The second day of the impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump focused on recreating the events and timeline of the insurrection on January 6th, 2021. The House managers presentations contained many shocking and terrifying images.
But among the elements of those presentations the one that has chilled me most were the audio recordings of the DC Metropolitan Police (MPD). In particular, there was the series of frantic transmissions that concluded with, “We lost the line. We lost the line. All MPD, pull back. Pull back.”
At that moment, the Capitol was breached. And that was not all that was breached.
Everyone who serves the United States, whether in the civil or uniformed services, or who is appointed or elected to an office, swears an oath to the United States’ Constitution. Except for the President and members of the Federal Judiciary, everyone’s oath includes the following words:
“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
When those oaths are taken, I think most people do not really think beyond the moment about the sacred responsibility and potential costs of affirming those words. I certainly didn’t when I entered the military (that came later).
Members of the uniformed services realize their responsibilities and the ultimate cost of their own lives in real operations and when facing hostile fire in conflict with foreign adversaries.
Federal law enforcement officers also face those same responsibilities and costs in confronting violent criminals, as was seen recently in Florida with the tragic deaths of two FBI agents.
On January 6th, 2021, Federal law enforcement officers confronted a violent mob of insurrectionists bent on overturning the Constitution – the definition of domestic enemies. One officer was murdered; two others took their lives after the riot; and over 100 were seriously injured. The costs have been made clear to all.
And that leads me to the members of Congress who swore the same oath.
Members of the Republican House and Senate have voted against the constitutional processes that led to the confirmation of Joe Biden as 46th President – on the same day the Capitol breach occurred.
News organizations have reported that some Republican members of the House have ties with the right-wing groups that invaded the Capitol.
And now in the face of the self-apparent and overwhelming evidence against the ex-President (who by the way still believes he won the election), 43 Republican members of the US Senate have voted to acquit him.
Whether out of fear, fealty, or true belief in the white supremacist, Donald Trump, these craven and self-serving political hacks have crossed the line that may well lead to the end of our democratic republic.
We are not a perfect union.
Any reading of US history shows the nativism, racism, and sexism that have permeated much of our history. But, and this is an important point, US history has also been one of efforts by courageous individuals and organizations to right the wrongs of the past. Slowly, much too slowly though many of those efforts have been – and continue to be – the work continues.
Even now, as 28 Republican legislatures work to suppress the vote across many states (after the 2020 election), the fight for equal justice and electoral agency will (and must) continue – protected by the US Constitution and federal laws.
But neither of the two political parties is perfect – far from it.
Many of the economic problems that led to the election of Trump and the rise of political extremism have at their root, in my opinion, the failure of Democrats starting with the Clinton administration, to work for economic justice for all citizens.
The Washington Post reported last week that 60 percent of those arrested for crimes at the Capitol had histories of bankruptcies, notices of evictions, foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes. Is it any wonder they, and others like them, fell victim to the grievance- and rage-filled cant of a charismatic grifter? (Note I do not include the white supremacists and other extremists in the group with real grievances).
But the two political parties are what we have. And the Constitution has given the Legislature (House and Senate) in Article 1 of the Constitution to power and means to act as a check on a President acting illegally. That was the line they were to defend.
And that is what makes this acquittal by the Senate Republicans so terrifying: they will not protect the vote of all citizens, or support federal law and the US Constitution when it goes against their interests.
Make no mistake. The Capitol invasion on January 6th, 2021 will now be seen as a victory by right-wing and white supremacist organizations.
It will be seen as a rehearsal and template for the next time voter suppression, lawsuits against make-believe “voter fraud”, and the grooming of the true believers are not enough to secure victory. Then, a smarter better prepared autocrat will call out the mob and hold (or take) power – and never give it back.
Unfortunately, there will be nowhere to pull back to – for we already have lost the line.
For the sake of history, the names of those Republican Senators who voted to subvert the Constitution and failed their oaths should not be forgotten. They deserve the infamy for which their Senate careers will be remembered.
John Barrasso – WY
Marsha Blackburn – TN
Roy Blunt – MO
John Boozman – AR
Mike Braun – IN
John Cornyn – TX
Tom Cotton – AR
Mike Crapo – ID
Ted Cruz – TX
Kevin Cramer – ND
Steve Daines – MT
Joni Ernst – IA
Deb Fischer – NE
Lindsey Graham – SC
Chuck Grassley – IA
Bill Hagerty – TN
Josh Hawley – MO
John Hoeven – ND
Cindy Hyde-Smith -MS
Jim Inhofe – OK
Ron Johnson – WI
John Kennedy – LA
James Lankford – OK
Mike Lee – UT
Cynthia Lummis – WY
Roger Marshall -KS
Mitch McConnell – KY
Shelley Moore Caputo – WV
Jerry Moran – KS
Rand Paul – KY
Rob Portman – OH
Jim Risch – ID
Mike Rounds – SD
Marco Rubio – FL
Rick Scott – FL
Tim Scott – SC
Richard Shelby – AL
Dan Sullivan – AK
John Thune – SD
Thom Tillis – NC
Tommy Tuberville – AL
Roger Wicker – MS
Todd Young – IN