New Revelations about Trump’s Cruelty Demand a Bigger ResponseHistorians in the News
tags: Capitol Riots
As shocking new revelations emerge about President Trump’s depraved and malevolent response to the violent siege of the Capitol, it’s becoming clear that this event will require a much bigger reckoning than we may have first thought.
Impeachment may be only the beginning of what’s truly required, if we are going to come to terms with the enormity of this occurrence and what led up to it — and parcel out appropriate accountability for it.
This is thrust upon us by an extraordinary new report in The Post that reconstructs Trump’s actions during the assault, and by renewed discussion of the 14th Amendment as a tool for barring officials who incited the mob from ever holding public office again.
The meta-revelation in the Post piece is that Trump appeared to take solipsistic, even sadistic pleasure in watching a mob lay siege to our seat of government in his name, and as a result, refused to call for calm, potentially further endangering lawmakers’ lives.
As numerous scholars point out, the third section of the 14th Amendment bars people from holding “any office” if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. The provision was designed to keep former Confederate leaders from subverting the post-Civil War constitutional order.
Now Trump has waged his own assault on our government and constitutional order. So the amendment might be invoked against him and others who may have incited the insurrection.
“Getting to the bottom of what happened and who was involved and complicit is tremendously desirable and necessary,” Eric Foner, the great historian and author of a recent book about the Reconstruction amendments, told me. “If the prospective use of the 14th Amendment is the way to launch that, it would be perfectly good.”
This would also call the bluff of officials now issuing self-serving leaks depicting their horror at the mob and showing them heroically trying to get Trump to act. Shouldn’t they want the full picture filled in?
Foner noted that this idea about the 14th Amendment also hints at an intriguing historical irony involving the Confederacy and Trump.
“The 14th Amendment option” would “complete a circle,” Foner told me, because the provision “used to punish Confederates now would be used to punish a guy who so identified with the Confederacy” that his supporters “carry Confederate flags all over the place.”
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