The Senate held its first hearing on Tuesday that looked into the January Capitol riot. The biggest takeaway from the testimony was a miscommunication among Capitol Hill police that left an intelligence report suggesting violence was being planned against the seat of government ignored. But we learned something else as well. We learned it is absurd to claim, as Democrats and some Republicans have, that Donald Trump incited the riot.
The key testimony came from former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, who described in some detail what the authorities expected from the rally and march on Jan. 6. “The intelligence was not that there would be a coordinated assault on the Capitol, nor was that contemplated in any of the inter-agency discussions that I attended in the days before the attack,” Irving said.
This runs completely counter to the Democratic House Impeachment Managers claims that Trump should have somehow known the attack was coming and is therefore guilty of inciting it. In fact, nobody saw it coming. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified that he and other officials anticipated that Jan. 6 would resemble the MAGA rallies in November and December. That is to say, they thought scuffling between extreme groups on both sides could occur, but they did not anticipate anything remotely like the riot that took place.
In January, then-President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in mere hours — no witnesses, no testimony, no evidence. It was a needless knee-jerk reaction meant mainly to embarrass and punish the outgoing president. Likewise, the trial in the Senate, which took less than a week, offered no substantial evidence tying Trump to the actions of the rioters. By that time, Trump was already out of office, so why was the trial rushed? Why did it lack any real substance? We found out why on Tuesday.
The answer, of course, is that Trump did not in any way, shape, or form incite the riot. The reason the Democrats offered no evidence that he did is that there is no evidence that he did. After Tuesday’s hearing, that fact could not be clearer. If the law enforcement officials tasked with protecting the Capitol did not anticipate the riot, how on earth could Trump have anticipated it? And if Trump could not anticipate it, how could he possibly have incited it?
The clear and obvious point is that Trump did not incite the riot. The impeachment, it turns out, was nothing more than a malicious political hit job. Perhaps this should have been expected from Democrats in Congress, but as we learn more about the events of Jan. 6, the mendacious attacks on Trump from Republicans come into sharper focus.
Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney who voted to impeach in the House and those like Sen. Mitt Romney who voted to convict in the Senate simply have no leg to stand on. Neither does Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, though he voted to acquit, took the opportunity to slam Trump’s actions on the Senate floor. He even hinted at possible criminal exposure for Trump. Tuesday’s testimony plainly showed that any such effort would be laughable.
The bottom line is that in the impeachment and trial of Trump, facts took a backseat. Democrats and their erstwhile allies in the GOP caucus did nothing more than take a cynical shot at Trump for purely political reasons. No fair-minded person could watch the Senate hearing this week and possibly believe that Trump had incited the riot.
This is why the impeachment and trial should have had testimony, witnesses, evidence — anything beyond the days of emotional blustering that the country was put through. We now know that the reason the impeachment was rushed was that there was no basis for it beyond craven politics. McConnell and the rest of the rebellious GOP members owe Trump an apology — and not just Trump, also his voters.
If there is a bright side to all of this it is that Republican voters are not stupid. They saw through it, despite the lies and tears. They still overwhelmingly support Trump and they know he did not incite anything. And they will not forget the Republicans who played the Democrats’ game for their own political gain. Whether they eventually forgive them? Well, that remains to be seen.