David A. Graham: This is the cost of a failed impeachment
But already, the moment to act could be slipping away. After all, Congress certified Joe Biden as president-elect early this morning. Trump even issued a statement—through aide Dan Scavino on Twitter, after the president’s own account was locked—promising “an orderly transition on January 20th.” There are whispers of more resignations, but so far, few prominent officials have stepped down. (The most notable to do so are Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; the first lady’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham; and Mick Mulvaney, an envoy to Northern Ireland who formerly served as acting White House chief of staff.) We’ve heard rumblings about the Twenty-Fifth Amendment before, and they’ve never resulted in anything.
As I wrote earlier this week, even before violence erupted, the Senate’s failure to convict Trump and remove him from office after his impeachment last year paved the way for the president to try to overturn the 2020 election. If the nation moves on without punishing Trump, he will have two more weeks to act with impunity.
Nothing indicates that Trump is chastened by yesterday’s experience. He published both a video and a tweet yesterday in which he called on the mob to go home peacefully, but he did not condemn its actions, and he repeated the incitements that drove it to riot in the first place. Even his faux–concession statement falls well short. Its mention of a “first term” leaves space for him to continue to contest the race, and besides, we’re past the point of an “orderly transition.” A Trump-incited violent insurrection swept through the Capitol less than 24 hours ago!
Meanwhile, the least scrupulous Trump allies, like Representatives Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks, are already trying to shift the blame for the riot, claiming that it was the work of left-wing provocateurs. This is preposterous—as the journalist Molly Ball points out, “Trump literally summoned these people to DC, spoke at their event, offered to walk them over to the Capitol and then praised them afterward.”
Others, like Senator Ted Cruz, are trying to split the baby. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in a statement. “The Department of Justice should vigorously prosecute everyone who was involved in these brazen acts of violence.” If Cruz were serious, he might be calling for prosecution of the president and also himself—after all, as the mob approached the Capitol, Cruz was inside offering frivolous objections to the certification, after weeks of spreading the false rumors that incited the crowd. Cruz is, as usual, not serious.
Yoni Appelbaum: Impeach Trump again
Democratic leaders are already flinching, too. There’s a clear course of action for Congress, as Representative Ilhan Omar understands: impeachment. Instead, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter calling on Mike Pence to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment—trying to get someone else to deal with the problem using an unproven and dubious solution. (This places House Democratic leaders to the right of anti-Trump conservative commentators at publications such as National Review and The Bulwark.) The House has adjourned until after the inauguration.