In the 24 hours since Donald Trump gave his blessing to rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building, more and more members of the administration have resigned in protest, CNN reports:
“Several senior figures were weighing resignations or have already stepped down, including Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger, who resigned Wednesday.
“Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced in a statement Thursday that she will resign effective Monday, saying she was ‘deeply troubled’ by the ‘entirely avoidable’ events at the Capitol building.
“On Thursday morning, a senior administration official confirmed that John Costello, the Commerce Department’s deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and security, resigned from his post. Ryan Tully, senior director for European and Russian Affairs, also resigned from the National Security Council, a White House official confirmed. And Tyler Goodspeed, the acting chairman of the Counsel of Economic Advisers at the White House, submitted his resignation Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
Did all of these people resign out of a crisis of conscience, or could their reasons for distancing themselves have to do with the fact that they’re afraid of repercussions if they remain?
According to Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair, the real motivation behind the raft of resignations is that many of the officials are terrified they might be charged with treason if they remain until the bitter end:
“As the violent mob incited by President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, some West Wing staffers panicked that they were possibly becoming participants in a coup to overthrow the government. ‘What do I do? Resign?’ one nervous White House staffer asked a friend on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after news broke that a woman had been shot and killed inside the Capitol. The West Wing staffer told the friend that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was urging White House officials not to speak to Trump or enable his coup attempt in any way, so they could reduce the chance they could be prosecuted for treason under the Sedition Act. ‘They’re being told to stay away from Trump.’
“Cipollone’s purported concern that Trump was committing treason—a federal crime—illustrates the chaos and fear of Wednesday’s unprecedented events.”
Treason and sedition are words that are in the air all around Washington, D.C., and they damn well should be. Because when a head of state and his enablers in Congress begin suggesting that an election was “stolen” and that protesters need to “take the country back,” it certainly has the Jacobin ring of “off with their heads” that was heard back in the darkest days of the French revolution. At least then people were unseating a malevolent monarch who cared only for himself.
Now, however, we have Trump, along with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) taking a massive shit all over the Constitution and daring to defend the wildest conspiracy theories birthed in the darkest corners of the internet.
Treason and sedition? There’s a case to be made that many who consider themselves “leaders” of this country could and should be charged with both. But instead of a guillotine, let’s give them life in prison without parole so they can ponder their treachery for decades.