Political consequences are coming. So are criminal consequences
As I was writing Thursday's edition, Chuck Schumer did something I would never have expected from the milquetoastiest member of the Democratic leadership. He called for Donald Trump's immediate removal. He said the president was the leader of a violent insurrection against the US government. (His words). He said Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment. If they do not, Schumer said, the US Congress would take action, including a second impeachment.
Schumer is the squishiest squish. He caves at the slightest resistance. Yet here he is, showing backbone. More importantly, he's calling for something that's increasingly likely. A couple hours after his statement was released, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi followed suit. More than 200 Democrats have come out in favor of impeaching the president before he has a chance to incite another violent coup attempt. At least one Republican agrees. Others appear open to the idea. Articles of impeachment have been drafted. A Wall Street Journal editorial said the president should resign before getting hammered again. The US House could vote as early as the middle of next week.
Translation: Possible suspects might include Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in the United States Congress.
Political consequences are coming. So are criminal consequences. The FBI has asked the public for help identifying insurgents who overran the Capitol. (That should be easy. Cameras are everywhere.) The Washington Metropolitan Police released pictures of scores of suspects. Authorities are looking for the man who put pipe bombs near the RNC and DNC offices. Capitol cop Brian Sicknick's death is now being investigated as a homicide. US attorney Michael R. Sherwin said during a presser Thursday: "Yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building, but . . . were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this. We will look at every actor and all criminal charges." Translation: Possible suspects might include Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in the US Congress.
Consequences are coming for the enemies of the republic. Cue expressions of regret, or equivocation, or both, designed to blur distinctions and soften the blow. Marco Rubio: Subverting the government in order to cancel a lawful democratic election is totally the same thing as Black Lives Matter protesters smashing windows. Everyone is to blame, and everyone has work to do, right? (Not his words, and wrong.) The CEO of a Chicago firm, among the infiltrators, said he was really so very really truly very sorry. (Not sorry enough.) Ted Cruz, who enabled the insurgency by voting Wednesday to overturn a free and fair election, said the president went a bit too far. Anyway, Cruz said, he's disagreed with Trump's "language and rhetoric for the last four years." (Ha!)
And then there was the president:
This moment calls for healing and reconciliation. 2020 has been a challenging time for our people. A menacing pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens, isolated millions in their homes, damaged our economy, and claimed countless lives. Defeating this pandemic and rebuilding the greatest economy on earth will require all of us working together. It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community, and family. We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family.
The temptation among liberals is to ease up. They should not. Not ever. According to Elie Mystal, The Nation's justice correspondent, the insurgents might have succeeded had they "gotten a hold of the boxes holding the [Electoral College] certifications, even for a bit. They would have broken the 'chain of custody.' They'd have had a colorable argument for demanding states re-certify." In other words, Trump could have made a plausible case in court that a do-over was needed thanks to his goons tampering with the votes. He could have sown even more paranoia, suspicion and doubt. The staffers who took the boxes, Mystal said, "are literally the people who stopped the coup."
Coming so close to victory demands a swift, determined and unrelenting response. It demands that the enemies of the republic be found out. That includes the Republicans who are quickly becoming known as the "Sedition Caucus." Calls are growing for their expulsion (unlikely, but still). Calls are growing for their censure (more likely). The Republicans are not going to change on their own, because there's no reason to when everyone is as good or bad as everyone else, and nothing really matters. Consequences mean the rule of law matters. Consequences mean accountability matters, that public morality matters. Consequences mean people who don't really believe what they are saying, but who say it anyway for political gain no matter who gets hurt, will stop. Consequences, political and legal, are the only things the Republicans will respect.