In the past couple of weeks, Congress’ Select Committee has presented persuasive, unrebutted evidence that Donald J. Trump, the duly-elected 45th President, refused to abide by the will of the People. He knew, full well, that he had lost both the popular vote and the determinative Electoral College vote, by a substantial margin, and that there was absolutely no evidence of even slight irregularities — much less widespread fraud — in the conduct of the election. His own Justice Department and faithful Attorney General told him so, in no uncertain terms.
And yet, Trump refused to do as every other unsuccessful presidential candidate had done since the founding of our nation — he refused to peacefully transition power to the People’s choice.
Buttressed by a relatively small group of loyal co-conspirators, Trump sought, quite literally, to overthrow the government of the United States and to install himself in office. Concerned that his scheme to install a set of “fake electors” from several swing states was not going to be carried out by Vice President Mike Pence, and informed that some of those marching to the U.S. Capitol on his orders were armed with military assault weapons, Trump told his minions that he wished the protest at the Capitol to proceed, and he urged removing the security scanners in place to detect firearms. Told that those who’d overcome the Capitol Police by force were shouting “Hang Mike Pence!” as they ran through the corridors of the Capitol, Trump stated that perhaps Pence deserved that fate.
So committed was Trump to cling to power that he was willing to watch dozens, perhaps hundreds, of our fellow citizens, including members of Congress and the Vice President, die in the violent assault on the Capitol.
As an attorney, I know and believe that Trump and his co-conspirators are entitled to the presumption of innocence in courts of law, and can be found guilty of crimes only by a jury of “ordinary” U.S. citizens. Until a jury returns a verdict, likely years down the road (if he lives long enough to face trial), he cannot be imprisoned or otherwise punished by our government. In this great land, we don’t allow the victors in political skirmishes to “lock her up” simply because she lost the election.
But what do we, American citizens, do now?
Look: I’m a registered Democrat. I voted for Hillary, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale and Carter. If any of those losing candidates had sought, as Trump did, to overthrow our system of government, I would not support them. Indeed, I would actively denounce them and call for their prosecution. It’s not about party affiliation, it’s about standing up for the rule of law, and the peaceful transition of power that is the hallmark of our democracy.
To my fellow U.S. citizens — Republicans — I respect you, I believe you have equal rights to vote, to protest, to advocate for your views and to support candidates who pledge to implement the public policies you prefer, whatever they may be. Please continue doing so, forcefully but peacefully, because a functioning democracy cannot survive without competing viewpoints on all matters of the day.
What I am urging my Republican friends and colleagues to do, now, immediately, is to publicly denounce Donald J. Trump and his co-conspirators. Only your voice will be heard by the Republican National Committee, which has officially described the deadly assault on the Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” No matter how much you may share and support the espoused policies of Trump and his co-conspirators, you must stand and defend the very principles upon which this great nation was founded: We The People are the governors; those we elect to hold public office are our servants, responsible to us. No man is above the law. No person may defy the will of the people, support a violent overthrow of our democracy, and be allowed to hold public office ever again.
I urge you, please: Let your voice be heard. Standing idly by, in silence, in the hopes that “the system” will miraculously correct itself only perpetuates the status quo, where those who knowingly lied about the election and embraced violence as the means to retain power are permitted to continue participating in the political process.
Please, do the right thing, the patriotic thing — speak out. Loudly. Repeatedly. Tell the leaders of the Republican Party that you will not support any candidate who has sought to overthrow our government. No political party should tolerate in its ranks anyone who commits such fundamentally anti-American acts.
Steven D. Zansberg is an attorney in private practice in Denver.
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