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Opinion: If the Senate had removed Trump a year ago, no one would have died in the Capitol this week

Police in riot gear clear a hallway inside the Capitol on Wednesday.
Riot police clear a hallway inside the Capitol on Wednesday. The death toll reached five Thursday evening with the death of a Capitol Police officer injured trying to defend the building from the Trump mob.
(Los Angeles Times)

So now we’re at five people dead, including a police officer, from Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol building in Washington by a mob egged on by President Trump.

That’s five people who would be alive this morning were it not for Trump’s actions.

“What to do?” Washington wonders.

Two Cabinet members have resigned, along with some lower-level members of the administration, but that’s a meaningless act given their long-running fealty to a wannabe despot. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in her resignation letter to the president that “there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation,” as though his irresponsible fountain of lies and five years of authoritarian swagger was suddenly revealed to her.

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What to do?

Every member of Congress on the ballot in 2022 who backed Trump’s lie that he won reelection must be voted out in a bipartisan rejection of Trumpism.

The responsible thing, the mechanism the Founding Fathers included in the Constitution, is to impeach him.

Wait — a memory tickles. Impeachment … didn’t that happen just a year ago, after Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Joe Biden to derail his presidential campaign?

Didn’t House Democrats impeach him? Wasn’t Trump then put on trial in the U.S. Senate, where every single Republican save one — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — voted to overlook his egregious abuse of power and contempt of Congress and let him remain in office?

And now a year later his contempt has metastasized into a full-blown physical assault by his supporters in Congress, forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the rest of Trump’s protectors to flee in fear just after they’d started debating whether to give credence to the very lies about election fraud that fueled their attackers.

And now we have five people dead: one shot by a Capitol Police officer as she climbed through a broken interior door window as the mob sought to break deeper into the Capitol; three who died from unspecified medical issues; and now a Capitol Police officer who was injured in this act of domestic political terrorism fomented by the president of the United States.

Five people who would still be alive today if Senate Republicans had lived up to their responsibilities a year ago and removed Trump from power.

(And yes, if the Senate had removed Trump thousands of people who have died of Covid-19 likely would still be alive. But the attack on the Capitol was a direct result of Trump behaving in the manner that got him impeached in the first place. This was a result of the Senate’s failure, not a function of Trump’s incompetence.)

Do we honestly think they’d do the right thing now should House Speaker Nancy Pelosi move to impeach Trump again, as she has threatened?

That’s like expecting a guard dog to not bark.

A day after a pro-Trump mob wilded through the Capitol, Americans need assurance that the president will do no further damage to the republic.

If McConnell had even a shred of a sense of political responsibility he would announce today with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that he supports impeachment and would hold a trial within hours of the House impeaching Trump for a second time. And that he himself would vote to remove Trump from office.

That wouldn’t be a merely symbolic act like the resignations of Trump’s staff and appointees less than two weeks before their jobs expired anyway.

It would be the proper working of the mechanism contained within the Constitution for dealing with a president who has, through his “high crimes and misdemeanors,” become a danger to the American people, to Congress and to the very government he leads.

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.

Updates

8:48 a.m. Jan. 8, 2021: This piece has been updated to include the Covid-19 deaths.


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