The House managers for the prosecution have rested after the first phase of this impeachment trial, which defends the constitutionality of impeaching a president who is no longer in office. They presented scholarship by conservative legal scholars in favor of the constitutionality of the trial, as well as a long video montage that depicted the events that led up to the riots of January 6.
Republicans will begin their arguments in the next few minutes. I anticipate that they’ll present their own bevvy of constitutional scholars, and show some screenshots of comments made by left-leaning politicians that they view as seditious, as well as a defense that I find stunningly short-sighted: the January exception. This “exception” has its roots in the idea that a lame-duck politician on his way out of office can say what he pleases and have his speech protected under the First Amendment. Moreover, they claim, because this particular politician is already out of office, bringing up past misdeeds can only serve to divide a country sorely in need of unity.
Such a defense shows an understanding of First Amendment that cannot even be described as sophomoric. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to spread lies, engage in hate speech, or incite violence–all of which, arguably, the former president did during his January 6 address.
Viewing the montage, which presents a chronology depicting the former president’s speech and the violence it incited, makes me as angry today as it did on January 6. Actions on that day serve as a stark reminder that Trump did not accept the results of the November election–that, in fact, he perpetuated lies in his attempt to reverse it–and that he enlisted the aid of an angry mob to prevent the election from being certified. This is precisely the kind of demagoguery the founding fathers wanted to avoid. Even a cursory reading of Federalist Paper #10 confirms that.
In an earlier blog, I suggested that the second impeachment trial is a waste of time–not on the grounds of merit, but on the grounds that it will not result in 17 Republican senators convicting the former president. I stand by that assertion. However, I overlooked a far more compelling series of questions: why are Republicans currently in office interested in defending Trump? Is the Republican party interested in moving past Trump? Why would any party want to be associated with populism–particularly this brand of populism?