Has Trump And The GOP Incited Sedition? Absolutely And Perhaps Not.
It’s superfluous to re-litigate the fact that Donald Trump began prior to the election, laying mines intended to discredit the results of an election he concluded that he was going to wind up losing. Or that since election day, he has persisted in the same effort on a daily, often hourly basis and sometimes even more frequently.
Trump was successful, obviously so, in promoting an ever so simple and self evident equation about the election to his voters. If Trump wins, the election was conducted fairly. If he loses, there was chicanery involved.
Trump voters have proved to have virtually perfect immunity to anything existing in the actual world of facts, much less pronouncements of state or federal authorities that no evidence of widespread or coordinated voter fraud of any magnitude was present in the voting or the tabulation of the votes.
As you well know, even the most enabling of Trump’s enablers, Attorney General William Barr, issued a definitive statement contradicting Trump’s ceaseless assertions of a “rigged election.”:
“The U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.”
Trump, as you will recall, fired a D.H.S. cabinet official for contradicting his false equation and has called for intimidation of state election officials that have not bent to his insistance in overturning the results. He has, simultaneously remained silent, giving tacit assent to high profile agitators who have been advocating violence against elected officials in the battleground (aptly named) states and in D.C.
Trump ally, attorney Lin Wood, goes so far as to even invoke execution against Vice President Mike Pence, charging him with “treason.” Wood has also launched accusations against Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
He then claimed that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence would be arrested. Mr Wood, according to the Independent, has previously claimed that Justice Roberts killed Justice Antonin Scalia, that Roberts is a pedophile and that Jeffrey Epstein is still alive.
A couple of more questions for Chief Justice John Roberts: (1) You are recorded discussing Justice Scalia’s successor before date of his sudden death. How did you know Scalia was going to die? (2) Are you a member of any club or cabal requiring minor children as initiation fee?
Wood has also encouraged Trump supporters to stock up on “2nd Amendment supplies”. But, since Wood met with approval from Trump supporters on these libelous fables and (implicit) approval from Trump himself, Wood was emboldened to go further in his attacks on the Chief Justice:
Wood understands perfectly that Trump’s MAGA’s have been pre-conditioned for 5 years that anyone who supports Trump unfailingly, is a “patriot” and anyone who doesn’t, or who jumps off the clown bus – is a “traitor”, a “Communist”, a “Democrat”, a “child rapist” or, in some cases, a “murderer.” That is why he doesn’t reinvent the wheel here.
Central to the strategy and day to day tactics is to relentlessly accuse enemies of crimes, moral and otherwise, that you yourself have either already committed or intend to commit. So what is all of this – particularly the constant drumbeat to overturn the outcome of an election that in all respects, was one of the cleanest and most carefully monitored in American history?
Is it sedition?
To properly classify the activities of Trump, his attorneys and now, elected legislators in Congress, it’s essential to examine the federal laws that address – or possibly in this situation, don’t address the egregious acts.
Looking, for instance at the central player, or the ringmaster of all this – Trump – if the crime is defined by federal or state prosecutors as a seditious act and his other actions as inciting sedition, ( 18 U.S.C. § 2384 ) – investigators will not have viewed Trump’s coercion of Raffensperger as an isolated incident.
It will be examined and presented in the indictment as part and parcel of a fact pattern demonstrating intent to use the power of his office to subvert the election process.
Secondly – the incitement will be presented in the form of statements Trump has made, recommending either explicitly or implicitly, that his voters intimidate public officials.
Trump’s tweets and phone calls to state officials and even threats to members of his own administration – including firings of federal officials tasked with monitoring and certifying the integrity of elections – will all be viewed in their sum as to establishing intent.
My comments on the sedition law are complicated by the argument that the definition requires that “force” has to be exerted or attempted. His attorneys most assuredly will argue that nothing Trump did exerted actual physical force.
The core concept of the act of sedition, here as defined by Mirriam – Webster, does not necessitate that factor:
But a related statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2385, – as referenced by a writer on Politico, is interesting in that it makes it a crime to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” The statute goes on to criminalize the intentional publication or circulation of any printed matter advocating the desirability of overthrowing the U.S. government.
So – that is the debate that would be engaged in terms of the court of law. But the Court of Public Opinion is not nearly as complex.
From dissenters in the ranks of the Republican party to commenters on social media, legal niceties are not inhibiting factors to those who find Trump and his co-conspirators to be in violation of their oath of office or obligations to uphold the Constitution.
Most notable among the Republican voices pushing back against the outrage, is that of Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska:
Let’s be clear what is happening here: We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. Since Election Day, the president and his allied organizations have raised well over half a billion (billion!) dollars from supporters who have been led to believe that they’re contributing to a ferocious legal defense.
But in reality, they’re mostly just giving the president and his allies a blank check that can go to their super-PACs, their next plane trip, their next campaign or project. That’s not serious governing. It’s swampy politics.
We have good reason to think this year’s election was fair, secure, and law-abiding. That’s not to say it was flawless. But there is no evidentiary basis for distrusting our elections altogether, or for concluding that the results do not reflect the ballots that our fellow citizens actually cast.
Sasse also referred to the cadre of Republicans that are abetting the silly charade, as“institutional arsonist members of Congress.”
Former House Speaker and Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2008, Paul Ryan, who typically maintains a low profile on contemporary matters amoung House Republicans, has opted not to maintain his silence on what the GOP majority intends to do on Wednesday:
“Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden’s victory strike at the foundation of our republic. It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of a state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans. The fact that this effort will fail does not mean it will not do significant damage to American democracy.”
There are objectors among the GOP House Caucus and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is prominent among them:
“Right now members of Congress are planning to try to overthrow this election by using the debunked conspiracy theories. Let’s be clear — they won’t succeed and they all know it. They will raise money on it however…. This will start a terrible cycle where every election must be objected to and eventually we will lose our ability to self-govern.”
Also in the chorus is National Compass contributor – former diplomat and Special Forces officer, Keith Mines, who observes:
Over a hundred members of congress are threatening to not certify the election, a president is calling on supposed loyalists to “find 11,000 votes” and all ten former Defense Secretaries are urging the military not to involve itself in solving electoral disputes.If you think “our institutions are holding” think again. These are not some fringe element from the one earth freedom media network or whatever that thing is called. These are the institutions. To say this is “third world” is a gross insult to the global south, most of which has moved on from this sort of nonsense and has orderly democratic transitions of power. This I am afraid, is the stuff of which civil wars are born.
Adding yet another significant dimension to all of this, is the reporting from the Washington Post, who obtained audio tape of a call made by (impeached) president Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, haranguing him with implied threats unless he denounces the election results and goes on a fake search for votes to alter the outcome in the state.
The discussion is still underway as to whether this constitutes a specific crime, but there can be no dispute that the call, which Trump predictably dubs as “perfect”, in the same way he claimed his extortion attempt against Ukrainian President Zelenskyy for dirt on President-elect Biden – is patently corrupt and displays intent to solicit interference on Raffensperger’s part in upending the will of Georgia voters.
The latest count of GOP lawmakers (some would say, ‘lawbreakers’) that have signed on to the staging of a meaningless but brazen challenge to the certified slate of electors from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and perhaps others, consists of 12 Senators; Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Ron Johnson, James Lankford, Steve Daines, John Kennedy, Marsha Blackburn, Mike Braun and Senators-elect Cynthia Lummis, Roger Marshall, Bill Hagerty and Tommy Tuberville.
Notably, but not unexpectedly, this gang of 12 did not even list the states whose vote count they dispute as inaccurate or tainted.
The precise number of GOP members of the House of Representatives planning on joining the Senators in the procedural maneuver that has no prospect of success, is uncertain at this point, with estimates running up to 140.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said in a statement issued on Saturday, that, “The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results.”
Mitt Romney took specific aim at the gang of 12 and Ted Cruz in particular, in a press release on Sunday (Jan 3), calling their stunt, “an egregious ploy”:
“My fellow Senator Ted Cruz and the co-signers of his statement argue that rejection of electors or an election audit directed by Congress would restore trust in the election. Nonsense. This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it.
Romney, a frequent objector to Trump’s abuses of power in office, added one more swipe at his colleagues. “I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”
We’ll leave it there.