(WASHINGTON)—After seeing the evidence presented in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, it’s abundantly clear that the Senate must convict Trump for inciting an insurrection.
At the Project On Government Oversight, we have a 40-year history of promoting government accountability. We believe a strong democracy relies on robust checks and balances that ensure leaders are held responsible for undemocratic acts. Our nation witnessed a grave abuse of power as the sitting president used his bully pulpit to spread lies and incite violence. If there’s ever a time for robust accountability, this is it.
The timeline of Trump’s actions laid out during the impeachment trial depicted a president willing to stop at nothing to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, culminating in rhetoric encouraging violence against a coequal branch of government.
In the months leading up to the election, Trump sowed distrust in the electoral process among his supporters, setting himself up to claim that the election was rigged if he lost. Even after the courts rejected numerous cases challenging the results, Trump continued to spread lies about election fraud and refused to concede.
Trump effectively invited his supporters to a January 6 “Stop the Steal” event, tweeting, “Be there, will be wild!” He also retweeted a message from a supporter saying that “The calvary [sic] is coming.” Then in his speech at the rally, Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell.” He told them, “We’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
Any doubt that Trump was comfortable with his supporters resorting to violence to try to stop Congress from certifying the election was erased when he failed to quickly urge the insurrectionists to stand down while they were attacking the U.S. Capitol building. Despite pleas from members of Congress, Trump waited half an hour after the rioters broke into the Capitol before he published a half-hearted tweet telling them to “stay peaceful.” It was a full two hours after the insurrectionists entered the Capitol, chanting phrases like “Hang Mike Pence,” before Trump issued a video telling his supporters to stand down; even then he told them, “We love you.”
The Senate cannot ignore this. A president tried to overturn a free and fair election, fomenting violence against Congress in an attempt to accomplish that goal. He threatened the peaceful transfer of power to a duly elected president—one of the very foundations of a healthy democracy. The many pleas from Republican elected officials and from Trump’s staunchest allies asking the president to intervene and call the mob off demonstrates that they knew he bore some culpability for the attack on the Capitol. Senators have a choice to make: Either send a strong message that Trump’s actions were reprehensible beyond redemption, or endorse the further erosion of our democratic values by letting him off the hook. It’s that simple.
We urge senators to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, and then move to bar him from ever running for federal office again.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.
We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.