Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

People have argued for years about how much Trump knowingly lies and how much he fervently believes the falsehoods he promotes. The run-up to his impeachment trial for insurrection is another piece of evidence for the latter.

Trump is apparently so stridently insisting on sabotaging his own impeachment defense that two of his lead attorneys are quitting. Rather than argue that his speech before the violent Capitol insurrection was encouraging a peaceful protest rather than a coup and mass assassination attempt, or that impeaching him would be unconstitutional because he has left office, he is demanding that his lawyers argue the incendiary and false claim that the election was stolen from him:

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

Never mind that Trump’s false claims of mass election fraud have never held up in court. The lie itself is so destructive to the fabric of democracy that it functionally led to the assault on the Capitol itself. After all, if the head of the Executive Branch continues to claim that there is a massive conspiracy to steal away democracy and that he has all the evidence but it’s being suppressed, there are only two possible conclusions: either he’s lying for personal gain, or he’s telling the truth and people should take extraordinary measures to “defend” democracy. The necessity of it is baked into the accusation itself.

That is why not only Trump but all his Republican enablers in Congress should be convicted for incitement. It’s no surprise that people who believe that Trump, Fox News, and Ted Cruz are telling them the truth, while everyone else is a liar and conspiracist, took extreme measures based on their warped understanding of reality. These dangerous lies themselves carry their own inevitable and dangerous consequences.

Before a fair and impartial jury, Trump’s most credible defense would be to shy away from the explosive calumnies that incited his supporters, and emphasize his plausible deniability in not explicitly asking his supporters to storm the Capitol. He would also be emphasizing the same legally suspect copout that 45 Republican Senators recently hid behind, insisting that the expiration of his term as president gives him a get-out-of-jail-free card to commit high crimes in the waning days of his presidency. Before a fair and impartial jury, doubling down on the very claims that pushed his horde of supporters to try to murder the Speaker of the House and the Vice President would be legally suicidal.

It won’t matter in the end because Senate Republicans are not a fair and impartial jury. They don’t dare cross the Fox News/Newsmax/OAN/QAnon thralls who still believe that Trump is their God Emperor and see any action against him as tantamount to treason and the betrayal of Christ. Trump could send Sidney Powell to Congress to assert Trump’s right to, as he himself famously put it, shoot someone on 5th Avenue, and you still would not find 17 Republican Senators with the conscience to convict.

But still, all Trump has to do to ensure that Republicans defend him is…nothing. He simply needs to make the same specious case that Rand Paul is. But he can’t help himself. He has managed to convince himself of his own lies that he was robbed, and he won’t settle for any safer defense of his actions. He’s the rare con artist who can tell a lie in the morning and convince himself of its truth by mid-afternoon.

In the end, though, Trump is who he is. He’s a broken, dangerous and irredeemable man. Our greater contempt should fall on the cowards in the Republican Senate who will refuse to hold him accountable in spite of his own efforts at self-sabotage.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.