The House Democrats ended their second day of litigation in the impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump and warned of the real risk of acquittal.
The House impeachment executives asked the Senators to weigh up the threat to let Trump’s incitement to insurrection go unpunished, telling his story of fueling violence and the ongoing domestic terrorism threat that fueled his actions. Their intent: to make it clear that January 6th was an extension of a pattern rather than an aberration and could be repeated if no consequences are imposed.
“Senators, the evidence is clear,” said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) in his closing statement. “We showed you testimonies, videos and affidavits that prove that President Trump instigated a riot – a riot he could stop alone.”
“We humbly ask you to try President Trump for the crime for which he is largely guilty,” Neguse continued. “Because if you don’t, if we pretend it didn’t happen – worse, if we leave it unanswered – who can say it won’t happen again?”
Some Republicans, including Trump’s defense attorney Bruce Castor and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), have suggested that Democrats only drive impeachment because they are concerned that Trump will run for president in 2024 and win like in 2016.
But the Democrats responded directly to this mindset: Arguing another Trump loss instead of a victory would be riskier for American democracy.
“President Trump’s lack of remorse shows that he will undoubtedly cause future harm if he allows it, as he still refuses to explain his previous grave crime against our government,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “I’m not afraid that Donald Trump will run again in four years. I’m afraid he’ll run again and lose – because he can do it again. “
The question of what Trump will do next is not just a democratic concern. It divides the GOP. Senate minority chairman Mitch McConnell officially broke away from Trump after the uprising, blaming Trump directly for promoting electoral conspiracies. McConnell will not go ahead with the impeachment vote, and his own vote is reportedly undecided, despite having voted with a majority of his caucus that the process was unconstitutional.
Some Republican lawmakers continue to reiterate the former president’s persistent claims of electoral fraud. These unsubstantiated claims play well with parts of the electorate and become a mandate for Republican attempts at the state level to launch their largest campaign to suppress voters in years – both of which could help keep these senators in office.
Others in the Senate GOP are betting, as the Democrats have pointed out, that it will run again and lose. The difference is that, despite the two days of evidence presented, the Democrats don’t seem to share the same fears that it might re-incite violence or are too afraid to offend the former president’s grassroots to say so.
On Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of the more moderate members of the caucus and one of six Republicans who voted to constitution the trial, said the evidence was doomed. But it concluded that the House Democrats are arguing that they are overlooking the real danger.
“After the American public has seen the whole story here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could be re-elected president,” Hill told reporters.
Democrats argue the risk lies in his continued false claims about electoral fraud and urge senators to use their power to ensure he cannot run again, rather than just hoping that his continued political viability does not lead to another, possibly more deadly episode of political violence.
“My dear colleagues, is there a political leader in this room who believes that if Donald Trump is ever allowed to return to the Oval Office from the Senate, he would stop inciting violence to find his way?” Said Raskin. “Would you bet the lives of more cops on it? Would you bet your family’s safety on it? Would you bet the future of your democracy on it? President Trump declared his behavior perfectly appropriate. So if he gets back in office and it happens again, it’s our own fault. “