“Stand back and stand by.”
That was President Donald Trump’s message to the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group, during a nationally televised debate in September. His press secretary insisted criticism of those debate comments was overblown and that he had frequently condemned white supercemacists and other violent hate groups. America saw on Jan. 6 just how empty those assurances were when known members of the Proud Boys were part of an assault on our democracy.
Congress should not stand back and stand by in this pivotal moment for our country. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike have already recognized the role that Trump played in inciting the violent extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, resulting in five deaths.
Why have impeachment in the U.S. Constitution at all if not for a situation such as this?
Yes, there are only a matter of days before Trump’s presidency comes to an end. And yes, concerns about impeachment proceedings further dividing an already divided nation, and leading to more unrest, are legitimate and not to be quickly brushed aside. All elected officials should be thinking about healing right now.
But if Congress allows what it does or doesn’t do before the Jan. 20 inauguration to be dictated by the potential for additional violence from a group of insurrectionists (a small segment of Trump supporters, to be sure), that would be the definition of caving to the mob. That’s not healing.
Here’s our question to federal lawmakers from across the country: If there were a year left in Trump’s term, would you vote to impeach him for his role in fueling Wednesday’s violence? If the answer is yes, he should be impeached and removed from office now.
Perhaps we’re naive, but this should not have to be a drawn out or spiraling process. A quick process does not have to equal a rushed process in this case. Forget the depositions, document requests or misguided talk about preventing Trump from running for office again. Impeachment could be laser focused on Trump’s public words and actions on Wednesday that Congress and the American people can quickly assess with their own eyes and ears, and the resulting violence, loss of life and damage at the U.S. Capitol.
While speaking at the rally on the National Mall Wednesday, Trump breathlessly predicted the end of our country if Congress followed through on its constitutional role to count the electoral votes finalizing Joe Biden’s victory. “We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he told the crowd at one point. Some of them went on to fight, and to raise hell on Capitol Hill. Five people died, and more than 50 members of law enforcement were injured.
If any member of Congress believes a president who so clearly fueled mob violence isn’t guilty of a high crime or misdemeanor as laid out in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, they should say so in a vote on the floor of the House or Senate. If Trump committed a clear impeachable offense, it shouldn’t matter what point of his presidency it is (there’s also a strong argument to be made that Trump’s phone call last week when he tried to pressure the Georgia secretary of state to “find” 11,780 votes was also impeachable).
Trump either committed an impeachable offense by inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol to threaten lawmakers and interfere in their final certification of Joe Biden’s election as president, or he didn’t. We think it’s pretty clear that he did.
Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have rightly noted that Wednesday was a stain on American democracy. It’s not enough for Congress to collectively say, “Oh look, a stain!” and then move on. Wednesday’s mess has to be cleaned up, and the president who helped create it should be held accountable.
Part of national healing, as Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah spoke to in a powerful address Wednesday night, is telling each other the truth. The truth is that Trump brought people together at that rally, gave the incorrect impression that American democracy hinged on stopping the vote count, and directed the crowd down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. His personal attorney actually called for “trial by combat.” And then a deadly siege happened. We don’t heal together by pretending that didn’t happen or ignoring why it happened.
Congress should at least start the process of deciding whether or not Trump’s words and actions on Wednesday amount to an impeachable offense. And responsible Republicans, if they don’t want to continue enabling the “law and order” president who denigrates judges and endangers legislators, should be using the possibility of impeachment to try to convince him to resign. That may be the best path forward on the long road to national healing.