Marco Rubio isn’t a big fan of the House’s decision to impeach former President Donald Trump over the incitement of rioters who overran the US Capitol on January 6.
“Waste of time impeachment isn’t about accountability,” the Florida Republican senator tweeted on Tuesday morning. “It’s about demands from vengeance from the radical left. And a new ‘show’ for the ‘Political Entertainment Industry.’”
Now, it’s not clear whether Rubio actually believes that or whether he is simply posturing to appeal to the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party as he contemplates another fun for president in 2024. (Maybe it’s a little of both!)
But either way, he’s wrong.
Here’s the thing: There is a legitimate argument to be made as to whether impeaching a former president is Constitutional. (Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is expected to force a vote later Tuesday about that very thing.) The Constitution is very, very vague on that subject.
But that’s not at all what Rubio is arguing here. He is suggesting that the reason for an impeachment trial next month in the Senate will be because of “demands from vengeance from the radical left.”
Which, well, here’s the thing: The reason that the House impeached Trump because he egged on his supporters at a massive rally in Washington earlier this month that eventually led to the violent occupation of the Capitol.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told the crowd on January 6. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated.”
Trump also used the words “fight” and “fighting” more than a dozen times in that address. So yeah, message received.
Rubio must also be unfamiliar with the fact that 10 Republicans – including Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in House leadership – voted for the impeachment of Trump. And that even Mitch McConnell, the leader of Senate Republicans, has assiduously avoided taking a position on whether he could see himself voting to convict the former president.
Does the liberal left loathe Trump? And do they believe the Senate should not only vote to convict him but also ban him from ever running for federal office again? Absolutely! Is that the same thing as suggesting, as Rubio does, that the reason for the impeachment trial is because of a desire for “vengeance” from liberals and the media’s never-ending desire for drama – or something? Nope.
What sits at the heart of the effort to decide what to do with Trump isn’t vengeance. It’s accountability.
The question before the Senate is whether it’s OK for a sitting president to act the way Trump did on January 6. (It wasn’t just what he told the crowd before the Capitol storming; it was his delayed and lukewarm responses amid the violence.)
The Constitutional vagueness may allow some (many?) Republican senators to sidestep that fundamental question, voting to “acquit” because Trump isn’t in office anymore and removing him is pointless.
But what Rubio is doing is simply irresponsible – and the same sort of rhetoric that hatched the mentality of January 6. This isn’t about Democrats or the media. This is about Donald Trump and how a president should act.