Trump’s Impeachment Trial Exceedingly Simple: No Excuse Not to Convict

An open-and-shut case in which Senate Republicans are as much on trial as Trump

By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedInTwitter @bfry1981YouTubeFacebook)  February 9, 2021

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

SILVER SPRING—I am being wildly uncharacteristically simple here, but the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Capitol insurrection incited by Trump can be distilled to a very few simply points that are not debatable and are crystal clear.


Even before the 2016 election, Trump was laying the groundwork to delegitimize any election result that did not have him as the winner.  Such talking points and an emphasis on nonexistent mass voter fraud were constant themes from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and throughout his presidency until its violent end, with plenty of direct quotes from Trump and his closest allies well-chronicled by others.  Even during the 2016 campaign, Roger Stone—one of his closest friends, confidantes, and surrogates—had threatened violence against delegates if they did not stick with Trump during the Republican National Convention (Trump himself threatened riots) and said that there would be “a bloodbath…if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in;” Stone threatened an “insurrection” back in 2017 should Trump be impeached; and Trump has since fully pardoned Stone for his conviction by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and lying to Congress, pardoned him for him efforts to cover for and protect Trump during the Russia investigations, Trump officially condoning and excusing the behavior of Stone with his pardon.  Stone is also associated with several of the groups deeply involved in the insurrection, including the Proud Boys, whom Trump told during the first presidential debate with Joe Biden to “stand back and stand by” (for what?  We now know).   So it was not just recent months, but years and especially the past year in which Trump and his allies (many besides Stone) laid the groundwork for his attempt to overturn the election and to spread a historic “big lie” to radicalize his supporters to be ready and motivated to act on his behalf if he lost.  The “bloodbath” predicted by Stone was only ever so narrowly avoided on January 6, 2021.


Going back to the 2016 campaign, Trump has a long history of claiming the “tough people”—within whom he includes bikers, the military, “Second Amendment people,” and police—would stand up for him and use violence if necessary to ensure he won and/or stayed in the presidency.  Many police did support him, and from what we know, it seems he had more than a few supporters working as Capitol Police on the day of the Capitol insurrection who aided and abetted the insurrection, and even more who did not seriously try to stop it.  This all fits well into the context of Trump’s history of inciting violence.  He essentially was telling everyone “I have a violent mob I can activate if you do me wrong,” and we saw what he was saving it up for.


In this context, especially when two days earlier, Trump was in Georgia railing about how the election was stolen from him one day before the Senate runoff elections there, it all fits neatly together: just watch or read his rambling speech at the “March to Save America” rally organized by his people in front of the White House to his mob on January 6. It is clear, crystal clear, what he is saying and doing: he is calling on his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol in the middle of Congress’s and Vice President Pence’s official tallying of the Electoral College majority of votes for Biden over Trump (306-232) to interfere and overturn this process, to enact a preventive coup to stop the legitimate transition of power, and to use intimidation and force if necessary, even against his own vice presidentTrump was even happy about the storming of the Capitol and called a Senator hiding from the mob to pressure him on trying to overturn the election results.  Security was deliberately light by design of the Trump Administration and reinforcements were willfully prevented from being sent when they were most needed.  This is not that difficult to figure out.


Trump was impeached on January 13 while still in office a week after his culminating effort to incite the January 6 Capitol insurrection and a full week before his term of office was then set to expire on January 20. Even though Republican leadership prevented the Senate from convening in time to hold Trump’s impeachment trial before Trump’s presidency ended, now most Republicans in Congress absurdly claim because Trump in no longer president, his trial is unconstitutional, an argument that is disingenuous, against the intention of the Founders, and a vile assault on historical precedent, the Constitution, and basic logic.  Rather than take my word for it, read a letter penned by over 140 constitutional lawyers or another penned by over 170 legal scholars, both representing a wide ideological variety of views—including many conservatives and Republicans—calling out the hollowness of the “frivolous” idea that the current Senate impeachment trial of Trump is unconstitutional, and while this view is not universal in this field, there very much seems to be a robust majority of experts supporting this current trial’s constitutionality.


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Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol-AFP via Getty Images


No links needed here: his trial can be really simple, so simple, in fact, it could easily have been conducted in the final week of Trump’s presidency before Biden took office, avoiding the sham argument Republicans are making now.  Let us just review what is at stake here:

  1. Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection
  2. Trump gave a speech at a rally titled “March to Save America” inspired by Trump’s public pressure campaign to overturn the election results
  3. Trump riled up, then told and incited his tens of thousands of assembled supporters to march on the Capitol where Congress and the Vice President were carrying out their constitutional duty to tally the Electoral College votes of the 2020 election, which Biden clearly won
  4. Trump’s mob went to the capitol and did just that, violently and illegally
  5. Trump was pleased by the storming of the Capitol, continued to tweet his inciting lies during the insurrection, praised the insurrectionists, and used their attack to pressure lawmakers and Pence to support his insurrection’s aims
  6. All of the jurors in Trump’s trial—our sitting U.S. senators—were literally witnesses to what happened: their lives were in danger and they had to be evacuated for their safety away from a Trump-dispatched mob, of which more than a few people were determined to kill those not caving into Trump’s illegal, unconstitutional demands, so evidence is essentially unnecessary because all the senators lived through it and the vote to confirm Trump incited the insurrection is simply a vote to confirm their own memory and whether or not they think a sitting president inciting violent insurrection to overturn an election result in which he lost is an impeachable offense, not in any real way substantively a vote on “constitutionality”
  7. This is not a question of any particular law or legal threshold, though those have been crossed and add to a strong argument; rather, it is a political, not a legal, decision authorized by the constitution to be made by the Senate as to whether Trump’s incitement of violent insurrection is, in the view of sitting senators, an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and the strongest condemnation by the body politic and history, or whether (and which) sitting senators are basically fine with a president inciting violent insurrection against themselves and their own Senate and Congress
  8. Most Senate Republicans planning to vote to acquit Trump are pure cowards and unfit for office, hiding behind ludicrous constitutional grounds to avoid having to vote on the clear merits of whether or not Trump incited insurrection because they lived through it and nearly all must know that this is exactly is what happened

It is as simple as this: did the senators see, hear, and live through what this nation and they lived through on January 6 (an obvious 100% yes for all of them), and will they adhere to the most basic standards of moral and ethical conduct and conclude that (DUH!) inciting violent insurrection is an impeachable offense warranting removal and conviction by the Senate, or, will they place political party, personal convenience, and the pursuit of power above the republic, the Constitution, and any sense of moral or ethical conduct?

Trump is a mortal threat to our republic, and to set a proper precedent, he must be convicted in this Senate trial and barred from ever holding any federal office ever again, and there is historic bipartisan support for this from Republicans: Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and the third-highest ranking House Republican, noted that “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” voting with an unprecedented ten of her fellow House Republicans to impeach Trump; trial juror Sen. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, exclaimed that “I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense.  If not, what is?”

If Trump is not convicted, would-be tyrants will be emboldened by Senate Republicans to think that trying to overthrow the system through incitement and insurrection is not a big deal, not even close to enough of a big deal to warrant removal from office.  These tyrants will know that if they try at the end of their presidency to overthrow a system installing a rival to succeed them, a precedent will have been established, that, as long as they and their political allies wait out the clock, they can just leave office with dignity even if their insurrections fail, with full honors and the ability to hold federal office again, even maybe the presidency.  The Senate, especially Senate Republicans and the Republican Party, are on trial here as much as Trump himself, and will be condoning violent insurrection if they do not vote to convict.

That is all I have to say, so obvious is this open-and-shut case.

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Congressional staffers barricade themselves after Trump supporters stormed inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC-AFP via Getty Images

Also see Brian’s related Jerusalem Report article, Trump Capitol insurrection: The history behind the violence, his related article here, Trump Impeachment Trial Shockingly Makes Shocking Insurrection Dramatically More Shocking, his related interview on The Jist Chatter Podcast, and his eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here), and be sure to check out my podcast interview with Georgia election officials Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, both cited in Trump’s second Senate trial!

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