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Opinion: Trump still has time to end America

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Washington on Jan. 6.
President Trump speaks at a rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
(Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. About 1,200 people in Los Angeles County who were alive when last Saturday’s newsletter was sent out are now dead because of COVID-19. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

A violent insurrection was put down at the U.S. Capitol this week. I can’t think of anything to add that would make the gravity of this plain fact more obvious, but since some of the very Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results and fed the presidential fantasy that incited this deadly revolt now want us all to move on, I suppose I should give writing persuasively about the need for Congress to act the old college try.

Donald Trump should not be president right now. That was true long before Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters invaded the Capitol as Congress was performing its constitutional duty to count electoral votes and certify Joe Biden’s victory, and it was just as true on any other day that Trump has been in public life. But the national emergency posed by Trump’s continuing occupation of the presidency has never been greater. Nor has the need for Congress to set a precedent, where none currently exists, for when a commander in chief incites a rebellion.

The only question is how to go about legally disempowering him. Noting that the president once bragged about how big his “nuclear button” was, former U.S. attorney Harry Litman writes approvingly of impeaching Trump a second time but doubts even now that enough Republicans in the Senate would vote to convict. What happens after Jan. 20 is another matter, Litman writes, and the federal government may want to pursue criminal charges of rebellion or insurrection against the soon-to-be ex-president.

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The Times’ editorial board offers a frank and unsettling assessment of what’s to come: Realistically, we’re stuck with Trump for another 11 days, so we’ll just have to wait him out. After Trump is out of office, however, we must make sure that the officials who aided and abetted him fail politically — and for that to happen, voters must hold them accountable.

I’ll put it another way: The next newsletter from me will be the final one of Trump’s presidency. Sadly, seven days never seemed farther away.

And, yes, Trump is responsible for this insurrection. The editorial board makes it clear, just in case it isn’t obvious to anyone: “Attacking democratic institutions attacks democracy itself, and what the nation witnessed Wednesday in Washington is the power of the mob to destabilize even the most stable of democracies. The responsibility for this day of unconscionable attacks by Americans on the heart of our elective system belongs to Trump. But his enablers have much to answer for as well, and much to regret.” L.A. Times

Republicans are just now learning that Trump is dangerous? What bravery of some Senate Republicans and Cabinet members to denounce Trump after a deadly coup attempt! Of course, their newfound appreciation for democratic processes and norms makes one wonder where these patriots were for the 1,400-plus days that Trump was in office before Jan. 6. Columnist Nicholas Goldberg gives them a reality check: “Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol didn’t ‘drastically change’ anything. It was merely the logical, inevitable conclusion of four years of instigation and incitement by Trump.” L.A. Times

Be outraged, saddened, terrified — but not surprised. Trump is a president who has been aided and abetted by one of our two major political parties; his election conspiracy theories have been indulged by some of the right’s most respected figures; and in Congress, senators and representatives voted to overturn the election even after the rebellion had been put down. Columnist Robin Abcarian asks: Is it really any wonder why extremists tried violently to overthrow our government? L.A. Times

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They’re violent insurrectionists, not patriots, and if the terrorists who stormed the Capitol had been wearing turbans or protesting that Black Lives Matter, the media would not be writing sympathetic profiles of those who had died in the riot. LZ Granderson writes, “And as a Black man, I am furious that the treatment of white domestic terrorists attacking American values tends to be far more humane than the treatment of the Black citizens trying to hold the country to those values.” L.A. Times

It didn’t have to be this way. On Feb. 5, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed up its best chance to have prevented this whole mess — the COVID-19 response debacle, the election conspiracy theories and now the violent insurrection. Scott Martelle reminds us of who could have prevented all this: “Trump has failed repeatedly during his term to ‘faithfully execute the office of President of the United States’ and to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ as he — and every president before him — swore to do. Senate Republicans have already failed once when they had the chance to hold him responsible for violating that oath. And now five people are dead.” L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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