February 2, 2022

CNN's John Avlon with today's Reality Check:

"Look, we all heard the excuses for Trump along the way. 'Take him seriously, not literally,' they said. 'Don't listen to what he says, look at what he does.' These rationalizations were trotted out to explain away the endless lies and tantrums and autocratic impulses. Before the election, we were again assured by allies that he didn't really mean it. Of course Trump would gracefully concede, they said. By now, we should all know better. It is still stunning to see the same partisan stupor continue, the same cult-like fear of confronting the truth that Trump tried to overturn an election and destroy our democracy from within the White House. But this will be seen as villainy in the eyes of history. Not even Nixon tried anything as ugly and unconstitutional.

"And the facts just get more damning. Like the presence of two draft executive orders revealed this week by CNN's Zach Cohen and Paula Reid, which would have ordered the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to seize voting machines on the basis of baseless conspiracy theories. These bespoke documents could suspend Inauguration Day. They could have been used to do just that. and Trump wasn't some bystander getting bad advice. The New York Times reports that in December, Trump ordered his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to call acting DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli, asking if they could seize voting machines in key states. He said he didn't have that power.

"Even this wasn't an isolated incident. And he pressured Bill Barr to seize the machines. Got turned down days before Barr left office. And Trump's own admission that he pressured Pence to, quote, overturn the election. As well as his latest promise to pardon the January 6th insurrectionists if he's elected president again. So to recap, Trump admitted his goal, showed his intent, and offered his most violent supporters a 'get out of jail free' card.

"Now, take all this together, and any fair-minded American should be able to see this man is unfit to be anywhere near the presidency again. Yet, despite all that we have learned, the response from the GOP is a collective shrug. That's according to our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. I'm sorry, have they learned nothing? I know it's Groundhog Day, but this is ridiculous. Senators like North Dakota's Kevin Kramer defended Trump's call to pardon the rioters. John Kennedy of Louisiana said everyone is entitled to their own opinion, twice, while declining to give his own opinion on the matter. Other Republican senators ducked the question or said they would dutifully support Trump if he were the party's nominee. What would it take for them to take a stand? Even a moment of normal clarity makes Ted Cruz's struggle session with Tucker Carlson look dignified.

CRUZ: The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and frankly dumb.

CARLSON: I don't buy that.

"But while spineless Republicans genuflect and kiss the ring and enable a wanna-be autocrat, they've decided to focus their fire instead on two conservative colleagues, with the RNC lining up more than 50 votes to expel Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney from the House GOP conference for the sin of actually putting country over party and serving on the January 6th commission. This is sick. It reflects the impulse to hunt down heretics because it threatens the cowardly cohesion of a cult.

"Sometimes in the middle of political chaos, it is helpful to think how all of this will look in 20, 30 years. Because this fever will some day break. Cults ultimately end. The few honorable Republicans who stood in the way of Trump's attempted coup will deserve all our respect and quite possibly our votes. But those who make excuses, especially now, will be seen as enablers. They will be seen not just as cowardly but complicit. This isn't a tough call, because you cannot be a patriot and support someone who tried to overturn an election. It's just that simple.

"And that's your reality check."

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