Fred Hiatt: Trump’s and Hawley’s free-speech rights are perfectly intact. But the senator has half a point.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.