The bipartisan congressional commission investigating the January 6 coup attempt has found strong evidence that Donald Trump is a criminal. As the hearings reveal, the former president illegally plotted to stay in office after the American people voted to boot him out.
Now he must be indicted.
Trump’s criminality is proven not by the words of his enemies, but by the sworn testimony of Republicans he himself appointed or hired — including his own officials and staff, his attorney general William Barr, and Republican election lawyers and campaign personnel.
The evidence indicates Trump committed three major felonies.
First, he corruptly tried to obstruct a joint session of Congress.
The Twelfth Amendment requires a joint session to count the votes and certify the election of the president. When Trump tried to get Vice President Mike Pence to illegally throw out some states’ electoral votes, he was attempting to obstruct the proceedings.
Trump’s purpose was corrupt. He had no honest basis for thinking the election was stolen, because every fraud claim had already been investigated and rejected by his own supporters — including Barr, White House staff, and GOP election officials in Georgia, Arizona, and other states.
At least 86 judges, including Trump appointees, rejected every one of his election challenges.
Second, Trump incited a riot. He gave an inflammatory speech urging extremists to “show strength and fight like hell” and unleashed his horde on the Capitol, where they threatened to kill or hold hostage those Trump deemed enemies.
Trump’s gang understood his speech as “presidential orders,” as one rioter told prosecutors.
Even after the mayhem, Trump expressed gratitude to his mob. “I know your pain,” he told those who had brutalized the Capitol police and wanted to kill Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. “We love you. You’re very special.”
Third, Trump attempted election fraud. In a recorded call, Trump demanded Georgia’s secretary of state generate thousands of non-existent pro-Trump ballots. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told him.
These are serious crimes — and the peril is growing.
Although Republican leaders McConnell and McCarthy both condemned Trump’s baseless claims, most House Republicans ignored the facts and voted against certifying Biden’s victory.
By now, two-thirds of rank-and-file Republicans believe Trump’s big lie, and many Republicans running for office proclaim they wouldn’t have certified Biden’s victories.
If Trump invents new phony “fraud” claims in 2024, these Republicans could overturn the result if someone else wins. Some of them also want to let gerrymandered state legislatures grab the power to award a state’s electoral votes away from voters.
Today’s GOP balks at a peaceful transfer of when they lose, risking more political violence. The big lie prompted a flood of violent threats against ordinary election workers and their families, as the January 6 committee heard. Simply counting votes is “treason” to Trump.
Thirty percent of Republicans now tell pollsters they approve of using violence. A quarter consider the attack on the Capitol justified. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee contends the insurrectionists are being “persecuted” for “legitimate political discourse.”
Will Trump finally be indicted?
The answer rests with Attorney General Merrick Garland, who swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies.” But Garland has been reluctant to confront Trump.
Garland needs to follow the evidence and honor his oath. If the chief insurrectionist is never charged, the message is plain: presidents are above the law and political violence is acceptable in America.
If the Constitution is to prevail — and if we are to avoid violence — Trump cannot enjoy impunity. The rule of law must be brought to bear and he must be indicted and tried.
Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.