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The 'whitewashing' of Tulsa's Black Wall Street

By Tracy Jan
The 'whitewashing' of Tulsa's Black Wall Street
Redevelopment has come to Tulsa's historically Black Greenwood district, but some Black business owners feel they are being shut out. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Joshua Lott

Washington D.C.: A city under siege

By Paul Schwartzman, et al.
Washington D.C.: A city under siege
The Supreme Court is surrounded by security fencing on Jan. 12, a stark change since the Capitol breach. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Michael Robinson Chavez.

After 'Hamilton,' Leslie Odom Jr. just wanted to be himself, but then the role of Sam Cooke came calling

By Thomas Floyd
After 'Hamilton,' Leslie Odom Jr. just wanted to be himself, but then the role of Sam Cooke came calling

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

The Biden they didn't expect

By e.j. dionne jr.
The Biden they didn't expect

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

Advance for release Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, and thereafter

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

WASHINGTON -- Since Donald Trump has stopped being president in anything but name, President-elect Joe Biden decided to assume the role six days early.

In announcing his $1.9 trillion economic rescue package on Thursday night, ahead of his inauguration on Wednesday, Biden made clear that his quest for bipartisanship will not crimp his policy imagination or his determination to go big to revive the economy.

He showed that Democrats have learned from the Obama years that excessive caution in the face of a severe economic downturn is a mistake for both policy and politics.

And he argued his case in terms that can only be described as "populist," pointing to the "growing divide between those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy and the rest of America."

Biden also made clear that he intends to fend off criticism from Trump-style economic nationalists by stressing his commitment to American manufacturing, to "a future made in America, all made in America and all by Americans." At one point he said "American" (or some variation) nine times in nearly one breath.

By giving such a policy heavy speech, Biden demonstrated how different his rhetorical and substantive approach will be from Trump's. In some ways, the message was very simple: Governing is back.

But Biden was also unapologetic in stressing how much of his program will be directed toward lower-income Americans. He called for a $15 minimum wage, stressed programs to ease hunger and evictions, and embraced a variety of tax credit expansions, made "refundable" so those who pay little or no income tax can collect them. If adopted, he said, his plan "would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That's 5 million children."

The specificity of his speech - it was a kind of mini-State of the Union address -- will free Biden to give a thematic, unifying and lofty inaugural address. It was also a challenge to Republicans. With Democrats holding just 50 seats in the 100-member Senate -- their majority will be secured by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote -- Biden and his party may, in the end, have to resort to what is known as the "reconciliation process," through which certain measures can pass by a simple majority rather than the typical 60 votes.

But Biden wants to test the GOP, hoping to entice some Republicans to support an initial round of spending that is focused entirely on the immediate crisis. It includes, for example, more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly. After a House debate in which so many Republicans claimed they opposed impeaching Trump for the sake of national "unity," Biden offered a pointed message. "Unity is not some pie-in-the-sky dream," Biden said. "It's a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country . . . together."

In the early stages of the Democratic presidential primary, the party was said to be divided between "restorationists" and "transformationists," with Biden cast as the premier advocate of restoring the norms, values and habits that Trump ignored - or sought to destroy. Among Biden's leading challengers, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., argued that the crisis that led to Trump's election required more than a return to better values. The country needed, in Warren's signature phrase, "big structural change."

Now, on the verge of power, Biden seems to speak for both wings. He remains in principle a believer in cross-party cooperation and he is an institutionalist who has filled his administration with experienced hands who believe in traditional approaches to governance.

But pushed by his competitors, responding to a deep national crisis, and reflecting a certain inborn egalitarianism bred by his background, his religious faith and his old ties to the labor movement, Biden has embraced a program that is more energetic and far-reaching than either his friends or his critics expected when he announced his candidacy in April 2019.

His address on Thursday brought this home. So did the response of his former rivals, with Sanders -- who is likely to push to expand on Biden's offering -- calling it "a very strong first installment."

Before his formal entry into the presidential race, Biden listed the core questions the country would answer in 2020: "What kind of nation are we becoming? What are we going to do? Who are we?"

Trump's defeat and his disgrace leading up to last week's impeachment pointed to the majority's hope that the country would become something very different. We will learn more on Wednesday, but Biden is signaling that he sees the challenges of the last year -- and the last four -- as demanding change on a scale few anticipated he would embrace.

- - -

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

Fixing what's broken begins with Republican Party

By megan mcardle
Fixing what's broken begins with Republican Party

MEGAN MCARDLE COLUMN

Advance for release Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, and thereafter

(For McArdle clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Megan McArdle

WASHINGTON -- These days, I am frequently reminded of an observation by a psychologist of my acquaintance that America seems like "a hopeless marriage between people who have no recourse to divorce." Now, things are getting violent, and we're still locked in double harness, unable to work together, unable to leave.

Watching Wednesday's impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, it struck me that neither left nor right seems to fully grasp our predicament.

"This really does remind me that the most dangerous period in an abusive marriage is when you leave," the New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum tweeted, and this seemed an eerily apt metaphor for President Donald Trump's behavior. But I get the sense that some on the left are taking the analogy too far -- applying it to Trump's voters, not just the man himself. And, of course, there's no way to leave them.

I have not yet heard anyone on the left outline a credible vision for what happens after we impeach the president and, one hopes, convict him and bar our insurrectionist in chief from ever holding office again. I would like to know that there is one, and not just a fond hope that the backlash for Jan. 6 will break the Republican Party once and for all. The Democrats have wasted the better part of two decades on deterministic assumptions that, one day, demographic destiny or some other deus ex machina will do its work, Republicans will obligingly die off, and the woke will inherit the Earth.

Try assuming instead that they will be a political force to be reckoned with -- and negotiated with -- for the rest of everyone's life.

But this is a reasonable and benign fantasy compared to the one Republicans indulged in Wednesday: that if they were willing to condemn the Capitol insurrection as the work of a few bad apples, Democrats should admit their part in stoking our increasingly bitter divides, and we should all move on. "It will only serve to further divide a nation that is calling out for healing," said Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., as the House took up impeachment.

This was such an incredible suggestion that I did its authors the credit of assuming that none of them actually meant it. It was, I thought, the sort of well-I-had-to-try-didn't-I? absurdity that politicians are sometimes forced to utter. But it quickly became clear that, no, there are people who seriously thought that this was not just a reasonable thing to ask, but a plausible one, after the events of last week.

This was beyond a fantasy. To circle back to our earlier metaphor: Republicans who humored Trump's seditious lies as he made a serious run at overturning the results of a democratic election need to understand that their party is the abusive spouse in this scenario. It doesn't matter what the other party did first. What matters is that a Republican president brought an angry mob to Washington, told it there was a crime happening on Capitol Hill, and then urged it to do something about it.

If this family can ever be put back together, it will start with more Republicans acting as though they understood this was almost unforgivable. Making up lies about a stolen election is wrong in itself, and when those lies end up with five people dead, everyone who helped spread them is responsible, particularly if they knew better -- as everyone in Washington politics either did or should have.

The cheapest and easiest way for Republicans to make the necessary atonement is to cut Trump loose, completely. Vote to remove him from office and bar him from running again. Let the man who brought this down upon his country languish unlamented in electronic exile. This will make it clear to voters that they understand what a grave thing happened, and that they are determined not just to make amends, but also to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

What's that, you say, your base will punish you? It's not realistic to expect anyone to do something so politically costly?

Well, yes, of course, it is going to be costly; cheaper and easier is not the same as cheap and easy. But you cannot restore a broken relationship with perfunctory gestures and empty words. What's needed is a demonstration that you are willing to pay any price to fix what is broken and to undo as much as possible the damage you have done.

If Republicans cannot do this, then the wounds that they allegedly want to heal will only deepen and fester, especially within their own party. They might purchase a little temporary peace by catering to the mob-friendly base. But doing so will drive off the moderates who want no part of what happened last Wednesday -- and further empower a mob that has already terrorized their party into submission, and would like to do the same to the rest of us.

- - -

Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

The Biden they didn't expect

By e.j. dionne jr.
The Biden they didn't expect

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

Advance for release Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, and thereafter

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

(c) 2020, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Since Donald Trump has stopped being president in anything but name, President-elect Joe Biden decided to assume the role six days early.

In announcing his $1.9 trillion economic rescue package on Thursday night, ahead of his inauguration on Wednesday, Biden made clear that his quest for bipartisanship will not crimp his policy imagination or his determination to go big to revive the economy.

He showed that Democrats have learned from the Obama years that excessive caution in the face of a severe economic downturn is a mistake for both policy and politics.

And he argued his case in terms that can only be described as "populist," pointing to the "growing divide between those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy and the rest of America."

Biden also made clear that he intends to fend off criticism from Trump-style economic nationalists by stressing his commitment to American manufacturing, to "a future made in America, all made in America and all by Americans." At one point he said "American" (or some variation) nine times in nearly one breath.

By giving such a policy heavy speech, Biden demonstrated how different his rhetorical and substantive approach will be from Trump's. In some ways, the message was very simple: Governing is back.

But Biden was also unapologetic in stressing how much of his program will be directed toward lower-income Americans. He called for a $15 minimum wage, stressed programs to ease hunger and evictions, and embraced a variety of tax credit expansions, made "refundable" so those who pay little or no income tax can collect them. If adopted, he said, his plan "would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That's 5 million children."

The specificity of his speech - it was a kind of mini-State of the Union address -- will free Biden to give a thematic, unifying and lofty inaugural address. It was also a challenge to Republicans. With Democrats holding just 50 seats in the 100-member Senate -- their majority will be secured by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote -- Biden and his party may, in the end, have to resort to what is known as the "reconciliation process," through which certain measures can pass by a simple majority rather than the typical 60 votes.

But Biden wants to test the GOP, hoping to entice some Republicans to support an initial round of spending that is focused entirely on the immediate crisis. It includes, for example, more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly. After a House debate in which so many Republicans claimed they opposed impeaching Trump for the sake of national "unity," Biden offered a pointed message. "Unity is not some pie-in-the-sky dream," Biden said. "It's a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country . . . together."

In the early stages of the Democratic presidential primary, the party was said to be divided between "restorationists" and "transformationists," with Biden cast as the premier advocate of restoring the norms, values and habits that Trump ignored - or sought to destroy. Among Biden's leading challengers, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., argued that the crisis that led to Trump's election required more than a return to better values. The country needed, in Warren's signature phrase, "big structural change."

Now, on the verge of power, Biden seems to speak for both wings. He remains in principle a believer in cross-party cooperation and he is an institutionalist who has filled his administration with experienced hands who believe in traditional approaches to governance.

But pushed by his competitors, responding to a deep national crisis, and reflecting a certain inborn egalitarianism bred by his background, his religious faith and his old ties to the labor movement, Biden has embraced a program that is more energetic and far-reaching than either his friends or his critics expected when he announced his candidacy in April 2019.

His address on Thursday brought this home. So did the response of his former rivals, with Sanders -- who is likely to push to expand on Biden's offering -- calling it "a very strong first installment."

Before his formal entry into the presidential race, Biden listed the core questions the country would answer in 2020: "What kind of nation are we becoming? What are we going to do? Who are we?"

Trump's defeat and his disgrace leading up to last week's impeachment pointed to the majority's hope that the country would become something very different. We will learn more on Wednesday, but Biden is signaling that he sees the challenges of the last year -- and the last four -- as demanding change on a scale few anticipated he would embrace.

- - -

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

Hurrah for the end of buck-passing (hopefully)

By catherine rampell
Hurrah for the end of buck-passing (hopefully)

CATHERINE RAMPELL COLUMN

Advance for release Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, and thereafter

(For Rampell clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Catherine Rampell

During a call with journalists on Friday, National Economic Council Director-designate Brian Deese made a subtle but nonetheless significant commitment: that once Joe Biden is president, the federal government will stop passing the buck to the states.

He was talking about vaccine distribution -- providing clearer federal guidance for who gets the coronavirus vaccine, greater logistical support, etc. -- but let's hope it becomes a broader theme of the Biden presidency.

The outgoing administration's approach, Deese said, "has essentially been to leave everything to the states and not take any action to try to address those issues of clarity or otherwise."

"A lot of the failures are derivative of that," he added -- which is undoubtedly correct.

President "I Alone Can Fix It" Trump has, perversely, absolved himself of responsibility for anything. He explicitly said last March that "I don't take responsibility at all" for flaws in the coronavirus response, including persistent testing shortages. Likewise, at a March meeting with business leaders pleading for federal leadership as states bid against one another for supplies, Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner reportedly said: "That's their problem."

Fast-forward to Trump tweeting last month, "The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!"

Even before the coronavirus hit, the Trump administration (aided by congressional Republicans) had been trying to dump intractable health-care problems onto states that were ill-equipped to solve them alone.

Trump prefers passing the buck to the states because actually trying to fix big problems is hard. He might fail; safer to let someone else attempt it (and then swoop in to take credit if they succeed). His fellow Republicans presumably went along for a different reason: The strategy is consistent with the party's longtime approach to federalism. One man's "passing the buck" is another man's "states' rights," after all.

Relying upon states to serve as the "laboratories of democracy" has its upsides, of course. During normal (non-crisis) times, states can experiment with different ways to deliver services, tax, regulate, train workers or whatever else. Researchers and policymakers study what succeeds and what doesn't.

But there's a degree of fantasy involved in thinking that states -- with their much more limited resources and often part-time legislatures and smaller public-health agencies -- are equipped to figure out how to respond to a sudden, logistically complex pandemic without much federal guidance. Especially if this lack of coordination results in states simply competing against each other for scarce supplies (and bidding up their prices), rather than finding ways to create more of those supplies -- or issuing contradictory safety guidelines. Arguably, this is the case with inconsistent mask and social distancing mandates across porous state borders. Some states' efforts effectively canceled each other out.

Some states have responded to these challenges by passing the buck even further down the line.

Consider Florida's vaccine rollout. When the feds declined to provide sufficient clarity for distribution, Florida chose not to fill the leadership vacuum. No one was in charge. The state essentially left decisions up to hospitals, which led to chaos and confusion and seniors sleeping in their cars outside public health centers to queue for shots.

There are also economies of scale that come with centralizing decisions at the federal level, and not only for administering health-related services, either.

Another serious flaw of our federalist system exposed by the pandemic is our fragmented safety net. There are more than 50 separate unemployment insurance systems -- each designed, commissioned and maintained by a different state, district or territory. The main thing most have in common is their awfulness. By which I mean, they're generally arbitrary, confusing, painful to access and expensive for states to maintain. Right now, they're also (not coincidentally) extremely backlogged.

Having the federal government develop and administer a single user-friendly interface, with minimum requirements for generosity -- as is the case for some other benefits created under federal law, such as Social Security -- would be far simpler for users and states. It would probably be collectively cheaper for taxpayers, too, because states wouldn't have to develop and maintain duplicative benefit systems.

A risk of nationalizing more of these kinds of programs, of course, is that we could wind up with a really incompetent federal government in charge of everything. (This is not exactly a hypothetical.) So, maybe it's good to diversify some risk away from the feds.

Even so, it will be comforting to have a presidential administration that not only sees the possible advantages of centralizing leadership but is willing to take on the hard work (and risks) of providing it. Like Trump, Biden and his advisers know they could fail. Yet they're willing to assume the burden of responsibility that comes with trying, rather than cravenly declaring every challenge to be someone else's problem.

During Friday's call, Deese concluded by saying that "ultimately, states and localities have a huge role to play in this. But federal government needs to be providing clear, consistent and more guidance, more logistical support and more resources." In many ways, that's a pretty banal statement. But in the context of the past four years, it's practically revolutionary.

- - -

Catherine Rampell's email address is crampell@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

Don't file a paper 2020 federal tax return if you don't have to, warns IRS watchdog.

By michelle singletary
Don't file a paper 2020 federal tax return if you don't have to, warns IRS watchdog.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU: In 4th graf from the end, fixes to say "e-file" (sted email).

By MICHELLE SINGLETARY

(c) 2020, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- The IRS has announced that it is delaying the start of the 2021 tax season to Feb. 12 to allow the agency to get clear of the double burdens of millions of unprocessed tax returns from last year and stimulus relief payments.

"If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers," the IRS said.

The 2021 tax season could get ugly. File early and electronically.

People are already in a panic that they haven't received either the first or second stimulus payment because their 2019 federal returns haven't been processed.

A former certified public accountant emailed me that her adult son mailed his paper federal return in October and still hasn't heard a word from the IRS on its status - or the $11,000 refund he and his wife are owed.

"There's nothing on the website that would give you some comfort that at least the return had been opened," said the New Jersey woman, who helps her son with his tax returns. "I've spoken to four or five people at the IRS, and they said, 'Please don't file a duplicate tax return.' I think there are millions of others who are in the same predicament."

She's right.

The IRS received roughly 16 million paper individual returns last year. As of Dec. 25, the agency said, it still had 6.9 million individual tax returns in the "processing pipeline" - which is over 40 percent. Interestingly, the IRS changed the language of its update from saying the returns were "unprocessed." I assume it was to give people some hope that there's movement on their returns.

The IRS said it is rerouting tax returns and taxpayer correspondence to locations where more staffing is available. Other than responding to any requests for information, the IRS said there's nothing people can do.

"For refunds that could not be issued in 2020 because the tax return is being corrected, reviewed or awaiting correspondence from a taxpayer, the refund will be issued as a paper check in 2021 per our normal processes," the IRS said in an operations update. "Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check 'Where's My Refund' for their personalized refund status."

The IRS said it chose to delay to Feb. 12 date to prevent further backlogs.

"Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation's most important filing seasons ever," IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a statement. "This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible."

The delay means people who claim Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) won't get their refunds until the first week of March -- provided that they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns, the IRS said.

You don't have to wait until Feb. 12 to start on your tax return. If you have everything you need for your return, you can e-file now using the IRS Free File program. It allows people earning $72,000 or less to electronically file their federal - and in many cases state returns - for free. "Our e-file partners will hold your return and transmit it to us then," said IRS spokesman Eric Smith. Search for the program at irs.gov.

Even with the extra time, paper-return backlogs are large and likely to grow, so anyone who can e-file should do so, said National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins. The Taxpayer Advocate Service (at taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers.

"There's the added challenge that the last filing season had to deal with because of covid," Collins said in an interview. "And in my opinion, I think it's going to overlap into the next filing season."

Don't just blame the IRS for the delays in processing returns, Collins said. The agency has had a roughly 20 percent reduction in its budget (adjusted for inflation) since fiscal 2010, resulting in antiquated technology and inadequate staffing levels, Collins said in her annual report to Congress. Over the past 10 years, the IRS workforce has shrunk by about 20 percent.

The pandemic exacerbated the problems the IRS was already dealing with, Collins said.

Refunds and stimulus payments are still piled up at the IRS, and this year may be just as bad, new report says

IRS personnel who open and process tax returns and answer the toll-free telephone lines had to follow social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, which resulted in taxpayers' paper returns and mail sitting unopened in trailers for months. The herculean task of delivering two rounds of stimulus payments stretched IRS resources even further, Collins said.

With social distancing still in place, Collins is concerned about whether the IRS will have enough workers to process the paper backlog and the coming onslaught of mailed returns when the 2021 tax season opens. "If you're going to have a refund situation, I think it would be very beneficial this coming filing season to file electronically," she said.

It's not always a choice for people to file electronically.

There are more than 40 forms that still require a taxpayer to mail a paper return, Collins said in the annual report. "The IRS should expand its electronic filing capabilities to allow all taxpayers an e-filing option, regardless of the return or any associated schedules, documents, and attachments," she urged.

But if it's just a matter of habit or doubts about the security of electronic filing, this is the year to get past that and e-file your return.

"During the pandemic, it is more important than ever that taxpayers choose to file their returns electronically and not send them in by mail," the IRS said in a statement. "It is also more important than ever that taxpayers choose direct deposit on their returns and provide up-to-date banking information for their refund."

On that last point, people who filed electronically over the past two years and had their refunds sent by direct deposit to their bank accounts had fewer issues with receiving a stimulus payment, Collins said. This is important since President-elect Joe Biden is putting together a $1.9 trillion relief package that would boost the second stimulus payments for Americans to up to $2,000 per individual.

"I've been doing paper returns for a long time," the New Jersey reader told me. "I've learned my lesson. No paper returns anymore."

- - -

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

The Senate can't dodge its duty

By ruth marcus
The Senate can't dodge its duty

RUTH MARCUS COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, and thereafter

(For Marcus clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON -- The impeachment trial of Donald Trump can and must proceed -- even after he is no longer president.

The temptation to avoid this event is bipartisan, although far more fervent on the Republican side. Republicans want to avoid being forced to take a politically perilous vote on Trump's behavior. Some Democrats, particularly among the incoming administration, fear that a Senate trial would distract energy and attention from the business of governing. No one can be blamed for the urge to consign Trump to the gilded dustbin of history.

We can't afford the luxury of ignoring him. Not yet. Not until he has been held accountable for his assault on the Constitution and the rule of law.

It's easy to see the dodge coming; the White House has been scheming with Republican senators about how to make the trial go away. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who had the decency to oppose the attempt to overturn the election results, has said he would oppose a trial, arguing that the Constitution's framers "designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office -- not an inquest against private citizens." Watch for others, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, to seek to head the trial off at the pass, arguing that their jurisdiction over Trump ends with his term, at noon on Jan. 20.

Senators will parse constitutional clauses and cite impeachments of centuries past to make their case for or against a trial. Specifically, they will have to consider whether the Constitution's statement that "judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States" means that the impeached official must be in office at the time.

In truth, although I think the stronger arguments from language and history are on the side of the power to hold a trial, no one knows for sure. It is hard to imagine that the framers spent a second contemplating this strange situation. Which means that the Senate can try Trump if it so chooses; it can assert its own good-faith understanding of the constitution and see if the Supreme Court interferes.

And the Senate should proceed against Trump, even as a former president. He would no longer be subject to removal, but conviction would allow him to be barred from future office. The availability of that sanction might be the best technical argument for the authority to try Trump, but there are stronger policy grounds for proceeding.

Trial by the Senate offers the best way to hold Trump fully accountable for his actions inciting the insurrection. Trump managed to dodge legal responsibility throughout his term because of the multiplicity of offramps available to an incumbent president, chief among them his assumed immunity from criminal prosecution.

Now, he might seek to grant himself a preemptive pardon. Even if he doesn't, using the criminal law to go after Trump for the sacking of the Capitol is likely to prove difficult, if not impossible. A Senate trial on whether Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor would not pose the same evidentiary hurdles. Trump doesn't have to be found to have committed a crime, with all the attendant elements of intent and knowledge -- just a grave offense against the Constitution.

Trial by the Senate offers the best way to hold senators themselves accountable, too. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate majority leader for a few days more, has been skillful in shielding his members from having to take uncomfortable votes - from having to choose between following their consciences and protecting their president (and, with him, their own political backsides).

No more. Let them be forced to record whether they believe Trump's relentless campaign to arouse his masses to contest the clear outcome of his election, his baseless assertion that his vice president should intervene at the 11th hour to overturn the certified results and his whipping up of the mob that stormed the Capitol were consistent with his constitutional duty.

The arguments against going forward with a trial are familiar. I have indulged in some version of them myself, in less extraordinary circumstances. It's time to turn the page; better to look forward than back. The last thing the country needs at this point is more focus on Trump, another politically divisive spectacle in the form of a Senate trial. A trial, especially with the hurdle of two-thirds required for conviction, will end up hurting Joe Biden more than Trump; the infant administration needs the Senate to concentrate on confirming its nominees and moving its legislative agenda, not relitigating the horrors of the previous incumbent.

These are not frivolous, but they are not, on balance, persuasive. What Trump did is too serious to simply move on. A few weeks delaying in approving Cabinet secretaries, a few weeks more with Trump in the headlines, is a small price to pay for ensuring that Trump faces the ultimate judgment, indelibly etched in history. If Senate Republicans refuse to convict him, that stain, too, will be impossible to expunge.

- - -

Ruth Marcus' email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

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