Convict Donald Trump, senators

The U.S. Capitol is seen through a fence with barbed wire during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The U.S. Capitol is seen through a fence with barbed wire during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Jose Luis Magana / Jose Luis Magana/AP


House managers more than make their case against former President Donald Trump.


Will Senate Republicans vote to convict as the evidence demands, or betray the country?


If you light a match in an otherwise empty room, it will eventually go out. If you light it in a room full of gasoline, you’ll get an explosion. And if you poured the gasoline yourself, that’s an act of arson.

Swap incendiary rhetoric for gasoline and insurrection for arson, and that’s essentially what the impeachment trial of Donald Trump is about.

Mr. Trump spent months fueling a volatile situation by relentlessly promulgating the lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from him.

He assembled thousands of supporters in Washington, D.C., for a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6.

And then he lit the match. He told his supporters, among them violent extremists who had been chatting for weeks on the internet about their intentions, that they must stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. He even told them the president of the United States would be right there with them.

He poured the gas. He lit the match. That he didn’t say, “Go stage an insurrection,” in no way mitigates his fomenting of the ensuing violence.

The question now is whether enough Senate Republicans will put their partisan loyalties aside and, yes, quite possibly put their political futures on the line, and affirm Mr. Trump’s unquestionable guilt and bar him from ever holding office again. To do otherwise would be to give aid and comfort to the leader of an attempted coup, an act of disloyalty so abhorrent, so dangerous to our republic, that only one word expresses its gravity: treason.

Over the course of three days this past week, House impeachment managers laid out a devastating case against Mr. Trump, drawing a bright line from his months of incendiary, untruthful rhetoric — both before and after the election — to the deadly riot that claimed the lives of five people, including two police officers, and injured 140 law enforcement personnel.

They showed the clear signs of violence brewing on social media and websites frequented by violent militia members, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. They showed how, with his legal avenues exhausted after more than 60 courts rejected a series of frivolous lawsuits, the president turned to illegal means, trying to strong arm Georgia officials to change the results.

And as if all that were not incriminating enough, the House managers showed how Mr. Trump stood by for hours in the White House as the nation and the world watched on live television as his loyalists overran barricades, attacked police, broke windows and rampaged through the Capitol as lawmakers, staffers, family members and his own vice president scrambled for their lives. He watched the insurrection erupt like an arsonist watching a fire burn.

And when Mr. Trump finally did communicate publicly amid the chaos, it was to attack Vice President Mike Pence — even as the mob was chanting, threats to hang him. It was only much later that he tweeted calls for people to be peaceful. In a video released while the rampage was still going on, he praised the demonstrators, even declared his love for them, and repeated the big lie of the stolen election that had enraged them, then belatedly told them to go home in peace. That evening, he tweeted an inspiration to supporters: “Remember this day forever!”

His defense?

He has a right to free speech.

He wasn’t responsible for the mob he assembled, inflamed and sicced on the Capitol.

He has said he stands for law and order, so he couldn’t possibly do something contrary to that.

He called for peace — eventually.

It’s all just Democrats hating him.

Oh, and other politicians have used violent language and imagery, too. Not to defend it, but that argument ignores, of course, the critical context: Other politicians didn’t precipitate an insurrection by launching a concerted campaign of lies, as the president did — which everyone could see was rousing radicalized right-wing fringe groups to plan violent action.

And why? We don’t have to guess at Mr. Trump’s motive. It’s as apparent as it can be. He set out to accomplish the one thing all autocrats crave: to hold power. And by his own actions he showed he was willing to do it illegitimately. Mr. Trump wanted to undo an election that was widely acknowledged by states and election officials on both sides of the aisle, and even within his administration, to be secure and fair. The president’s refusal to accept the results was not some harmless exercise of free speech. He precipitated a coup attempt that he then took no steps for hours to stop. He put lives at risk, and indeed five people died for his wanton ambition. He not only betrayed his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, he attacked the Constitution. He committed treason.

Two hundred and forty-five years after this nation’s founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to this nation, senators have to decide where their loyalty lies — to that nation, or to a demagogue and their own political popularity.

No senator who gave this evidence a fair hearing could come away with a verdict of not guilty. To let Mr. Trump get away with this would invite him to run again and do whatever he wishes in his quest for power. It would tell his most radical followers that senators are allies in their violent cause, their condemnations of violence mere obligatory tut-tutting for the cameras. It would pave the way for the next demagogue — perhaps one with a bigger, better armed and organized mob — to try to succeed where Mr. Trump and his mob failed.

In short, to acquit Mr. Trump would put our nation in new peril.

It would be treason.