President Donald Trump Visits Lancaster

President Donald Trump, seen here campaigning at Lancaster Airport on Monday Oct. 26, 2020, was impeached for a second time Jan. 13 for inciting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

THE ISSUE

U.S. House managers led by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland made their case last week in the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. Trump was impeached Jan. 13 by a vote of 232-197 in the House for engaging in “high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States” on Jan. 6. Ten Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump. Congressman Lloyd Smucker voted against impeachment. On Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 in favor of conviction, with seven Republicans joining the Democrats, but not enough to meet the necessary two-thirds threshold. 

Imagine that your workplace is overrun by rioters who have been sent by the president of the United States to wreak havoc and thwart your work.

They break windows and smash doors, and beat and bloody the security guards in the lobby of your building. They ominously yell your name and chant their desire to see you hang. The president has lied about your work and has directed the mob to “fight like hell” to keep you from doing your duty. Members of the mob believe they have the right to be in your workplace because they were “invited” — read incited — by the president.

This isn’t a group of people angry over a genuine injustice. This is a duped mob seething with anger and entitlement over a lost cause rooted in untruths — a mob dispatched by the most powerful person in the world.

Now imagine that some of your co-workers don’t want the president to be held accountable, as if he hadn’t nearly cost you your life, hadn’t broken the laws of both the land and fundamental morality. Imagine that you’re one of the bloodied and battered security guards, left to wonder whether some of the people you are charged to protect understand the basics of law and order, of lies and consequences.

The truth matters.

Forty-three Republican senators voted Saturday to acquit Trump, but the truth will remain that the former president betrayed the nation and the Constitution on Jan. 6 when he incited a violent mob to march to the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the Electoral College vote count.

We laud Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for joining six other Republicans on Saturday to convict Trump. 

The evidence presented by the House impeachment managers — the searing, stomach-churning footage of angry rioters battering police officers and baying for the blood of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Mike Pence — now has been entered into the historical record. Generations of Americans to come will know the truth: that the 45th president was so intent on retaining power that he fueled a mob’s rage and then sicced it on members of Congress and his own vice president.

And even as that mob turned its wrath on the police officers in their path, the president sat watching TV in the White House, allowing the Capitol to be turned into a war zone, besieged by domestic terrorists. People died, including a police officer; two other officers died subsequently by suicide, such was the trauma of that day.

Trump ‘lit the flame’

Congresswoman Cheney — daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — said there had “never been a greater betrayal” by a U.S. president and she was right. In a statement issued Jan. 12, she said Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.”

And, despite intense pressure from her own Republican House Caucus, she made that point again in an interview last week on “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. Toomey said Saturday in a statement that Trump "summoned thousands to Washington, D.C. and inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud. He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the Vice President from formally certifying the results of the presidential election. All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost. As a result of President Trump’s actions, for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful. A lawless attempt to retain power by a president was one of the founders’ greatest fears motivating the inclusion of the impeachment authorities in the U.S. Constitution. ... His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction.”

Tragically, too many Republican senators — and U.S. Rep. Smucker, who represents Lancaster County — want to deny the truth courageously stated by Cheney and Toomey. They’re either too cowardly to face it or too craven to admit the truth — or both.

We cannot pretend that’s OK, because it’s not.

Disinformation and the denial of truth are what got us to this sorry point.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted Saturday in favor of convicting Trump, said this Thursday, according to The Washington Post: “I still have people back home who swear the Dominion (voting) machines were rigged, even though different news outlets have printed retractions, apologies and otherwise disassociated themselves from that story. But obviously the president repeated it over and over. That clearly had an impact.” 

Clearly.

Party over country

The insurrectionists at the Capitol were a roiling mix of white supremacists, anti-Semites, militia members and other extremists. Among them was Manheim Township resident Michael J. Lopatic Sr.

Lopatic, 57, was indicted Jan. 29 by a Washington, D.C., grand jury and arrested in Lancaster on Feb. 3. He is accused of repeatedly punching one police officer in the head and stealing the body camera of another and then disposing of that camera, discarding “what would have undoubtedly been a crucial piece of evidence,” according to federal prosecutors.

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Dan Nephin reported last week, Lopatic was charged with assaulting an officer, violent entry and disorderly conduct at the Capitol building and related offenses. He faces a maximum of 21 1/2 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He was denied bail and remains in federal custody.

A neighbor told Nephin that after Jan. 6, Lopatic cut his shaggy, shoulder-length hair and trimmed his scraggly beard. She said she thought to herself: “He knows. He did something and they’re looking for him.”

The neighbor also recalled seeing Lopatic removing pro-Trump signs and an anti-abortion sign from his yard a couple days after the Capitol attack.

But the hateful nature of Lopatic’s views still was evident last week on the pickup truck outside his house — a novelty license plate read “Straight Pride,” and stickers featured an image of Uncle Sam and the words “I want you to speak English” and “White, straight & conservative / How else can I offend you?”

What leads a man with a family to drive to the nation’s capital and allegedly punch a police officer and steal another’s body camera?

How about a president who calls his rabid supporters “patriots” and tells them he loves them, that they’re “very special”? Who tells them his election “victory” — their election “victory” — was stolen by “emboldened radical-left Democrats” and the “fake news media.” Who tells them they’re “stronger,” they have “more going than anybody” — they’re “the real people ... that built this nation.”

We’re not making any excuses for the insurrectionists; they deserve no slack. We just can see how they might be swayed by a dishonest president telling them what they wanted to hear.

What we cannot understand — will never understand — is the eagerness demonstrated by too many Republican officeholders to choose party over country and lies over truth.

In an op-ed in last Sunday’s Perspective section, former Army judge advocate and prosecutor Gregory Hand examined the war on truth that has been waged in the U.S. for decades. He stressed the importance of critical thinking and warned of the danger to democracy of misinformation.

A stark difference

We were struck by the image of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, standing stoically by the doors of the U.S. Senate chamber last week, watching video of the domestic terrorists storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was wearing a black mask with a blue line — a signifier of pro-police sentiment that pro-Trump extremists claimed to share before they viciously attacked police officers at the Capitol and called them “traitors.”

The video was part of the powerful case that House impeachment managers made against Trump.

As both an Army infantryman serving in Iraq and as a police officer serving in the Capitol, Goodman risked his life for this country and our Constitution.

He has declined to do interviews, even though the media are eager to tell his story. He’s the hero, after all, who not only directed Sen. Mitt Romney to safety — perhaps saving the Utah Republican’s life — but singlehandedly diverted a violent mob from the Senate chamber.

The contrast between Goodman and some members of Congress could not be starker. He literally ran toward danger Jan. 6.

They cannot summon the courage to publicly acknowledge the basic, glaring truths about the November election and the January insurrection: The former president lied about the election outcome, they embraced his lie and that lie proved to be deadly. Lying now about the former president’s culpability, Trump’s enablers in Congress will be lying in the future when they claim to value the rule of law and democracy.

But we’ll know the truth.

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