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OPINION

Trump and his mob still terrorize the GOP

If it came down to losing an election by choosing country and principle or winning it with backing from rioters — they bet on the rioters. What a sad, bad bet.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds the signed article of impeachment against President Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds the signed article of impeachment against President Trump.Stefani Reynolds/Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/G

Amazing. They still crave President Trump’s base. They still seek support from a mob that stormed the Capitol last week and wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence.

Ten brave Republicans voted to join Democrats in impeaching President Trump a second time Wednesday. But 197 Republicans voted against impeachment. That shows just how many still fear Trump and what his mob can do to them. Some reportedly feared for their lives if they voted for impeachment. But I think the bigger fear was that they would be shunned, as the mob threw its support to Republicans who remained loyal. If it came down to losing an election by choosing country and principle or winning it with backing from rioters — they bet on the rioters. What a sad, bad bet.

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Some leading Republicans were scared enough by the attack to turn against Trump — up to a point. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — the outgoing Republican majority leader — welcomed impeachment, The New York Times reported. That was after he stared into the face of the mob. As the Capitol came under siege, a member of McConnell’s security detail “took the arm of the senator, who walks with a limp because of a childhood bout with polio, pulling and steadying him as they hustled away from danger,” reported the Times. Even so, McConnell inched away only so far. He won’t say how he’ll vote on impeachment, but he won’t reconvene the Senate early for a vote to convict before Joe Biden is sworn into office.

Pence was in hiding from the mob when Trump tweeted that he “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” — which in Trump’s delusional mind was to refuse the certify Electoral College votes for Biden. Rioters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” yet Trump never checked on how he was doing. Evacuated to a basement, Pence “finally came to a decision point he could not avoid,” reported the Times. “He would uphold the election despite the president and despite the mob.” While Pence declined to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, he won’t shed any tears for Trump’s second impeachment.

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A noose is seen on makeshift gallows as supporters of US President Trump gather on the West side of the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 6.
A noose is seen on makeshift gallows as supporters of US President Trump gather on the West side of the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 6.ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership, voted for impeachment. On Jan. 6, she was in the House chamber urging fellow Republicans to reject efforts to challenge the Electoral College results. At the same time, Trump was firing up the mob with a speech that included this line: “We got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world.” Her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, called to tell her about Trump’s rant, and soon, Liz Cheney heard the mob banging on the chamber’s door. That’s what led her to back impeachment, the Post reported.

Good for her, and good for the other 9 Republicans who had the guts to stand up to Trump and his mob.

But sad that it took the mobbing of the Capitol to make that many Republicans understand the depth of Trump’s danger. So many stood by Trump and his failed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 380,000 Americans. So many stood by Trump when he refused to call out the police killings of Black Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and stood by him as he encouraged violence against opponents and protesters whose causes he didn’t like. They stood by Trump as time after he time he worked to kill democracy. Finally, when he incited an attack that could have killed them — that made a difference.

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The warning signs were clear long before Jan. 6. From the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., to Michigan, where last April, armed citizens packed the state Capitol to protest lockdown orders. In October, the FBI announced the arrest of 13 men in connection with a domestic terror plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In the waning hours of the Trump presidency, too many other Republicans still refused to acknowledge the danger he represents. Somehow, they believe they can control the mob enough to use it for their own political advantage. Somehow, they fail to grasp the truth. A mob can never be controlled.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.