Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, the state’s chief law enforcement officer and one of the nation’s most ardent defenders of the U.S. Constitution, had the best response to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday by supporters of defeated President Donald Trump and the Republicans who have adopted Trump’s anti-democratic agenda.
After the Trump mob stormed the Capitol, unleashing violence that would lead to five deaths (including that of a veteran Capitol Police officer), destruction and a brief interruption of the process of certifying the election of Joe Biden as the nation’s 46th president, Kaul said, “It’s difficult to believe what we’re seeing take place at the U.S. Capitol: a fascist riot incited by a lame-duck president desperately and illegitimately trying to cling to power based on absurd lies about the election that amount to voter fraud McCarthyism.”
“Those responsible must be held accountable for what appears to be a seditious conspiracy under federal law," Kaul said. “Once Congress has fulfilled its duty of certifying the results of the presidential election, it should immediately begin proceedings to remove the president from office. Every day he remains in office is a threat to the republic.”
True. True. True.
Donald Trump is a racist, a xenophobe and a foe of democracy who is prepared to use the power and prestige of the presidency of the United States to disrupt and destabilize the election process and the governing of the nation. He has disregarded his solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." He is a clear and present danger to the republic, as has been proven again and again.
Kaul is precisely right when he says that Trump has incited a fascist riot. To describe the president’s actions in any other way is to deny the reality of what we have all seen with our own eyes, and to miss the clear connection between Trump's approach and that of authoritarians throughout history.
As the chaos unfolded in Washington Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, declared, “A woman is dead! The U.S. Capitol is under siege. Peaceful transfer of power has been disrupted. Trump has incited this chaos and violence. The 25th Amendment must be invoked. If not, Congress must impeach and convict Trump. Thirteen days is far too long for Trump to remain in office.”
We shared Moore’s urgency, and we continue to embrace it.
Every avenue must be taken to disempower and remove a president who was rejected overwhelmingly by the voters on Nov. 3, and whose lawlessness since Election Day has torn the country apart.
If Vice President Pence and members of Trump's Cabinet had moved immediately to invoke the 25th Amendment, which empowers members of an administration to remove a dangerous president, that would have been an appropriate response to the crisis. But Pence has, as of this writing, chosen to avoid his leadership responsibility.
So Congress has chosen to step up to lead, with an article of impeachment — written by House Judiciary Committee members David Ciciline, D-Rhode Island; Ted Lieu, D-California; and Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland — to remove Trump from office for incitement of insurrection.
That is not the only reason to impeach Trump. But it is the right reason in this moment.
This article of impeachment merits bipartisan support, as did the articles of impeachment that were considered a little more than a year ago.
Moore and U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, voted to impeach Trump in 2019, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, voted to remove the president in February of 2020. At the same time, however, Republican members of the delegation — U.S. Reps. Bryan Steil and Mike Gallagher, former Rep. James Sensenbrenner, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson — fully supported Trump and facilitated his continued wrongdoing.
The question, now, after Trump has incited a riotous assault on the Capitol where they serve, is whether the current Republican delegation from Wisconsin — Steil, Gallagher, newly-elected Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Johnson — are prepared to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.
They cannot do so with self-serving statements distancing themselves from the president they have endorsed, campaigned with, defended and empowered over the past four years — as Gallagher, arguably the most cynical member of the delegation, has attempted to do in the past week. They can only do so by supporting full accountability.
There is nothing radical about impeaching Donald Trump. It is the proper and necessary response to a president who incites mob violence against not just Congress but the rule of law.
This is a moment for choosing between fascistic violence and American democracy. Wisconsin’s representatives in Congress must recognize the ongoing threat posed by the rioters who attacked the Capitol and the president who urges them on. There was never legitimate middle ground on the question of impeaching Donald Trump. Those who imagined that it existed a year ago were wildly wrong. If they choose to maintain the lie now, they are every bit as dangerous as Trump.
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