Editor’s Note: Laura Coates is a CNN senior legal analyst. She is a former assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia and trial attorney in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. She is the host of the daily “Laura Coates Show” on SiriusXM. Follow her @thelauracoates. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.
On Friday, senators recognized Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman’s courage and gave him a standing ovation for risking his own life to save theirs on January 6.
A day later, when it came time for the senators themselves to show courage, however, they folded and acquitted former President Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote — 57 members voted “guilty,” but the tally fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
Trump stoked his followers to storm the Capitol January 6 and then twiddled his thumbs as he watched the seat of our representative democracy under siege. He dragged his feet as men and women inside the Capitol sprang to theirs in fear. Many lawmakers were left to fend for themselves against a mob that made clear it intended to show them no mercy.
But mercy they did receive in the form of valiant police officers like Goodman. When he saw that the door to the Senate chamber had not yet been secured, he knew everyone inside was in danger. Did he ignore the foreseeable violence and save himself? No. He lured the insurrectionists away from the chamber at the risk of his own personal safety. As a public servant, he made a choice not to save his own hide.
When Goodman saw Sen. Mitt Romney seeking refuge, he did not first confirm his political orientation.
While members of Congress were told to remove their pins so they would be less likely to be identified, the valiant officers remained in uniform, vulnerable to a raging crowd that belittled, disparaged and assaulted many of them.
When we heard audio recordings during the trial of the officers’ desperate dispatch calls for reinforcement, it was clear they knew they were the Capitol’s last line of defense.
But when the senators had the chance to serve as the last line of defense against Trump’s attack on our democracy, many of them sat on their hands, lifting them only to plug their ears and cover their eyes to the evidence before them.
The indifference that some of the senators displayed throughout the trial is unconscionable in light of the personal sacrifices that law enforcement made on their behalf. Their refusal to act as unbiased jurors is antithetical to the Constitution, to public service, and to our democracy.
Imagine if law enforcement had done what was easy rather than what was right or if they hid behind a flimsy claim that they lacked any jurisdiction to act.
These officers upheld their oaths to serve and protect. They served their mission: “Protect the Congress — its Members, employees, visitors, and facilities — so it can fulfill its constitutional and legislative responsibilities in a safe, secure and open environment.”
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They tried to protect Congress so it could fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, only for Congress to shirk those responsibilities for the sake of political expediency. And to what end? Trump not only lost the 2020 election, he also caused his party to lose control of both the House and the Senate — before he put the lives of Republican members of Congress at risk for the sake of his own deluded refusal to accept defeat.
The next time the Senate has a choice, do American democracy a favor. Stand for something — not just an ovation for someone who actually did his job.