A George Washington University legal scholar is warning how the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump could become a trial over the reckless rhetoric heard from American politicians almost every day.
Jonathan Turley writes in his blog that the House was "playing into that very danger by selecting some managers who have been criticized in the past for their own over-heated political rhetoric. As managers were replaying the comments of former President Donald Trump from prior years to show how his words fueled divisions, critics were pointing to similar statements from the managers themselves."
"If this trial boils down to irresponsible political rhetoric, the public could find it difficult to distinguish between the accused, the "prosecutors" and the "jury." That is the problem with a strategy that seems focused not on proving incitement of an insurrection but some ill-defined form of political negligence," Turley noted.
The law professor pointed out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's mistake in a recent tweet of selecting Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to be one of the impeachment managers.
"The House managers are now being criticized for using similar language in the past. Speaker Pelosi particularly blundered by appointing managers like Eric Swalwell, who is notorious for inflammatory rhetoric, in a trial where such rhetoric would be the focus of the managers," Turley wrote.
......The House managers are now being criticized for using similar language in the past. Speaker Pelosi particularly blundered by appointing managers like Eric Swalwell, who is notorious for inflammatory rhetoric, in a trial where such rhetoric would be the focus of the managers
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) February 11, 2021
In one disturbing example, Swalwell, who was recently embroiled in a national security scandal over his past relationship with a Chinese spy, said President Trump is just like Al Qaeda terrorist 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
This afternoon we have been lectured to by Eric Swalwell, a guy accused of consorting with a Chinese spy. How appropriate!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 10, 2021
Swalwell also used cruel rhetoric two years ago when he insulted Republican Sen. Susan Collins over threats she and her staff received during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, according to USA Today.
Swalwell mocked Collins by tweeting: "Boo hoo hoo. You're a senator who police will protect. A sexual assault victim can't sleep in her home tonight because of threats. Where are you sleeping? She's on her own while you and your @SenateGOP colleagues try to rush her through a hearing."
In an interview with CBN News on Thursday, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) said it's not just about what Democrats have said in the past, it's that they aren't providing the full context of what Trump actually said.
"What did he say? He said go fight. Let your voices be heard, and he said march peacefully and patriotically. How can you twist that into words that incite violence?" Paul asked. "But I can give you Chuck Schumer's words when he stood in front of a mob in front of the Supreme Court and he said, 'Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, you have unleashed the whirlwind and you will pay the price'."
"Immediately after Schumer's words, the mob charged the door of the Supreme Court and they tried to tear it down," the Kentucky congressman recalled.
"So if we're going to judge political speech on the actual words, let's use one standard, and I think Democrats if they look in the mirror, they've been guilty of much more than they're accusing Trump of," Paul told CBN News.
Byron York, a writer for The Washington Examiner, pointed to President Trump's words on Jan. 6th when he spoke about "fighting like hell" and the full context in which that phrase was used.
"Our brightest days are before us, our greatest achievements still wait. I think one of our great achievements will be election security because nobody until I came along, had any idea how corrupt our elections were. And again, most people would stand there at 9:00 in the evening and say 'I want to thank you very much' and go off to some other life, but I said, 'something's wrong here. Something's really wrong. Can't have happened.' And we fight. We fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore."
With the archiving capability of various social media platforms, we know that Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the House's lead impeachment manager, has used the same rhetoric in the recent past.
During an interview with The Atlantic in 2019, Rep. Raskin responded to a reporter's question saying, "I find it hard to believe that the courts have been so corrupted by Donald Trump already that they would completely abandon the rule of law. But we live in a time where nothing is normal. Let's hope for the best, be prepared for the worst, and go fight like hell for the Constitution."
Raskin repeated "fight like hell" in a tweet from Sept. 23, 2020, when talking about Trump's Supreme Court nomination.
"The GOP rush to replace Justice Ginsburg is all about destroying the Affordable Care Act, women's health care and reproductive freedom, and voting rights and civil rights of people. We must fight like hell to stop this assault on health care and the Constitution," the Maryland congressman wrote.
The Save America PAC's "Trump War Room" also tweeted Raskin's quote in a pjmedia.com article noting, "Saying You'll Fight Like Hell' Becomes Impeachable 'Incitement' -- But Only When GOP Says it."
"Saying You'll 'Fight Like Hell' Becomes Impeachable 'Incitement' – But Only When GOP Says it" https://t.co/qsuu2UpqqR
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) February 11, 2021
Other impeachment managers issued similar "fight like h***" rhetoric in the past:
In addition, back in January 2017, Raskin even attempted to challenge the count during the Electoral College vote certification, arguing that due to a legal technicality, Florida's slate of electors should be set aside, according to realclearpolitics.com.
Former Trump adviser Jason Miller also pointed out in a tweet, "If we were going by the standard the Democrats are holding President Trump to, we should be impeaching all of them quite frankly."
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) also tweeted a flashback of Democrats in 2018 saying: "The election was stolen."
Democrats in 2018: "The election was stolen!" pic.twitter.com/Hwgv22w9WZ
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) February 10, 2021
Turley points out the search for moral clarity will be lost if Americans cannot distinguish the behavior of the accused and that of his jury.
"With polls showing only half of the country favoring conviction, this trial could end up as an indictment of both sides for fueling our divisions. Impeachments were intended to be used in the clearest possible cases to secure two-thirds votes for conviction," he wrote. "But Congress could wind up looking like an unimpeached co-conspirator — not in the riot, but in our ongoing political discord."