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I was glued to the television yesterday, watching the impeachment trial in the Senate.
It’s supposed to be a done deal: the Republicans are so frightened by Trump and his base that only a handful will vote to convict. It seems he will not be held accountable for inciting a violent mob to invade the U.S. Capitol.
The impeachment managers methodically described how Trump had prepared his base long before the election to believe that it would be rigged, unless he won. After the election, he said louder and louder that the election had been stolen, that it was rigged, that he had won in a landslide. He whipped his followers up to a frenzy of rage. After he lost the Electoral College, he stepped up his efforts to reverse the results, putting pressure on state legislators.
Finally, he bullied Vice President Mike Pence, trying to compel him to refuse to certify the votes on January 6. But Pence knew the Constitution did not give him that power, and he refused to do what Trump wanted.
Trump had one last ploy. He called his base to come to D.C. to “stop the steal.” He held a rally and urged his followers to March to the Capitol and “fight like Hell” to stop the Electoral count.
We all know what happened next. An enraged mob overran the Capitol Police, and went hunting for their enemies, especially Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. They set up a scaffold with a noose to hang Pence. They chanted “hang Mike Pence,” and “get Nancy,” “where’s Nancy.” They ransacked her office while her staff hid.
What we saw was how close the mob came to meeting their goals. The mob breached the building and surged in while both Houses of Congress were in session. The speakers showed with graphic detail how close the mob came to breaking into the Congress and confronting their targets. At one point, the mob was very close to Pence and his family. At one point, Senator Romney was walking towards the incoming mob, but was turned away by an alert Capitol Policeman, Eugene Goodman. Officer Goodman then led the mob away from the Senate while it was still in session.
Our democracy hung in the balance. The mob came within minutes of breaking into both chambers. They could have assassinated Pence, Pelosi, and others. Some had baseball bats, some had stun guns, some were equipped with flex cuffs, ready to take hostages. The mob brutally attacked Capitol Police officers, beating them with bats, clubs, even the poles attached to American flags. The terrorists were in a hot fury.
For many members of Congress, this might have been the first time they saw a complete video of what was happening while they were in seclusion.
It is astonishing that any Senator watched the proceedings and concluded that Trump was not responsible and that the events of the day were no big deal.
January 6 was one of the worst days in our history. It will live in infamy.