Evil, American Style
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“We the people are the rightful masters of the Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
The sitting president of a mighty nation founded on a body of laws, Donald J. Trump, agreed with his rabid army storming the hallowed Capitol that his ultra-loyal vice president, Mike Pence, should be hanged.
It’s what Pence “deserved,” Trump said, according to testimony before the House committee investigating the unprecedented Jan. 6, 2021 intention by Americans inspired to overthrow their newly elected government by thwarting the certification of Joe Biden as their president.
In a sane world, that should be enough to mark the end of narcissistic egomaniac Trump’s political ambitions and put him on his tasteless gold-colored escalator back up to his to his New York tower. He descended the thing June 16, 2015 to announce his candidacy.
It shouldn’t matter even if he isn’t charged with seditious conspiracy for leading his “patriot” supporters on a rampage that committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., rightly labeled an “attempted coup.”
But Trump should be charged as a criminal based on the committee’s evidence gathered through more than 1,000 interviews and more than 140,000 documents.
“Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy,” Thompson said. “And ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”
The New York Post, a conservative tabloid that once endorsed Trump for president but urged him to “end the insanity” over his Big Lie that he won reelection, now charges that he’s “unworthy for the office” for agreeing to hang Pence.
“Trump can’t look past 2020,” it said. “Let him remain there.”
We have been living through a political horror show with a deranged, chaotic Trump as he inexorably, truly and accurately became what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described Saturday as an “American monster.” She’s reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” applying it to reality.
The Times has reported that two former White House staffers testified before the Jan. 6 panel that Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, told them he heard the president say Pence should be hanged — his own vice president, a man as loyal to his boss as a puppy for four years.
“Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea’ and Mike Pence ‘deserves’ it,” committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, told about 20 million people watching the first of the powerful hearings Thursday night.
This endorsement to hang his vice president is evil incarnate at the highest level of America, a profile of just what kind of wicked individual lived in the people’s house for four years.
It took Trump 187 minutes to release a video in which he called on his rioters to stop swarming through the halls of Congress like angry charging elephants, beating police, smashing windows and doors and causing seven deaths during and after the siege, two by suicide, one from a stroke, another from a heart attack.
This is what the Republican National Committee characterized as a ”legitimate political discourse.” Rep. Andrew Clyde, Republican of Georgia, described the melee as “a normal tourist visit.”
And Trump acolyte, defender and buddy of Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán Tucker Carlson of Fox “News,” termed the violent terrorist insurrection “forgettably minor” and “vandalism.”
“What I saw was a war scene,” testified Caroline Edwards of the Capitol Police, one of more than 150 police officers wounded in the attack. ”I saw officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I was slipping on people’s blood. It was carnage. It was chaos.”
But Trump, who began his presidency by describing his country as wallowing in “American carnage,” ended his video by sending his storm troopers his “love” and cooed that they were “very special people.”
They sure were. About 850 of them have been charged with crimes in connection with the assault on the Capitol, the first such attack since the British set fire to it in 1814. It never was attacked during four years of Civil War.
There will be more hearings, some during daytimes when most people will be at work, unfortunately. Prime times should have been reserved for the most significant hearings since the early 1970s Watergate scandal. This time, it’s our very democracy at stake.
Cheney, daughter of a former vice president who has been ostracized by her own party for speaking out against Trump’s irrepressible lying, knitted an airtight prosecutorial package that illustrated with little doubt that the siege of the Capitol was far from a spontaneous outburst. It had been planned in advance with the help of Trump’s militias and some of his diehard supporters.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” she said.
This wasn’t the Boston Tea Party of Dec. 16, 1773 when colonists angry about “taxation without representation” dumped 342 chests of British-shipped tea into Boston Harbor. That was patriotism.
It was the Proud Boys hate group whom Trump urged to “stand back and standby” during a debate with Biden moderated by Chris Wallace on Sept. 29, 2020, when Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacists.
A grand jury has since charged Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four associates with seditious conspiracy, a serious crime a step below treason.
Attempts to overthrow the government such as the Capitol insurrection cannot stand, not if we want a stable country so we can continue to live the freedoms for which millions of our countrymen have died in our own war and far-flung conflicts in which we had no business getting involved.
If we leave ourselves open to further insurrections — if there is no accountability for Jan. 6, if no new laws are passed so this doesn’t happen again — if a former president is permitted to avoid responsibility for instigating an attack on the Constitution he swore to “preserve, protect and defend” (he did everything but in his four godforsaken years in power), then another assault on who we are is bound to occur.
Soon it will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to decide whether to bring criminal charges against Trump and others who helped plan the biggest crime against America since the Confederacy bombarded Fort Sumpter in South Carolina April 12, 1861, igniting the Civil War.
Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.