Keep in mind that 1,265 people have faced charges related to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Keep in mind that 460 people have gone to jail.
Former President Trump was impeached for inciting that violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. But Trump remains a political force because the U.S. Senate refused to convict Trump after his impeachment. That left him free to run for president again.
The top Senate Republican explained why Congress dodged acting against Trump by pointing to prosecutors and judges as the proper actors to hold Trump accountable: “We have a criminal justice system in this country,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
But federal prosecutors looked away, too, refusing to indict Trump for fear they’d be charged with playing politics by going after a former president.
Now, state officials and judges in Maine, Colorado and New Mexico have ruled that Trump can’t run for president again, because the 14th Amendment explicitly bans anyone involved with insurrection from holding political office.
Trump’s lawyers say the states are wrong, because Trump has never been convicted of anything.
This week they will ask the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to abdicate their responsibility as the last line of defense of the Constitution by arguing that it is not clear that the 14th Amendment applies to the presidency.
They will also contend that to keep Trump off the ballot is to deny voters the right to vote for their candidate.
If the pro-Trump lawyers win, the Supreme Court’s justices will join all the other scaredy-cats who pretend not to have lived through a Trump-incited attack on the U.S. government that resulted in deaths.
Note that no one is arguing that Trump was not involved in the insurrection and is not covered by the 14th Amendment ban on insurrectionists.
“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said in explaining why he did not vote to convict Trump after the House impeached the former president for his role in the Jan. 6 attack.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president…[and the] false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth,” said McConnell, who remains the top Republican in the Senate.
Retired federal judge Michael Luttig, a conservative, also agrees that Trump took part in the insurrection and should be disqualified from appearing on the ballot.
Having “incited, and therefore engaged in, an armed insurrection,” Luttig wrote, Trump “disqualified himself [from running for office again]… [because the] insurrection sought to prevent the vesting of the authority and functions of the presidency in the newly elected president.”
The major remaining argument against the high court enforcing the law is that it is wrong to stop Americans from voting for the person they want to be president.
A secondary argument is that Congress, not the court, should decide if Americans cannot vote for Trump.
“But it’s also important to remember,” according to Noah Bookbinder, the president of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, “that we already did let the people decide about Trump. In 2020, the people decided they didn’t want Donald Trump as president, he refused to accept that result, and he ultimately incited a violent insurrection,” Bookbinder said. “There is no basis to think we can do the same thing in 2024 and get a different result.”
Bookbinder’s group will be arguing for Trump to be kept off state ballots.
Several historians are also calling on the justices to follow the original intent of the 14th Amendment.
Failure by the Supreme Court to ban Trump from ballots, according to Sean Wilentz, a leading historian at Princeton University, “will trash the constitutional defense of democracy,” which was clearly designed by Congress to prevent a repeat of efforts by Confederates to secede from the national government that led to the Civil War.
Trump committed insurrection, Wilentz argues, and must face the consequences.
I’d argue that no one man — not even the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination — should be above the law.
What happens if Trump loses again? Will the high court send the message that he is free to stir up another insurrection?
If all the guardians of democracy look the other way, there will be nothing to stop him from once again trying to impose authoritarian rule over the nation with violence.
Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh make up the six-member, conservative majority on the court. Three of them were nominated by Trump.
Lady and gentlemen, conservatives on the court, this is your moment to reaffirm that America is a nation of laws, and those laws, beginning with the Constitution, apply to all men and women.
In 2000, the nation watched as the Supreme Court effectively decided the presidential election. A lot of people were shocked. I certainly never thought I would see it again in my lifetime.
Now, I am hoping that I do. This time, fidelity to the Constitution demands it.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel, and author of “What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?”
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