Mike Lee joined 42 of his fellow Republican senators to acquit former President Donald Trump on the impeachment charge of incitement to insurrection. Lee’s vote is an indefensible decision, and in itself an abject failure to defend the Constitution.
It is unambiguous to anyone viewing matters in good faith that the Jan. 6 riot was solely the result of Trump’s contemptible lie that the election had been stolen. The oft-repeated falsehoods about the election, by Trump and his minions, in the face of universal courtroom losses and irrefutable evidence, became known as the Big Lie.
To his credit, Lee did not join some of his Republican colleagues who contested (in bad faith) the certified Electoral College results that were being tallied by then Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6. Again to his credit, in his press release following the impeachment vote, Lee has refused to condone Trump’s conduct in regard to the insurrection (while alleging such conduct does not meet the criteria for conviction of the impeachment charge).
The only thing this proves is that Lee himself does not believe the Big Lie. But I’m not aware of Lee emphatically denouncing the Big Lie, or forcefully condemning those of his Republican colleagues that that as of Jan. 6 were still supporting and fomenting the Big Lie.
Lee has acknowledged meeting with Trump’s legal team during the middle of the impeachment trial, at which time Lee was one of 100 jurors. No matter what was discussed, it was irresponsible and wrongful behavior.
By his acknowledgment that the Big Lie was a lie, and that Trump acted wrongly, Lee metaphorically advanced the ball to the two-yard line, whereupon he began taking a knee.
It is impossible to overstate what a disaster the seditious riot on Jan. 6 has been for our country. Dictators like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping will use it to claim that the U.S. election process is corrupt, false and crooked. The Jan. 6 riot will be the ultimate “whataboutism” whenever election results are contested in Russia, China or other countries.
Perhaps most heartbreakingly, our country will never again be able to proudly boast about always conducting a peaceful transfer of power. Peaceful power transfers are mostly a phenomenon of the advent of democracies during the last two centuries. Prior to that, over the course of human history, peaceful transfers of power were exceedingly rare. Even today, violent transfers of power are common. And now we can count the U.S. on the list of places that have this shameful distinction.
In justifying his decision, Lee parsed the language of Trump’s rhetoric, and the impeachment procedures, to provide a wholly legalistic defense of Trump. Like the man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, Lee seizes upon alleged legalisms to excuse Trump from an impeachment conviction arising from the most grievous violation of the Constitution by any president in our country’s history.
I can only speculate about what would motivate Lee to undertake his abhorrent actions. The obvious reason would be fear of alienating the large number of ardent Trump supporters in the Republican party and a wish to avoid the risk of losing in his next primary election. But the sedition on January 6th, and the responsibilities that come with being a United States Senator, unambiguously call for putting one’s country above one’s political career.
A resignation from the Senate is the only rightful consequent, because his shameful decisions constituted the metaphorical murder of the Constitution by the coward Mike Lee.
Eric Rumple lives in Sandy. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and is the author of the novel “Forgive Our Debts.”