This week, ahead of the public hearings of the special panel of the House of Representatives that is charged with investigating the events of 6 January 2021, Jamie Raskin, a Democratic congressman on the committee, told reporters that the events did indeed constitute an attempted coup. To recap: on that day, a mob, summoned to Washington DC by the then-president Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol building to try to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that, though lawmakers have sufficient evidence to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, some are worried that this would lead the department’s own investigation efforts to be coloured as partisan.
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But there is no way that any action the Justice Department ends up taking, should it indeed decide to take action, will not be called partisan by the Republicans. The vast majority of the Republicans in the House of Representatives did not vote to impeach Trump after 6 January, and the majority of the Republicans in the Senate did not vote to convict him. American politics are such that trying to hold the former president accountable under the law will be considered partisan. That is sad. It is not, however, a reason to stop the former president being held accountable under the law.
Why? Because if you have found, as these lawmakers reportedly have, that the former president was engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the American people, then it is your job to do whatever you can to address that. Lawmakers who are not interested in that job, and who would rather be well liked by everyone, should perhaps consider getting out of politics, or at least out of Congress.
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I understand that these legislators are afraid of appearing political. I understand that a judge in California found it “more likely than not” that Trump committed a crime, and that some might hope that that will be enough for the attorney general Merrick Garland. But by now we know two things: First, that any action will indeed be called political, and so that is not, in and of itself, an excuse for inaction. Second, that the cavalry is not coming. There will be no deus ex machina to save American democracy. That will only happen with a concerted effort from everyone in power to do quite literally anything in their power to hold Trump to account. That includes these lawmakers.