Joe Lockhart is a CNN political analyst. He was the White House press secretary from 1998 to 2000 in President Bill Clinton’s administration. He cohosts the podcast “Words Matter.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)Tens of millions of Americans were glued to their televisions, laptops and mobile devices Wednesday as an act of domestic terrorism played out live for the whole world to watch. Fear, anger and disgust were the reactions I heard most from friends, family and on social media platforms.
Joe LockhartWhile the anger has not dissipated, another emotion seems to be rising to the surface: helplessness. Many Americans are skeptical of the ability of politicians in Washington, particularly the Republicans, to hold all of the terrorists and their supporters accountable.That helplessness is not without foundation. Time and time again for the last four years the American public has watched President Donald Trump avoid accountability for his outrageous and immoral behavior. Republicans have consistently enabled him, and our judicial system, with the exception of the election issues, has not been able to thwart his constant judicial stalling and obstruction. Color the American public skeptical that this time our institutions will deliver.There are two potential paths for the politicians in Washington to punish the President: Invoking the 25th Amendment at the direction of the vice president and the cabinet, or impeaching Trump for a second time and holding a trial in the Senate. The first of these seems unlikely to happen. It might require a broader deal — if he were willing, Vice President Mike Pence could convince both Trump and the cabinet to remove the President in return for a full pardon from President Pence. It would be a risky move for Pence’s future given the negative reception former President Gerald Ford received for pardoning Richard Nixon. And that kind of deal depends on Trump’s emotional state and whether or not he believes he can pardon himself.Read MoreRepublicans, expel anyone who supports the riotersThe House is likely to move on impeachment this week. The timing of sending the articles over to the Senate is where this gets interesting. The House can pass articles of impeachment quickly, but it is unlikely the Senate could pull off a trial before the President’s term ended. Some Democrats worry that trying him in the new Senate, which they are allowed to do, would take focus away from a new President Biden’s agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can hold onto the articles of impeachment for as long as she wants. One scenario would be to hold them until after the first hundred days of the Biden Administration so as to not interfere with Covid-19 and vaccine efforts, cabinet confirmations and economic recovery initiatives. The bottom line is, while there are multiple options, it is still possible the President can run out the clock and once again avoid any legal responsibility for his actions. That’s where the helplessness comes from for the majority of Americans. We’ve seen this movie before, and we don’t like how it ends.The good news for all Americans is that they are not completely helpless in punishing Trump for taking the country to the brink of authoritarianism. We all have power to deny him the vast privileges and riches that come with the distinction of being the former president of the United States.How do we do that? Here’s a few ideas to make sure former President Trump feels the pain he has inflicted on our country:If you work at a company, belong to an organization or trade association or an institution of higher education, let your bosses know that you won’t tolerate paying Trump to come speak at events, conferences or any sort of engagement. Don’t wait until he’s booked, let them know in advance that he’s not welcome. If you are a lecture agency and take Trump on as a client, understand that your other clients will go elsewhere for representation.We all buy books from the major publishers. Let them know you will no longer buy their books if they sign Trump to a book deal. Tell your local officials to stay away from Trump. No renaming of airports, highways or public buildings — I might exclude toxic waste dumps and landfills from this list, however. If they don’t listen, vote them out of office. Make sure the Trump Organization is not afforded any the tax breaks for building in your community. And no donations of land for a Presidential library. Let him build it in the smoking room at Mar-a-Lago.Donald Trump's ultimate outrageNo awards or honors should be bestowed from your town, group or organization. No commencement speeches or honorary degrees from colleges and universities. In fact, following the example of Lehigh University, revoke a degree if it has already been awarded. If you are an author, make clear you won’t work with publishers that do business with Trump. No throwing out the first pitch at the World Series. No invitation to toss the coin for the Super Bowl or drop the ball at the World Cup. And Olympics — forget about it. Want to get him where it really hurts? Pressure the golf governing bodies to sever all ties with him and his golf courses.At a local club, make sure the pro knows they’ll be no playing privileges. If he wants to play, he either has to own the course or join the hackers at the local public course. The PGA (who just announced the 2022 PGA Championship will not be played at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey) might offer him a deal — privileges will be restored after a PGA official follows him for a year to record his real score and enter it into the handicap system.If you work in the finance industry, tell your leadership they must say no to any requests for financing from the Trump Organization. If they hold debt, tell them to call it January 21. If you’re an investor, tell your broker or bank just say no to Trump or your money will walk.We can also pressure Congress to take further action. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a former President be afforded the protection of the Secret Service. Also, nothing that says he deserves a million dollars a year for travel and a generous pension and healthcare plan. And of course, there should be no right to a state funeral.Finally, and most importantly, show no tolerance for anyone in our judicial system who seeks special protection for crimes committed either before, after or during his presidency. Trump doesn’t have to be found guilty of sedition to punished for his behavior. See the Al Capone example: By all accounts, Capone murdered dozens of people but only went to jail for tax evasion. And law firms that seek to help Trump can and should be boycotted by organizations large and small.Get our free weekly newsletter
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Trump must be held accountable for crimes against the state. We all have some power to help with holding him accountable and should not hesitate to use it going forward. Trump screwed up the most important job in the world — president of the United States. Let’s make sure he doesn’t benefit now from the best job in the world — former president of the United States. And for those who say this is cancel culture run amok, I say it’s perfectly legal citizen justice well earned by Donald J Trump.
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