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Almost exactly one year ago, former President Donald Trump’s legal team bumbled its way through his impeachment trial defense. A record number of senators from his own party voted to convict him, but not enough to reach the two-thirds threshold. He was acquitted.
As part of that underwhelming but ultimately successful defense, Trump’s lawyers sought to distance him from the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol.
“You will not hear any member of the team representing former President Trump say anything but in the strongest possible way denounce the violence of the rioters and those that breached the Capitol,” Trump attorney Bruce Castor said in his opening remarks to senators.
Someone might want to remind Trump about that.
Rather than continually denounce that violence, the former president has repeatedly downplayed and even appeared to excuse it. He has doubled down on his disproven claims of election fraud, and insisted that “in actuality the Big Lie was the Election itself.” He has indicated that he in fact wanted former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of that election.
And now, he’s talking about potentially pardoning Jan. 6 rioters should he run for president again and win.
“Another thing we’ll do, and so many people have been asking me about it, if I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” Trump said during a rally on Saturday. “We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.”
There has been some deserved, if tepid, pushback from fellow Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called Trump’s pardon suggestion “inappropriate.” Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who voted to impeach Trump a year ago, told ABC News this weekend that he should not have made the pledge about pardons.
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, however, had a somewhat different response to the former president’s comments. Many other Republicans in Congress haven’t said much, if anything, in response to Trump’s remarks about pardons and overturning the election.
“The obsession with the former president is becoming obnoxious to me,” Cramer said Monday when asked about Trump and the pardons, as reported by HuffPost.
“It’s sort of interesting, but considering what we’re dealing with here every day, it’s low priority,” Cramer said while suggesting reporters should focus on President Joe Biden’s administration and the economy.
“Sort of interesting” is an interesting choice of words. We think a different word is more appropriate: alarming. We – and lawmakers – should be able to discuss Biden’s shortc omings without losing perspective about just how dangerous Trump’s actions were and continue to be.
Recent polling indicates that Trump unfortunately remains the Republican frontrunner should he seek election again. Two years ago, we might have expected someone to become politically irrelevant after fueling, failing to quell and striking a celebratory tone about a violent attack on America’s elected representatives. Maybe that was a naive assumption on our part.
While Trump’s lawyers tried to distance him from rioters in the presentation to senators a year ago, their client has now done the opposite. If more Republicans could agree on a basic level that this is bad, then maybe we wouldn’t have to keep pointing it out.