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Terry Lamphier: The other ‘Big Lie’

Terry Lamphier | Other Voices

 

It’s appropriate in these times that a local theater group would present the play, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” about (from Microsoft Encarta) “the story of an emperor who is duped by two weavers into wearing clothes that are “invisible to any one who was unfit for the office he held, or was incorrigibly stupid.” Afraid to be labeled incompetent, none of the emperor’s ministers or servants will admit they cannot see the clothes.”

By now, those who care enough about our nation to closely follow the unfolding Trump story are well familiar with the various narratives surrounding Trump and the last election. Trump’s position – that the election was rigged and it’s a big lie that Biden won – lead to actions, encouraged by him, that nearly brought down our country and that continue to foster dangerous divisiveness.

Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6 and beyond raise several questions for Congress’s Jan. 6 commission. Do his actions qualify as mental incompetence? Treason? Sedition? Or, as too many Republicans insist, acceptable exercise of powers reserved for the president under creative and unprecedented interpretations of our well-meaning but poorly written Constitution — reinterpreting presidential authority to, he maintains, protect our country from an illegitimate election?



Even now, he persists in claims that there was massive fraud, after exhaustive, country-wide, multi- and non-partisan election analysis verified Biden’s win and despite several prominent Republicans in his inner circle telling him otherwise. By continuing his disproved story about the “stolen election,” Trump is practicing the real “big lie” on the American public, but, consummate showman that he is, does he believe it or is he promoting a big con?

At this point, for Trump to stick to the “belief” narrative raises questions about his mental competence or strengthens a case for sedition. To abandon it risks alienating the millions who voted for him, while undermining numerous Trump “big lie” candidates.



A “belief” argument may alleviate his culpability for his promotion of Jan. 6 events, but it does not make him immune to charges. It does not relieve him of the burden of proving mental competence, especially as he continues to promote this position – a belief at this point that most would now consider unreasonable and out of touch with reality.

If, as many believe, he intended an illegitimate take-over, then regardless of his belief set or mental state, his actions as president were treasonous. By continuing his argument out of office, his actions meet the less rigorous test for sedition.

The commission’s options are limited. They cannot bring charges, only refer information to the justice department. Being out of office, Trump is past the stage where he could have been removed from office for incompetence (the Constitution’s 25th Amendment) or charged with treason (the Constitution’s Article 3, Section 3) as only Congress has these powers, powers they failed to exercise due to Republican partisanship “trumping” ethics, morality and arguably, the Constitution and the law.

There remains a strong case to be made for sedition: “conduct directed against the state or intending to excite disaffection with it and with those exercising authority… generally takes the form of writing, publishing, or making speeches inciting citizens to overthrow established governmental authority. Sedition differs from treason in that it does not involve overt acts of open violence or assistance to an enemy” (Encarta).

Our nation’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, said that the justice department will prosecute “everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6.” Will this include Trump? His enablers, including several congresspersons who supported his actions on Jan. 6?

Garland is not in an enviable position, as there are, or were, millions, too many of them well-armed, still buying into Trump’s narrative. The fall elections are coming and should Republicans regain control, their track record for country over partisanship is not good. Political observers believe they will make Garland and the commission’s work go away.

In the event Trump is jailed, he could still run for president, as Eugene Debs did in 1920 while incarcerated.

A George Washington quote regarding Benedict Arnold seems appropriate:

“From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge, he seems to have been so hackneyed in villainy, and so lost to all sense of honor and shame that while his facilities will enable him to continue his sordid pursuits there will be no time for remorse.”

Terry Lamphier lives in Grass Valley

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