I am not going to apologize for today’s political post, so please, move along if you aren’t interested in reading about or discussing whatever the hell that was last Wednesday. The Church is apparently not interested in discussing it because the far more important story of renovating a plaza takes precedent. Fine. It’s their web page. They can talk about window dressing while their “finest sons” attack democracy because they believe the completely transparent lies of a megalomaniac leader who is incapable of accepting and admitting he lost an election.
Dave already took a look yesterday at the peaceful succession problem, and there is definitely some overlap with my post today. I wanted to review the options Congress had in the wake of this violent attack by domestic terrorists, and the moral implications of that. There are two basic premises we should consider: 1) nearly everyone views their own actions as morally right, and 2) we are all subject to self-serving rationalization.
As members of Congress huddled behind parapets like frightened children in a school shooting, and an angry mob hunted them with zip ties, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!,” two House Representatives hiding in an office began drafting a second set of impeachment papers. Even so, impeachment was nobody’s first choice, provided they lived to see the end of the day. There have been three different resolutions that were discussed, at least by pundits, but reportedly by high ranking legislators.
Resignation. The first and best option that was being floated was the possibility that Trump would voluntarily resign his position before January 20th when his presidency ends anyway. It’s still a possibility he could do this, however remote. My own opinion is that he would never do this because it would be akin (in his mind) to admitting defeat or wrongdoing, two things he is completely allergic to doing. The biggest benefit to him if he did this is that, while he has openly discussed self-pardon, no one has ever attempted it, and it may not be honored in court. If Pence were made President between now and January 20th, it would be in Pence’s power to grant Trump a pardon. As my husband pointed out, it would also let Trump spit in Biden’s eye by rendering any merch he had already ordered with “46” on it completely invalid. I’m not convinced Biden would really care about that, but it’s the type of thing that would piss Trump off if it happened to him.
Odds of him resigning? I would say slim to none given Trump’s obsession with winning, and I further hope that history will deride that choice because of the utter crap-ton of legal problems I foresee him having for his actions. This solution would have the added benefit of allowing Senate Republicans to avoid the soul-searching required to actually hold him accountable, unless a post-presidency impeachment is held to prevent him from holding federal office again. Even that hasn’t been done before, but it seems possible or even likely that it could occur (see below).
On the moral rectitude / self-serving rationalization scale, this one should be a homerun for Trump, but his pathology makes it unlikely, and there is literally no one who can influence him to do something he does not want to do, as the entire GOP and world has discovered over the last four years.
25th Amendment. On Wednesday, before Ted Lieu had even had time to clean up all the garbage left behind by the mob, there was discussion about invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. The 25th amendment hasn’t really been used in this way before. It’s usually a rote process when a President has to undergo a medical procedure that temporarily incapacitates him (e.g. a colonoscopy), and in those cases, it is done in accordance with the President’s will, not against it. They didn’t even use the 25th amendment when Reagan was shot by Jodie Foster’s would-be boyfriend, although the papers were drawn up and ready just in case.
To invoke the 25th amendment, Pence would have to ask his wife Karen for the key to the tiny, decorative jewelry box where she keeps his balls, so I don’t see that as particularly likely, and indeed, Pence has pretty quickly indicated his disdain for this option. Another barrier is that several members of the President’s Cabinet resigned their positions in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection. Some claimed they did so for moral reasons, although it conveniently prevented them from having to take a stand if Karen Pence did locate the aforementioned key. At this point, there’s a question whether there are even enough Cabinet members left to make up the 8 supporting votes Pence would need to invoke the 25th amendment.
From a moral rectitude standpoint, this one would allow the GOP to divorce itself from the reprehensible actions of Trump, but it also gives him cover by claiming he is mentally incapacitated. Trump will never allow himself to be deemed unfit, especially after being so proud of identifying a picture of an elephant on a mental acuity test, so this one doesn’t serve him, and nobody in the Cabinet, at least of those who are left, has the will to make it happen. The more time passes, the easier it is for them to rationalize that he, like the abusive husband, feels sorry it went this far (although he won’t apologize), has learned his lesson (while not admitting wrongdoing), and won’t do it again (while not committing to this).
Both these options are still on the table until January 20th, so you never know. Maybe the threat of them will help to keep this ungovernable President from starting World War III so he can declare martial law and attempt another coup.
The option that is currently being pursued is one Trump knows all too well.
Impeachment. While it’s nearly certain that Trump will be impeached again by House Democrats and Mitt Romney, there are still several possible outcomes and unknown factors. My own opinion is that the most likely is that he’ll be impeached by the House but fail to get enough votes from the Republican Senate to impeach. A few Republican Senators have already said they will vote to impeach, but so far, there haven’t been the requisite 17 that would be needed, and the more time elapses, the more Republicans will rationalize away the actions of January 6th. Several Republicans had the temerity to double down on the lies that caused the insurrection in the first place, and others have called for “unity” without accountability first, claiming that the nation needs to heal while neatly avoiding their own complicity.
With so little time left, there’s also some question about when the Senate will hear the impeachment articles. McConnell seems to be maneuvering to foist this problem onto a Biden presidency, dragging his feet until Trump is no longer in office, potentially as a way to screen Republicans from blame and to further hamper a successful transition. Removing Trump from office is only one reason to impeach him, though. There are several more reasons:
- To portray to the world that the US President is not a dictator, above the law. Our standing in the world is perilous at best right now, drawing well-deserved rancor from nations we’ve censured for their own anti-democratic leaders.
- To eliminate creating a dangerous precedent in which a future autocratic leader could use mob rule to attack other branches of government.
- To honor the memory of the police officers killed and injured by the mob Trump incited to storm the Capitol. At least the ones who weren’t taking selfies with the mob and showing them where to go in the building, as if they were on a tour.
- To prevent Trump from ever holding federal office again and from profiting from his time in office.
The last reason is the one that would be best for everyone (except Trump) and would give ambitious Republicans (craven ones like Hawley and Cruz) a path to run for POTUS in 2024 without having to beat Trump. However, it’s not all upside for these Senators: 1) it would not prevent Trump’s adult children from running for office, 2) Trump and his children have vowed to primary against any Republicans who are disloyal to them, and 3) there are some Republican Senators who believe that they will lose their voting base if they are seen to be against Trump.
This perception is not entirely unrealistic, unfortunately. As many as 20% of Republicans still openly support the insurrection (which should horrify everyone) and believe the deception that the election was stolen. In other words, if you are a Republican lawmaker whose voters literally don’t care if you are hunted and killed while performing the duties of your job, you have a real self-serving conundrum on your hands. Do you remain the wind beneath the wings of the person who tried to have you kidnapped and killed, which also means your own ambitions can’t be realized because you’ll have to continue to carry water for him ad infinitum, or do you bar him from holding office in the future, and risk losing voters? That’s a moral conundrum that very few Republicans seem to have the moral fiber and gravitas to withstand.
In the meantime, we’ve got another 8 days to endure. Some GOP lawmakers are bearing the heaviest consequences of all, the loss of Corporate donors. Even Walmart (among many other companies) is refusing to donate to PACs that benefit the 147 seditious members of Congress who collaborated with Trump to challenge votes in order to overthrow the election results. Maybe this will impact their conscience in an impeachment trial. When moral will is lacking, self-preservation sometimes steps in. That’s true in politics, in life, and even in the Church.
- Why do you think so many Mormons were involved in this insurrection? Will the Church confront the rising problems of white supremacy, conspiracy theories and Christian nationalism or do they not see it as a problem?
- If you were a Republican lawmaker, what would you do if presented with impeachment papers? How would you justify your stance to yourself and your constituents?
- Do you see anyone acting from moral conviction here or just from self-serving rationalization?
- What else do you predict will happen in this final week of Trump’s presidency?
 Coup. It was a failed coup attempt.
 Yep, there were several very visible Mormons who took an active part in storming the Capitol last week. Some were wearing BYU shirts. One even had a fake Title of Liberty prop flag he waved around like a Captain Moroni who was on the side of the King Men instead of the Free Men. Maybe that’s the same problem as the parable of the wheat and tares; everyone thinks they are the wheat and their opponents are the tares.