It comes as no surprise that most Senate Republicans would prostrate themselves for former president Donald Trump even if he were stomping on their knuckles. They voted to acquit not on the merits but because they are scared to death of Trump and his base.
Trump tweeted on the morning of Jan. 6: “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States. AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
What did they think of Trump’s request, which had no standing in law? What did they say to Trump? To Pence? The 50-plus Republican senators had a chance to speak out. Unless, that is, they favored Trump’s demand.
Minutes before he was to begin presiding over certification that day, Pence issued a statement in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, telling members of Congress that it was his “considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” What then? Did House and Senate Republicans publicly stand with the vice president?
They were there when the violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. In the midst of the destruction, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Congressional Republicans knew, or should have known, that Trump was telling a lie. Worse still, that Trump was riling up the mob. Upon learning about Trump’s accusation, the marauders and looters invading the Capitol chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and denounced him as a “traitor.”
The Trump supporters made their way into the Senate chamber. Senate Republicans knew that, too, having fled for their lives only minutes earlier. What, then, did they say of the president who had brought about what Pence rightly described, when Congress reconvened, as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”? As a body of Republicans, they said nothing.
Republican senators and representatives know how to make themselves heard. How many GOP senators worked up the nerve to simply state at that hour that Trump was wrong to have incited the mob against Congress and the vice president of the United States? That he was wrong to have provoked his followers to violence with the damnable lie that the presidential election had been stolen?
Trump was the leader of their party. He, not the political opposition, incited the mob to hunt down their fellow Republican, the U.S. vice president. They saw what Trump’s crowd did to the doors and windows of the Capitol. They saw the desecration of the Senate chamber, their own desks, the dais with Pence’s chair as Senate president.
Upon returning to the chamber after their rescue, did Republicans come together as a caucus under GOP leader Mitch McConnell and speak out in defense of Pence? That was the day, the hour, the moment when they should have taken a stand, before anything else was done. Collectively, they did nothing. Their gutlessness in not confronting Trump is sickening. Their betrayal of Pence doubles their shame.
We knew that Republican senators, as jurors, would betray their oaths to defend the Constitution. They also abandoned the vice president who was one of their own.
The Republican congressional leadership should be in the dock. A verdict should be rendered on them.
President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial
The evidence: All of the exhibits presented in the Senate trial
What happens next: A guide to Trump’s impeachment
Graphic: Where Senators stand on impeachment
Stay informed: Read the latest reporting and analysis on impeachment here.