With apologies to Raiders’ former punter Shane Lechler, that’s what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did. He kicked a world-class punt.
He punted to President Biden, or more accurately, President Biden’s Justice Department for any prosecution of former President Donald Trump. That’s because, according to McConnell, the twice-impeached former President is no longer President, and so, in the Minority Leader’s judgment, he cannot be impeached, let alone convicted. That a preponderance of prominent legal authorities, including some of the most well-respected conservative jurists in the nation, disagree matters not. Like all great punters, McConnell simply wanted to get the ball as far away as possible. And so, he punted.
But before he punted, he delivered a blistering attack against the former President. Ignoring former President Trump’s tortured legal defense, McConnell made it clear that the rioters had been “fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth…because he was angry he’d lost an election.… Former President Trump’s actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful (sic) dereliction of duty,” added McConnell. “Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he declared. And to address these high crimes, well, he said, that’s up to others to prosecute.
Ironically, and really, you can’t make this stuff up, the President’s lead lawyer, Michael van der Veen, had himself sued the former President accusing him of making repeated claims that mail voting is ripe with fraud” despite having “no evidence in support of these claims.” Yes, you read that correctly. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last year that Van der Veen sued Trump, the U.S. Postal Service, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on behalf of an independent client. Aiming for Trump’s moves to delegitimize the election system, the lawsuit stated: “These actions…arise in an environment subject to repeated claims by President Donald J. Trump that voting by mail is ripe with fraud, despite having no evidence in support of these claims.
Van der Veen, the article says, circulated an email to Pennsylvania voters arguing that state Republicans were “running a campaign to unfairly and illegally intimidate voters.” Another email of van der Veen’s, according to the Inquirer, emphasized Trump’s corrosive influence on the integrity of the election system. “Donald Trump doesn’t want you to be able to vote,” he claimed, “It’s time to stand up for what’s right.”
At least Minority Leader McConnell put to rest the delusional protestations of former President Trump. McConnell’s blistering attack shattered Trump’s wild assertion that “…People who analyzed…and looked at my (pre-riot) speech…everybody agreed it was totally appropriate.”
It is a close call whether the former President is merely deceitful or seriously delusional, but there’s a strong case for delusional. He may really believe he won the election and, but for the totally undetectable widespread fraud, and the apparent greatest election hoax in American history, of which none of the sixty-one courts nor his own Justice Department, nor his Department of Homeland Security, nor any of the fifty state election officials could find any evidence, he would still be President.
And those rioters who marauded through the capitol, calling the capitol police traitors, pummeling them, and searching for members of Congress to pummel and Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi to kill, well, he didn’t have anything to do with that. Never mind that he watched the spectacle for 1½ hours before he had anything to say, and then he didn’t say to stop and leave the capital. Instead, he said not to be violent while they did whatever he sent them to do.
Finally, when he did ask them to leave, he said, “We love you, and you’re very special.” Only much later did he stop loving them or stop thinking they were very special when he announced, “…those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country…to those who broke the law, you will pay.” Well, actually, every one of them who stepped foot into the capitol that day broke the law. Every one of them. Every one of them, now thrown under the bus by the President who, by the end of that awful day, didn’t think they were so special anymore.
So, what was going on?
Could it have ever been proven that the former President incited the mob and intended the riot? Well, who were people to believe, their own eyes or the President’s hosanna chorus, and impeachment lawyers? The former President made a mockery of his oath of office. Here’s the relevant question: Did the President of the United States, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That is all the Constitution requires of him.
If one chose to, they could dismiss any notion that the former President’s rally was inciteful. The more relevant question, however, really is whether or not the former President violated his oath of office.
Did he? When he repeatedly insisted that former Vice President Mike Pence refuse to open and count the ballots, he was publicly demanding that the Vice President refuse to do what the Constitution unambiguously states is his only responsibility concerning the ballot certifications forwarded to him by the fifty state governors. If former Vice President Pence refused to perform that constitutionally mandated task, the responsibility would simply have fallen to senate president pro tempore Chuck Grassley. What in the world was Trump thinking?
Wall Street Journal Republican columnist Peggy Noonan, today, summed up the task before the senators quite well, “A vote to Acquit Trump is a Vote for a Lie.” And so it was.