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No More Red Lines

When progressives stage their own coup, it will be thanks to the Senate Republicans who didn't impeach Trump

I was quite disappointed, and not a little frightened for the future of our republic, when the US Senate didn’t convict the former president of the offenses for which he’d been impeached by the House of Representatives.

And that concern is based on things the former president himself told me and his supporters believe, as I’ll explain.

Over the course of several months in the spring of 2020, I received hundreds of emails, usually several a day, from the then-president, Donald Trump, addressed to me. They were quite personal, calling me by my first name, and touchingly describing what a special patriot I am and how much I meant to him.

Many of them made special offers, available only to me and an elite group of donors like me. There were invitations to join his inner circle of advisors, even to be one of the fortunate ones to help him prepare his convention acceptance speech. And all for my contribution of any amount at all to his campaign. I’ve saved all these messages because there’s much to learn from them.

Here’s a typical one, in this case from the former president’s son:

Eytan,

What an honor. My father just SIGNED one of our 2020 Make America Great Again Hats and now he wants to give it to YOU. Can you believe it? You’ve been one of my father’s FIERCEST supporters from the beginning, so when he told me of his plan to give this UNIQUE hat to a lucky Patriot, we both agreed that it shouldn’t go to anyone else. All you have to do is contribute ANY AMOUNT and you’ll automatically be entered to win this ICONIC hat. My father and I will be reviewing the final list of entries tonight and I want him to see your name.

Of course, some offers were simply too valuable to extend just for any donation, like this one requiring a $75 contribution:

Eytan,

I want to give you something. I’ve been thinking back on my first (but not last!) term as your President, and I came across some photos. One in particular stood out to me, and when I saw it, I immediately knew that I wanted YOU to have a copy of it. But, I didn’t want to send you JUST a photograph of me — I wanted to make it unique. So, I told my team to put together a list of my TOP supporters so that I could give them a personalized, signed photo. BIG NEWS: YOU WERE ON THE LIST TO RECEIVE ONE OF THESE ICONIC SIGNED PHOTOS.

In these many emails, the president had much to say about his Democratic challengers. Here’s a sampling: “[Biden and Harris] hate everything we stand for and they’ll do whatever it takes to BRING US DOWN.” “[They] LOVE anarchy and HATE America.” “THEY WOULD DESTROY OUR NATION!” And so on.

Some things he wrote take on a whole new meaning as I read them now. Like this one: “It’s obvious that the Democrats hate America and they hate our great police. Sadly, this is only a preview of what’s to come if we let these radical lunatics steal the Election.”

A preview, indeed, but not in the way he meant: One police officer dead after being bludgeoned by rioters, two others dead by suicide, and 140 officers injured, including brain injuries, lost eyes and fingers, and four Trump supporters dead. Many more attempted murders of officers, with American flag poles and iron fence stakes and the like, as the attackers chanted curses at the “great police.”

And this one: “[Biden and Harris] want to see our cities burn, unlike President Trump and Vice President Pence who are working tirelessly to restore LAW AND ORDER.” But who was too busy watching the riot on TV — “happily,” as aides attested — to take frantic calls from officials besieged inside the Capitol, and tweeting about his vice-president’s cowardice (broadcast to the mob as they rampaged), as the latter and his family ran for their lives from a crazed mob seeking to hang him for refusing to obey the president to violate the Constitution?

All that aside, how are the president’s many emails to me relevant to the question of the impeachment trial?

Here’s conservative writer David French addressing concerns about the precedent that would be set by convicting a former president (albeit one impeached while in office):

But here’s the reality at the heart of all arguments about precedent — precedents are set (or maintained) either way…. And the most important precedent is now absolutely clear: The Senate must lay down a marker that no president can get away with a campaign of lies, pressure, and public incitement designed explicitly to reverse the results of a lawful election and block the peaceful transfer of power.

All the arguments about precedent pale in comparison to this one. If sufficient members of the GOP vote to acquit… the precedent they will establish is that there is virtually no bottom to presidential behavior that the modern partisan can’t excuse, rationalize, or defend.

Even worse, that same GOP Senate majority is likely to set a precedent that threats work. In his impeachment argument today, David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, argued that “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we’ve only seen once before in our history.” The reference to the Civil War was clear.

When the Senate renders its verdict on Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, it will set a precedent. For the sake of the republic, I hope it sets a precedent that presidents cannot launch mendacious campaigns to overturn lawful elections. I hope it sets a precedent that efforts to halt the peaceful transition of power are met with extreme sanction. And I hope it sets the precedent that threats of civil war only steel the resolve of patriotic senators to hold a demagogue accountable for the consequences of his recklessness and malice.

But in truth, the precedent set by failing to convict the former president is even more dangerous than Mr. French suggests. If one actually believes what the former president told me so often — that the liberals “LOVE anarchy and HATE America” and “WOULD DESTROY OUR NATION,” that they are power-hungry communist tyrants who will stop at nothing to crush all the good, G-d-fearing Americans and seize power — then one should be terrified at what he’s done to obliterate the last red line of American democracy.

The left has been watching his entire two-month campaign to do so and has been taking good notes. And when they decide to act, it will be because the right’s own cult leader made it all thinkable.

Those who claim to truly fear the left should have been desperate for the Senate to repaint that red line and set a precedent that says that come what may, America will not tolerate a president of any party being above the law, will not countenance one branch of government orchestrating an assault on another, and will impose the most severe consequences for attempting to seize power through a coup.

As for that threat that the trial was going to “tear this country apart,” perhaps Attorney Schoen ought to check with his client about what he in fact wants for America (and, while he’s at it, he should check whether his bill will be paid, which is what led the first set of impeachment lawyers to resign). After all, as former defense secretary general Jim Mattis put it, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”

But then again, of course, since Mattis stood up to the president, he is by definition a cowardly traitor. Just like Pence, and Barr, and Bolton, and Kavanaugh and Barrett and Gorsuch, and all the rest. Making oneself definitionally impervious to truthful critique is the ploy of a cult-leader.

And so, just as those terrified of the liberals have the former president to thank for the losses in Georgia that have led to the new Democratic Senate majority and the liberal agenda it will soon pass, so too, when the progressives stage their own coup, it will be thanks to the courageous Senate Republicans and what Ben Sasse referred to as their “weird worship of one dude.”

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 849. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com

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