Republicans Who Refuse to Hold Trump Accountable for Insurrection Must Answer to History

Interview with John Bonifaz, co-founder and president of the group Free Speech For People, conducted by Scott Harris

The House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 on Jan. 13 to approve new articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Two hundred twenty-two Democrats were joined by 10 Republicans in sending a single article of impeachment against former President Trump, for incitement to insurrection. The impeachment trial that begins in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 9 will consider evidence of Trump’s culpability in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 that killed five people.

A motion challenging the constitutionality of the former president’s impeachment, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky failed to pass the Senate on Jan. 26, but won the votes of 45 Republicans. The outcome was significant in that Democrats need the votes of 17 Republicans to convict Donald Trump in the impeachment trial.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with John Bonifaz, co-founder and President of the group Free Speech For People, who discusses what’s at stake for accountability and the rule of law in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, this is a critical moment for our history and for our Constitution and our democracy. What’s at stake here really is whether or not a president who would incite an insurrection will be held accountable as the Constitution is laid out via the impeachment process — and beyond that, via federal criminal law and the execution and implementation of that. You know, the fact here is that this president leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection fomented this Big Lie that the election had been stolen — that it was fraudulent. No evidence whatsoever of that. Yet, he kept fomenting this lie and then of course, urged people to come to Washington for what he said would be “wild,” back in a December tweet. And then on the day of the insurrection, he said it at the very rally prior to the march to the Capitol, you know, they need to “fight like hell” and that he was going to march with them.

You know, they were going to go there to “Stop the Steal.” So all of this — leading up to the insurrection and then the day of the insurrection — all of this points to clear incitement by Donald Trump to have these people commit this violent, seditious act, this mob to come in threaten and engage in violence, threaten it on members of Congress. Five people dying in the process, including a police officer of the Capitol Hill police. These are the most serious charges that could be issued against a president or former president via the impeachment process. And what’s critical now is that the Senate has to do its job and hold a free and fair trial, which means hearing all the evidence. And then in our view — with Free Speech for People — need to convict and disqualify this individual from ever holding future federal office.

SCOTT HARRIS: It’s widely believed that getting 17 Republican senators to convict Donald Trump in an impeachment trial in the Senate is a steep climb. And I believe you need that two-thirds vote to convict him in order to get to the second part to disqualify Donald Trump from holding future political office, which is just a majority vote. You need the two-thirds conviction vote beforehand. Is that correct?

JOHN BONIFAZ: That is correct. Well, I do think that as the days go forward leading up to this trial, more is going to come out that could influence the 17 votes. I also think that the presentation that the House impeachment managers plan to make will likely be very dramatic. And we’ll demonstrate further how this former president incited this insurrection. And ultimately these senators are going to have to decide where they stand from a history standpoint. Are they going to go down in history as senators who look the other way when a former president was faced with accountability for the worst impeachment charges that could ever be leveled against a president or former president inciting an insurrection? Or are they going to do the right thing and stand on the right side of history and vote to convict?

We did face as, you know, Scott, the same question back when the House engaged in its first impeachment. But the Senate had the opportunity then to remove him and those senators who chose not to acquit him despite the overwhelming evidence from that impeachment trial, you know, they’re going to go down in history for having allowed the continued rule by Donald Trump in this country, which led to the incitement, the insurrection. So they are partly responsible for what ended up happening because they never convicted in the first place. And I don’t think some of these senators want to make that mistake again. But that being said, you know, the focus here needs to be on bringing forward the evidence to the American people and to the U.S. senators and ultimately, history will be the judge. If they decide they’re going to acquit this president in the face of this overwhelming evidence, history will be the judge of them.

For more information, visit Free Speech For People at freespeechforpeople.org.

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