A question many people have asked themselves daily for more than a year now is whether Donald Trump will be held criminally liable for trying to overthrow the government, and given the whole attempted-coup business, it’s an entirely reasonable thing to wonder. Unfortunately at this time, we have no idea what the answer is. On the one hand, Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that the Justice Department will go after the people who caused the deadly insurrection, “whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” which would seem to include the guy who spent months lying about the election being stolen, and then got his supporters all riled up and told them to “fight” just before they attacked the Capitol. On the other, Trump has a long history of getting away with everything. So there’s that.
Still, Monday brought a small glimmer of hope that the 45th president might at least be held liable for the events of that terrible day, in the sense that he may have to pay up for what he did.
As Mehta noted, if Trump didn’t mean for his supporters to literally “fight” the election results at the Capitol, as his allies have suggested, he had plenty of time to tell them to stop. “Wouldn’t somebody who’s a reasonable person say, ‘That’s not what I meant?’” Mehta asked a lawyer arguing against the insurrection lawsuits. As we of course know by now, not only did Trump not say anything for hours as lawmakers at the Capitol came under attack, he even refused pleas, including from his children, to take action, only much later telling the rioters to “go home,“ and in the same breath, “You’re very special” and “we love you” and, shortly after that, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” Last Thursday, on the anniversary of the January 6 attack, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump “gleefully” watched it unfold on TV, remarking, “Look at all of the people fighting for me,” and hitting rewind to watch again. Republican senator Ben Sasse said in an interview days after the attack that the president “was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was.… He was delighted.”