All eyes will be on Washington this week as Nancy Pelosi ponders the risk-reward calculus of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.
A new article of impeachment, drafted by Ted Lieu and David Cicilline as Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol last week, charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” It had 190 co-sponsors as of Saturday evening.
There are myriad issues with impeaching Trump again. First, it risks mythologizing him further at a time when no one knows what he plans to do once he leaves office later this month. Second, it would set up a Senate trial that would play out during Joe Biden’s first weeks in office. Although conviction still isn’t likely, The New York Times noted that “the anger at Trump was so palpable that [Republican] party leaders said privately it was not out of the question.”
Some Republicans are asking (“begging” is probably more accurate) Biden to advise Pelosi against impeachment, in part because some fear it would only make things worse and risk… well, nobody knows what it would risk, and that’s precisely the point.
It goes without saying that Trump still enjoys unequivocal support from a cadre of GOP lawmakers, but that number is lower than it was a week ago. The ranks of those unwilling to admit, publicly or privately, that he’s unfit to hold federal office have been reduced materially. That is: Even among those who still blindly support the president, that blindness doesn’t necessarily preclude admitting, behind close doors, that allowing him to hold high office is an inherently perilous proposition.
The problem with a Senate trial is that, while lawmakers could hypothetically bar him from running for office, it would be a nationally televised spectacle, and Biden would spend the entirety of that period answering questions about it.
If Trump were convicted, protests would almost surely ensue, and while his capacity to amplify the outrage is now limited by social media bans, nothing stops him from releasing statements through others, conducting interviews with far-right media outlets, or holding rallies.
Efforts on the part of big tech to preempt more violence are already a game of Whac-a-Mole. If you can justify banning Trump, Michael Flynn, and Sidney Powell, you can use the same rationale to ban Don Jr. and a whole host of others. You don’t need to agree that more bans are desirable or “right” to understand the point. The reality is this: Don Jr.’s tweets are virtually identical to those of his father. So, if you ban the elder Trump based on an assessment of his tweets versus Twitter’s community guidelines, how can you justify allowing the younger Trump to remain on the platform? You can’t. Hence: Whac-a-Mole.
Over the weekend, Apple and Google moved to cut Parler off at the knees. The platform likes to say it promotes “free speech” in an era of “censorship” by Twitter and Facebook, but the inescapable reality is that it’s another example of opportunism. It’s a social network, but there are dozens of websites that function in the same capacity by way of their comment sections. They are, stripped of the euphemisms and pretensions to “libertarian” ideals, portals that seek to capitalize on the demand for forums that traffic in conspiracy theories and hate speech.
As of Saturday morning, Parler was the No. 1 app on iPhones. On Friday, Apple told Parler that it had 24 hours to institute effective mechanisms for ensuring the app wasn’t used to perpetuate threats of violence. On Saturday evening, Apple said Parler’s efforts over that period were inadequate. Parler’s chief policy officer didn’t mince words. “We’re toast,” she told Fox News, of a prospective app store ban.
But the real death knell for Parler came from Jeff Bezos himself (“himself” to denote Bezos’s almost omnipotent presence, despite being leap-frogged by Elon Musk on the list of world’s richest people this week). On Saturday, Amazon sent Parler dozens of examples of posts advocating violence. “It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with [our rules],” Amazon said, in a letter.
“[AWS] provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site,” the letter continued. “However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.”
And just like that, Parler was forced to find a new host. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But the bottom line on Saturday evening was that Parler faced disappearing into the ether. “I have a lot of work to do in the next 24 hours,” Parler’s CEO told The New York Times, in a text.
Trump will try to hit back during his last week in office, some sources warned. The president “will try a final time to advance his administration’s effort to bring Big Tech to heel,” Bloomberg said, citing people familiar, and noting that “it isn’t clear what he may do.”
That latter bit applies in a more general sense to Trump: “It isn’t clear what he may do.” That’s why Democrats are pushing Pelosi to move heaven and earth to keep the pressure on, and take steps that could lead to a formalized ban on Trump holding office at any point in the future.
Some GOP Senators want Trump to resign. Asked Sunday about Lisa Murkowski’s calls for resignation, Pat Toomey (who I was not kind to in these pages late last month when he held up desperately needed stimulus for hard-hit businesses and families), was clear in remarks to CNN.
He agreed Trump should resign and while he questioned the logistics of a Senate trial, he suggested Trump could be held criminally liable for last week’s events (he added the obligatory “I’m not a lawyer” caveat). Commenting specifically on a resignation, Toomey said it would be “the best way to put this person in the rearview mirror.” Previously, Toomey said Trump’s actions last week are grounds for impeachment. He reiterated that on Sunday.
While Trump intends to remain defiant, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs wrote that the president’s “apparent confidence belies his political and legal peril.” “Federal prosecutors haven’t ruled out charging Trump… for his role in the assault on the Capitol, while pledging that the ongoing investigation will not be politically targeted,” she said.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 57% of Americans want Trump removed “immediately.” Although the results of the survey betrayed the usual partisan divide, Reuters noted that “79% percent of adults, including two-thirds of Republicans and Trump voters, described the participants as either ‘criminals’ or ‘fools.'”
Disconcertingly (although not surprisingly), a combined 14% called them “concerned citizens” or “patriots.”