By force and vitriol III
Thanks to the brilliance of our founders, each of our three branches of government has been expressly designed to keep the other two in check: the legislature makes laws but cannot enforce them, the executive enforces our laws but cannot make them, and the judiciary decides disputes. The Federalist Papers went even further, advising each of the three branches to jealously guard their authority to prevent unbridled power from turning into full-blown corruption.
In the weeks leading up to the January 6 coup attempt, Trump’s executive branch had become increasingly corrupt, infiltrated by people so lawless they were willing to defy our Constitution to keep him in power. Fortunately, Vice President Pence acted heroically and twice thwarted their attempted coup. The first was when he refused to assert unilateral authority over the Electoral College votes, and the second was on January 6 when he refused to leave the Capitol until the count was complete.
On that day, and just 10 minutes after Mike Pence was removed from the Senate chambers by his security detail, Trump maliciously tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the guts to do what should be done to protect our country!” Given Given that prompt, the resulting chants of “Hang Mike Pence” shouldn’t have been surprising. We now know that Pence’s security detail put him in an underground garage, where the Secret Service planned to move him to a safer location. But when Pence refused to go, his national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, warned Trump’s Secret Service: “Leave him where he is. He has a job to do. I know you too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you get the chance.”
And while Trump’s executive branch collapsed under the weight of the failed coup, Republicans in the legislature blocked efforts to hold Trump accountable. Fearing losing Trump’s base, they refused to rebuke him, even chiding members who acknowledged Trump’s anti-American behavior. In fact, only 10 GOP members in the House of Representatives and seven in the Senate joined Democrats in impeaching Trump for his “instigating insurrection” in connection with the January 6 attack on our Capitol.
But after the impeachment failed, the House Select Committee was set up to conduct a thorough investigation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to the panel, along with seven of their fellow Democrats. With the televised hearings set to begin in June, this group of heroic House members will not allow the Capitol riots and Trump’s attempted coup to disappear into history.
A year ago, when two of our three branches of government were strained to the breaking point, the judiciary was left to exercise the necessary oversight. And luckily they did. Eighty-six state and federal judges, 38 of whom were Republican-appointed, dismissed election-related lawsuits filed by Trump or his supporters. However, those court results haven’t stopped Republican lawmakers from passing legislation that would allow them to take control of county-level ballot counting. These new “Heads-I-Win, Tails-You-Lose” voting laws already passed in numerous red states are very dangerous. In a nation so divided, they virtually guarantee that future elections will be contested by one side or the other. And tragically, not all disputes will be peaceful.
For decades, local poll workers and county election officials collected, processed, and tallied ballots with impartial professionalism, but it wasn’t until 2020 that they did so in the face of death threats. It is startlingly ironic that his own chief of staff registered to vote in three different states simultaneously, even though their heroic efforts were undermined by Trump’s false claims.
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To date, the January 6 riot has resulted in the Justice Department charging nearly 800 rioters with crimes and about half being sentenced to prison terms. Bringing together conspiracy theorists, armed extremists and violent militias, the Stop the Steal rally was clearly intended to be much more than a peaceful protest. And it is also clear that so far none of the ringleaders have been held accountable. Donald Trump continues to take his meals in a luxurious Mara Lago dining room, while dozens of his supporters now eat in the prison’s chow halls. This injustice should concern us all.
Because truth and justice still matter, please join me in watching the House Select Committee hearings when they begin in June.
— Community columnist Lynn Smith is a retired wealth management executive living in Holland. Contact them at [email protected].