Republicans Are Already Previewing Their Bullshit Excuses for Acquitting Trump

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If Mitch McConnell had his way, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial for siccing a fascist mob on the Capitol building wouldn‘t start until mid-February. Luckily, McConnell doesn’t get his way anymore, having been demoted to minority leader after the elections of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff flipped the Senate. Instead, on Friday, new majority leader Chuck Schumer announced that Nancy Pelosi will send over the House’s article of impeachment against the ex-president at the beginning of next week. While it’s not yet clear when exactly the trial will start, as New York’s Ed Kilgore notes, “under the standing Senate rules for impeachment trials, once the article of impeachment has been ‘exhibited’ in the Senate by the House impeachment managers, a quick series of actions unfold, including the formal beginning of the trial by 1 p.m. the very next day. There is some possible wiggle room between Pelosi notifying the Senate that the House is prepared to present an article and its actual ‘exhibition’ via a reading on the Senate floor, but any significant delay would require a motion accepted by unanimous consent.” Schumer could potentially agree to postpone the proceedings until the beginning of February in order to allow Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees to be confirmed, but we probably won’t know until the end of the weekend, after negotiations are hashed out. “I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” Schumer said on Friday. “But make no mistake: A trial will be held in the United States Senate, and there will be a vote.”

One thing that’s very clear is that some of the most shameless Republicans in Congress are already previewing their explanations for acquitting the ex-president of the United States for inciting a violent attack on democracy that left five people dead. On Thursday, for example, Lindsey Graham took to Fox News to claim that, really, this is all Pelosi’s fault, insisting that “the question that needs to be asked of Speaker Pelosi, regardless of the reason people came to the Capitol, [is] how could an unarmed mob, 20 years after 9/11, occupy the House and the Senate?”

Later, he added that the new president should just call up the House leader and scrap the whole thing, for the good of the country. “President Biden could, by picking up the phone, stand down impeachment,“ Graham said. “He could say to Speaker Pelosi, President Trump is in Florida, I’m ready to move on, it’s time for the country to move on. His refusal to do that shows me that he really doesn’t have the ability or the willingness to unify us because that would be a layup. So I believe that Republicans are going to unite strongly around the idea, that this is an unconstitutional effort to impeach President Trump and then in the coming days we will get this trial behind us.”

Meanwhile Ted Cruz, who wore a mask printed with the words “come and take it” to the inauguration, thinks impeaching Trump is just mean. “It’s unfortunate that Democratic partisans cannot get past their hatred for Donald Trump,” the Texas lawmaker whined on Wednesday. “Impeaching and trying a president after he has left office is petty, vindictive, mean-spirited, and divisive. Unfortunately it’s par for the course with how the Democrats are approaching this moment.” Invoking the argument that the GOP is going to shamelessly trot out for the next four years, Cruz claimed that Democrats “don’t seem to be trying to bring people together,” adding that they “don’t seem to be interested in unity or healing. Rather, they seem to be wanting to salt the earth and destroy all their enemies.” (As a reminder, Cruz personally helped whip an angry mob into a violent frenzy on January 6 by objecting to the certification of Biden’s win, which some people reasonably believe he should be held accountable for.) 

Elsewhere, South Carolina senator Tim Scott has similarly opined that convicting Trump will “lead to more hate and a deeply fractured nation,” with Kansas senator Roger Marshall saying it will “only raise already heated temperatures,” as opposed to sending a message that coups by elected officials will not be tolerated. Wyoming senator Cynthia Lummis, North Dakota senator John Hoeven, Tennessee senator Bill Hagerty, and others reportedly expressed similar sentiments. Tom Cotton, who is said to be looking at a 2024 run for the White House, and would probably like to pick up Trump’s supporters, has claimed that “the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president,” which is an extremely convenient take considering that Cotton had also said the Senate couldn’t hold a trial due to time constraints when Trump was still president. In the broader Republican Party, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—who on January 13 said, “The president bears responsibility for [the] attack on Congress by mob rioters”— apparently had a change of heart, claiming on Thursday, “I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally.”

As a reminder, what Trump said at the rally was: “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by bold and radical left Democrats, which is what they are doing, and stolen by the fake news media. That is what they have done and what they are doing. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved…. Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you…. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.…. Something is wrong here, something is really wrong, can’t have happened, and we fight. We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” 

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— The Eerie Charlottesville Echoes of Trump Supporters’ Capitol Coup
— From the Archive: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel

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