Does Trump Deserve The Death Penalty For His Violent Coup? What About His Co-Conspirators?
The Select Committee has its work cut out for it. According to NBC News polling conducted between May 5 and 10, "Just 45% of Americans say Donald Trump is 'solely' or 'mainly' responsible for the rioters who overtook the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, versus a combined 55%" who say Trump is only somewhat responsible or not really responsible.
This morning Jamie Raskin was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Thursday hearings. He said "the committee has found evidence of concerted planning and premeditated activity. The idea that all of this was just a rowdy demonstration that spontaneously got a little bit out of control is absurd. You don't almost knock over the U.S. government by accident... [T]he Select Committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here, and we are going to be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on January 6th... We just have an absolute mountain of evidence about what took place, and our problem is really distilling the core elements of all of these events to share with the people. But I hope that all of the most important material evidence will be made available to the public. I mean, we had 150 of our officers who were injured, wounded, hospitalized by the mob, which unleashed violence upon us in order to break our windows, tear down our doors, invade the Capitol, drive the Congress out of the Capitol, and interfere with the transfer of power and block the counting of electoral college votes. We have officers who have broken vertebrae, broken ribs, broken jaws, lost fingers, traumatic brain injuries, post‑traumatic stress syndrome. This was an act of violence in the nation's capital unlike anything any of us has ever seen before, and the investigation launched by the Department of Justice, I believe, is the most massive and sweeping criminal investigation by the DOJ in its history. Nothing else even comes close to it. So we're talking about an event of immense gravity and danger to the republic, and we have to make sure that we never experience anything like this again."
Earlier today the NY Times reported that "Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the Proud Boys, and four other members of the far-right group were indicted on Monday for seditious conspiracy in connection with the storming of the Capitol last January, the most serious criminal charges to be brought in the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the assault. The sedition charges against Tarrio and his co-defendants-- Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola-- came in an amended indictment that was unsealed in Federal District Court in Washington. The men had already been charged in an earlier indictment filed in March with conspiring to obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election... A charge of seditious conspiracy requires prosecutors to prove that force was used either to overthrow the government or to interfere with the execution of federal law."
Last night Robert Reich mused that "To a large degree, the success of those hearings will depend on the Wyoming Republican congresswoman and vice-chair of the committee, Liz Cheney. Although I have disagreed with almost every substantive position she has ever taken, I salute her courage and her patriotism. And I wish her success. I vividly recall the televised hearings of the Senate Watergate committee, which began nearly a half-century ago, on May 17, 1973. More than a year later, on August 8, 1974-- knowing that he would be impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate-- Nixon resigned."
Had Nixon-- and his co-conspirators-- been put up against a wall, offered last cigarettes and shot, the country would be much better off today. I doubt Trump and his cronies would have attempted the coup. This lack of appropriate accountability is what is responsible for the insurrection. Trump and his crew of seditionists need to face the death penalty for their crimes for the sake of teh country.
Reich thinks the hero of Nixon's Watergate hearings was the committee’s Republican co-chair, Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, Jr... and he expects Liz Cheney to play the part this time.
Baker had deep ties to the Republican Party. His father was a Republican Congressman and his father-in-law was Senate minority leader for a decade. Notwithstanding those ties, Baker put his loyalty to the Constitution and rule of law ahead of his loyalty to his party or the president. His steadiness and care, and the tenacity with which he questioned witnesses, helped America view the Watergate hearings as a search for truth rather than a partisan “witch hunt,” as Nixon described them.
It was Baker who famously asked Dean, “what did the president know and when did he know it?” And it was Baker who led all the other Republicans on the committee to join with Democrats in voting to subpoena the White House tapes-- the first time a congressional committee had ever issued a subpoena to a President, and only the second time since 1807 that anyone had subpoenaed the chief executive.
Fast forward 49 years. This week, Baker’s role will be played by Cheney. Her Republican pedigree is no less impressive than Baker’s was: She is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Second Lady Lynne Cheney. She held several positions in the George W. Bush administration. She is a staunch conservative. And, before House Republicans ousted her, she chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership.
Cheney’s responsibility this week will be similar to Baker’s 49 years ago-- to be the steady voice of non-partisan common sense, helping the nation view the hearings as a search for truth rather than a “witch hunt,” as Trump has characterized them.
In many ways, though, Cheney’s role will be far more challenging than Baker’s. Forty-nine years ago, American politics was a tame affair compared to the viciousness of today’s political culture. Republican senators didn’t threaten to take away Howard Baker’s seniority or his leadership position. The Tennessee Republican Party didn’t oust him. Nixon didn’t make threatening speeches about him. Baker received no death threats, as far as anyone knows.
It will be necessary for Cheney to show-- as did Baker-- more loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law than to her party or the former president. But she also will have to cope with a nation more bitterly divided over Trump’s big lie than it ever was over Nixon and his coverup of the Watergate burglary. She will have to face a Republican Party that has largely caved in to Trump’s lie-- enabling and encouraging it. Baker’s Republican Party never aligned itself with Nixon’s lies. Meanwhile, Cheney’s career has suffered and her life and the lives of her family have been threatened.
The criminal acts for which Richard Nixon was responsible-- while serious enough to undermine the integrity of the White House and compromise our system of government-- pale relative to Trump’s. Nixon tried to cover up a third-rate burglary. Trump tried to overthrow our system of government. The January 6 insurrection was not an isolated event. It was part of a concerted effort by Trump to use his lie that the 2020 election was stolen as a means to engineer a coup, while whipping up anger and distrust among his supporters toward our system of government. Yet not a shred of evidence has ever been presented to support Trump’s claim that voter fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 election.
...The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into these activities. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the Justice Department will “follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.” As with Watergate, the facts will almost certainly lead to the person who then occupied the Oval Office.
This week’s televised committee hearings are crucial to educating the public and setting the stage for the Justice Department’s prosecution. Federal district court Judge David Carter in a civil case brought against the Committee by John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer and adviser in the coup attempt, has set the framework for the hearings. Judge Carter found that it was "more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” and concluded that Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history […] The illegality of the plan was obvious."
If Trump and his top henchmen aren't executed-- preferably on TV with every Republican member of Congress required to attend in person (unless they have a legitimate doctor's note)-- that will guarantee other presidents will also egregiously trample on the constitution and commit criminal acts while in the White House. This has to end now. And I'm not interested in Trump's woke arguments about why the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Drawing and quartering him would be. Or burning him at the stake.