The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is seeking phone records from telecommunications companies as part of its investigation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the telecommunications companies not to comply with the Congressional requests and threatened that if they did, the GOP “would not forget it” once they are in power. This is a brazen act of obstructing a congressional investigation. The Department of Justice must address this promptly or else there likely will be more obstructive conduct by McCarty and perhaps others, as lawlessness begets lawlessness.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a threat to phone and social media companies that cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot.
Where was that spirit when election results were being counted?
The Republican Party has devised its response to the push to impeach the president over his role in the attack on the Capitol last week, and it is so cynical as to shock the conscience.
“Now the Democrats are going to try to remove the president from office just seven days before he is set to leave anyway,” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who voted with 146 other Republicans in Congress not to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. “I do not see how this unifies the country.”
The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, also said that impeaching the president “will only divide our country more.”
“As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people,” McCarthy said in a statement given two days after he also voted not to accept the results of a free and fair election in which his favored candidate lost.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas helped lead the Senate attempt to object to Joe Biden’s victory. “My view is Congress should fulfill our responsibility under the Constitution to consider serious claims of voter fraud,” he said last Monday. Now, he too wants unity. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in the aftermath of the violence, as calls to impeach the president grew louder and louder. “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us.”
I’m reminded, here, of one particular passage from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 address at Cooper Union in Manhattan, in which he criticized the political brinkmanship of Southern elites who blamed their Northern opponents for their own threats to break the union over slavery.
But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”
There are a handful of Senate Republicans, like Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who are open to impeachment. But much of the Republican response is exactly this kind of threat: If you hold President Trump accountable for his actions, then we won’t help you unify the country.
Or, as another Republican, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, said on Twitter,
Those calling for impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment in response to President Trump’s rhetoric this week are themselves engaging in intemperate and inflammatory language and calling for action that is equally irresponsible and could well incite further violence.
These cries of divisiveness aren’t just the crocodile tears of bad-faith actors. They serve a purpose, which is to pre-emptively blame Democrats for the Republican partisan rancor that will follow after Joe Biden is inaugurated next week. It is another way of saying that they, meaning Democrats, shot first, so we, meaning Republicans, are absolved of any responsibility for our actions. If Democrats want some semblance of normalcy — if they want to be able to govern — then the price for Republicans is impunity for Trump.
House Democrats have already introduced their resolution to impeach the president, formally charging President Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the attack on the Capitol. There is still a ways to go in this process, but it is a stronger start than I expected. But there may still be some hesitation about taking the most aggressive stance, as evidenced by Majority Whip James Clyburn’s proposal to hold off on a trial until after the first 100 days of the Biden administration.
This would be a mistake.
There is no way past this crisis — and yes, we are living through a crisis — except through it. The best way to push forward is as aggressively as possible. Anything less sends the signal that this moment isn’t as urgent as it actually is. And as we move closer to consequences for those responsible, we should continue to ignore the cries that accountability is “divisive.” Not because they’re false, but because they’re true.
Accountability is divisive. That’s the point. If there is a faction of the Republican Party that sees democracy itself as a threat to its power and influence, then it has to be cut off from the body politic. It needs to be divided from the rest of us, lest it threaten the integrity of the American republic more than it already has. Marginalizing that faction — casting Trump and Trumpism into the ash heap of history — will be divisive, but it is the only choice we have.
This does not mean we must cast out the 74 million Americans who voted for the president, but it does mean we must repudiate the lies, cruelty and cult of personality on which Trump built his movement. It means Republicans have to acknowledge the truth — that Joe Biden won in a free and fair election — and apologize to their voters and to the country for helping to stoke the madness that struck at the Capitol.
The alternative is a false unity that leaves the wound of last Wednesday to fester until the infection gets even worse than it already is.
This time they’ll fail. But their disloyalty to America is clear.
The New Testament asks us in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”
Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and all their fellow G.O.P. coup plotters clearly have forgotten that verse — if they ever knew it — for they are ready to sacrifice their souls, the soul of their party and the soul of America — our tradition of free and fair elections as the means for peacefully transferring power — so that Donald Trump can remain president and one of these sleazebags can eventually replace him.
The governing “philosophy” of these unprincipled Trump-cult Republicans is unmistakably clear: “Democracy is fine for us as long as it is a mechanism for us to be in control. If we can’t hold power, then to hell with rules and to hell with the system. Power doesn’t flow from the will of the people — it flows from our will and our leader’s will.”
For America to be healthy again, decent Republicans — in office and in business — need to break away from this unprincipled Trump-cult G.O.P. and start their own principled conservative party. It is urgent.
Even if only a small group of principled, center-right lawmakers — and the business leaders who fund them — broke away and formed their own conservative coalition, they would become hugely influential in today’s closely divided Senate. They could be a critical swing faction helping to decide which Biden legislation passes, is moderated or fails.
Meanwhile, the Trump-rump G.O.P. cult would become what it needs to become for America to grow together again — a discredited, powerless minority of crackpots waiting around for Trump’s latest tweet to tell them what to do, say and believe.
I know that fracturing an established party is not easy (or likely). But the principled Republicans, those who have courageously and dutifully defended Joe Biden’s electoral victory, have to ask themselves: “In a few days, when all of this is over, are we going to just go back to business as usual with people who are, in effect, attempting the first legislative coup d’état in American history?”
Because when this episode is over, Trump will be doing or saying something else outrageous to undermine Biden and to make collaboration impossible, and the Trump lap dogs, like Cruz, Hawley, Johnson and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will be demanding the party go along to serve their political interests, putting the principled Republicans in a daily bind. Every week there will be a new loyalty test.
There is simply no equivalence now between our two major parties. In the primaries, an overwhelming majority of Democrats, led by moderate African-Americans, chose to go with the center-left Biden, not the far-left defund-the-police-democratic-socialist wing.
Across the aisle, Trump’s G.O.P. became such a cult that it decided at its convention that it would offer no party platform. Its platform would be whatever its Dear Leader wanted on any given day. When any party stops thinking — and stops drawing any redlines around a leader as unethical as Trump — he’ll keep taking it deeper and deeper into the abyss, right up to the gates of Hell.
Where it’s now arrived.
We saw that this weekend with Trump’s Mafia-like effort to squeeze Georgia’s secretary of state to just “find” him 11,780 votes and declare him the state’s winner by one vote over Biden.
And we will see it in an even uglier version in Wednesday’s session in Congress. The Trump cultists will try to transform a ceremony designed exclusively to confirm the Electoral College votes submitted by each state — Biden 306 and Trump 232 — into an attempt to get Congress to nullify the electoral votes of swing states that Trump lost.
If I were the editor of this newspaper, I’d print all of their pictures on a full page, under the headline: “Never Forget These Faces: These Lawmakers Had a Choice Between Loyalty to Our Constitution and to Trump, and They Chose Trump.”
If you have any doubts that these people are engaged in seditious behavior, their more principled Republican colleagues do not. Speaking of Hawley’s plan to challenge the vote count, Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, said: “I am going to support my oath to the Constitution. That’s the loyalty test here.” Added Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.” Said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, “I cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters.”
So, the coup-plotter caucus will fail. But ask yourself this: What if Trump’s allies controlled the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court and got their way — actually used some 11th-hour legislative maneuver and nullified Biden’s victory?
I know exactly what would have happened. Many of the 81,283,485 Americans who voted for Biden would have taken to the streets — I would have been one of them — and probably stormed the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Trump would have called out the military; the National Guard, directed by governors, would have split over this, and we would be plunged into civil war.
That is the sort of fire these people are playing with. Of course, they know it — which makes the efforts of Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and their ilk even more despicable. They have so little self-respect that they’re ready to lick the shine off of Donald Trump’s boots down to his last second in office, in hopes of inheriting his followers — should he not run again in 2024. And they are counting on a majority of their more principled colleagues voting to certify Biden’s election — to make sure their effort fails.
That way, they’ll get the best of all worlds — credit with Trump voters for pursuing his Big Lie — his fraudulent allegation that the elections were a fraud — without plunging us into civil war. But the long-term price will still be profound — diminishing the confidence of many Americans in the integrity of our free and fair elections as the basis for peacefully transferring power.
Can you imagine anything more cynical?
How do decent Americans fight back, besides urging principled Republicans to form their own party? Make sure we exact a tangible price from every lawmaker who votes with Trump and against the Constitution.
Shareholders of every major U.S. corporation should make sure that these companies’ political action committees are barred from making campaign contributions to anyone who participates in Wednesday’s coup attempt.
At the same time, “we the people” need fight the Trump cult’s Big Lie with the Big Truth. I hope every news organization, and every citizen, refers to Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and their friends now and forever more as “coup plotters.”
Make all those who have propagated this Big Lie about election fraud to justify voting with Trump and against our Constitution carry the title — “coup plotter” — forever. If you see them on the street, in a restaurant on your college campus, politely ask them: “You were one of the coup plotters, weren’t you? Shame on you.”
Adopt Trump’s method: Repeat this Big Truth over and over and over until these people can never get rid of it.
It won’t be sufficient to fix what ails us — we still need a new conservative party for that — but it sure is necessary to give others pause about trying this again.