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By Era Atre

Junior, GW

On January 6th, 2021, thousands of pro-Trump supporters unlawfully stormed the Capitol building. In doing so, they destroyed property and sent the entirety of Congress into lockdown. While he was physically not at the riot, former President Trump did incite an insurrection, through his tweets urging supporters to gather in DC and his lack of condemnation of the rioters. He should have been convicted in the Senate for his actions.

Trump has shown to have riled up those who voted for him in various ways, and while he was not directly commanding them to incite the insurrection, his various doings over a period of time can be connected to the actions his supporters have taken. He tweeted on December 19th about a report by adviser Peter Navarro, and further saying “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” He tweeted about the rally and more information on it throughout December, leading up to the actual riot at the beginning of January. During the Capitol riot, President Trump released a video speaking directly to the rioters, telling them that they are “all very special” but to “go home.” This is not the first time Trump has failed to condemn violent rioters; when white supremacists incited violence in Charlottesville in 2017, Trump responded by calling the white supremacists “very fine people,” telling the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group involved, to “stand back and standby.” 

Since the 2020 election results found Joe Biden to be the next President of the United States, Trump claimed that the election had been “rigged.” To combat this, he has been attempting to “stop the steal” and encouraged his supporters to do the same. In addition to failing to quell violence from the far right in the past and present, Trump has been consistently making these false claims about the election. He has been pushing the narrative against the fair and due process of democracy, actions which qualify him to be constitutionally impeached. 

In their case for impeachment, House of Representative Managers said that President Trump had urged his followers to come to Washington D.C. in January, telling them to “show strength” and “confront members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence” In addition, the House managers also released new footage from the attack showing how serious the threat was against those in the Capitol on January 6th, particularly the lawmakers in there at the time. These specific actions of the former President’s, before, during and, after the riot, clearly shows that the insurrection was driven by him. The First Amendment of the Constitution establishes that Congress shall make no law “abridging free speech” nor abridging “the right of the people to peaceably protest.” But time and again, the Supreme Court and other legislative bodies of the United States have ruled against hate speech, or any sort of speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a certain person or group, notably in cases such as Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire In this case, the Court ruled that the speech involved “inflicted injury and incited and immediate breach of peace.” 

Donald Trump’s incitement of the Capitol insurrection on January 6th of this year was a clear breach of peace and an act of terrorism. Trump openly encouraged it to happen and supported those involved along the way. For these reasons and given the precedence established in the nation on violence and violent speech, the Senate should have convicted the former President of the United States. 

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