They said he was done, a has-been, a loser who refused to accept defeat. Democrats have said a lot of those kinds of things about former President Donald Trump but it was always amusingly evident that what lies just beneath their bravado was the sheer terror that he would stage a comeback after 2020. This is what many a Trump supporter has maintained the Jan. 6 Committee has always been about – destroying the political future of a former president. But can House Democrats use the events that transpired on Jan. 6, 2021, as a cudgel to bar Trump from ever again holding elected office?
With less than 20 days until Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives – and, with it, the Jan. 6 Committee – the frantic last efforts to kill Trump’s political aspirations once and for all are in full swing.
Desperate to Stop Donald Trump
The J6 committee, which has been trying to weave a story of incitement to insurrection by the 45th president, is preparing to vote on criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, according to a Politico report. Three potential charges are being cited: “18 U.S.C. 2383, insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), obstruction of an official proceeding; and 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States government.”
If banishing Trump from public political life was the goal, the DOJ, should it decide to prosecute on one or all of those counts, would be ensuring that Trump would continue to suck all the oxygen out of the room right up until the 2024 election and perhaps beyond. Moreover, if any conviction was less than airtight, an appeal all the way to the Supreme Court would almost certainly be in the cards.
Perhaps this is precisely why House Democrats have another gambit in the works. On Dec. 15, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced legislation that would prevent Trump from holding federal office under the 14th Amendment. Section 3 of that amendment states:
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
There is an allowance for overturning this prohibition by a vote of a two-thirds majority in each House (in both chambers of Congress). That is largely beside the point, though. Cicilline claims that Trump “very clearly” engaged in the so-called insurrection of Jan. 6. Again, if this were true, wouldn’t Democrats have wrapped all this up in a nice neat package and put it under the Christmas tree last year?
The committee has never established that Trump was directly responsible for the relatively small amount of unrest that occurred that fateful day on Capitol Hill. The vast majority of the 70 or 80,000 Trump supporters who converged on Washington did not engage in any acts of violence or vandalism and only a very small number entered the Capitol Building. Those that did were unarmed. They milled about and took some photographs and made off with a few souvenirs. Hardly an orchestrated attempt to overthrow the government.
Democrats, of course, don’t see it this way. They believe sacred ground was ignobly trespassed upon. But most Trump supporters maintain the Capitol complex could not be trespassed upon because it belongs to the people. It’s an argument that will likely survive this generation and beyond.
Creating an Assumption of Guilt
It appears Democrats are basing their accusations of “incitement” on nothing more than their chosen interpretation of Trump’s words and Twitter posts. However, even Twitter employees, when reviewing the former president’s tweets after Jan. 6, 2021 looking for violations that would justify banning him from the platform, concluded that he had not incited insurrection or violence. The recently released “Twitter Files” revealed the doubt Twitter moderators had about accusing Trump of encouraging unrest.
“I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement,” one staffer wrote in reference to one of the former president’s tweets. “It’s pretty clear he’s saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorists (we can call them that, right?) from [Jan. 6].” Another employee chimed in with, “Don’t see the incitement angle here.” Astoundingly, staffers at the social media platform later determined that using the term “American Patriots” may have been an infringement of Twitter’s “Glorification of Violence” policy, had Trump been referring to Jan. 6 rioters in that manner. Of course, such an interpretation would hardly stand up in court.
Twitter policy official Anika Navaroli wrote, “I also am not seeing clear or coded incitement in the DJT tweet.” She added her intention to report that “our team has assessed and found no viols [violations] for the DJT [tweet],” and later clarified that “Safety has assessed the DJT Tweet above and determined that there is no violation of our policies at this time.”
Suppose, for a moment, the Democrats manage, in what little time they have left, to get this legislation through both the House and the Senate – assuming every Democrat votes for it, which is perhaps not a stretch. What then? Joe Biden, the man who has often been so dismissive of Trump and claims he could defeat him again in a rematch of 2020, would have to sign it. What are the optics for him?
First, it would be tantamount to an admission that he does indeed fear running against Trump in 2024. In fact, Biden has already told his inner circle that he wants Trump prosecuted, according to a 2021 New York Times article, so his bravado rings hollow. Second, he would be disqualifying the man he beat in a highly disputed election and who might very well be his 2024 opponent. How does that make him look? Weak? Afraid? Vindictive? So much for his legacy as a statesman.
As the 117th Congress begins to wrap things up over the next couple of weeks, one thing seems clear: If the Democrats were to succeed, via legislation or prosecution, in preventing Trump from running again for President, it will signal their desperation and abject fear of a Trump revival. Worse still, the polarization so openly fostered by Democrats in the Joe Biden era would likely become permanent and irreversible.
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