Here's why Trump’s impeachment isn’t a 1st Amendment issue: conservative

Here's why Trump’s impeachment isn’t a 1st Amendment issue: conservative

Some defenders of former President Donald Trump have been making 1st Amendment-related arguments against his impeachment, claiming that his free speech is under attack and saying, in essence, that it is wrong to impeach someone simply for posting controversial tweets. But Never Trump conservative and CNN pundit Amanda Carpenter, in an article published by The Bulwark on February 2, lays out some reasons why Trump's second impeachment is not a 1st Amendment issue.

Even those who consider themselves 1st Amendment absolutists — whether they're ACLU liberals or right-wing Libertarian Party activists — will acknowledge that the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow someone to incite violence. Trump has been impeached for "incitement to insurrection," and U.S. senators are being asked to determine whether or not the violent January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building is something that Trump encouraged.

"The Senate's upcoming impeachment trial is supposed to be about former President Donald Trump's role in inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6," Carpenter explains. "If Trump's allies and apologists get their way, it will be another excuse to whine about cancel culture and the supposed persecution of Trump."

Carpenter notes that when David Schoen, one of Trump's impeachment defense lawyers, appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News on Monday night, February 1, he described the "incitement to insurrection" charge as "a very, very dangerous road to take with respect to the First Amendment, putting at risk any passionate political speaker." And Republicans who have been claiming that Trump's impeachment is an example of "cancel culture" range from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

"To hear them tell it," Carpenter says of the former president's apologists, "Trump isn't guilty of anything except maybe saying some regrettable things on Twitter or at a rally or two. But while the Orange Man has said plenty of awful things, the exclusive focus on his words is a dodge."

Carpenter goes on to note that after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, he spent weeks making the false and totally debunked claim that he was the victim of widespread voter fraud. The "big election lie," Carpenter notes, "led thousands of Trump supporters to breach the U.S. Capitol" on January 6 "in a failed quest to stop the certification of Joe Biden's victory."

The Never Trumper explains, "Militia groups started raising money and organizing to take mass action on January 6…. At his January 6 'Save America' rally on the Ellipse by the White House, Trump's tough talk became explicit marching orders. Trump falsely suggested to the rallygoers that he would accompany them to the Capitol, giving them the full impression that he shared their goal of physically descending on Congress to prevent the certification of Biden's election."

Carpenter notes that even after learning that the mob had violently stormed the Capitol Building, Trump was still hoping to overturn the election results.

"While the violence unfolded," Carpenter recalls, "Trump didn't send help to protect Congress. He remained focused on pushing Republican members of Congress to object to or delay the vote count, dialing the phone in hopes of finding another recruit for his cause. It wasn't until long after the windows had been smashed and the blood had been spilled that Trump issued any kind of public statement about the shocking scene that had unfolded. In an awkward, short video shot in the Rose Garden, he didn't manage to unequivocally condemn the violence; rather, he bathed the insurrectionists with warm words in support of their shared cause."

The 1st Amendment does, to be sure, give Trump a right to say controversial things. When Trump, for example, claims that centrist Blue Dog Democrats and right-wing Never Trumpers are Marxists, it's an idiotic claim — but it's constitutionally protected speech. Idiotic statements are protected by the 1st Amendment.

But as Carpenter explains, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that protects a president or former president from being impeached for inciting a violent and deadly insurrection.

"Trump created a dangerous threat to democracy out of thin air," Carpenter writes. "He convinced saboteurs they were patriots. He incited an insurrection. So, forget the concern-trolling about Trump being 'canceled' just for his words. Trump should be convicted for his deeds."

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