In spite of the U.S. Capitol siege incited by President Donald Trump, Republican leaders in Congress continue to oppose any meaningful action to hold him accountable for his seditious conduct. They seem to think that in spite of his dangerous and undemocratic behavior, he should still be the beneficiary of taxpayer-financed perks for the rest of his life.
It has become clear that Republicans are trying to run out the clock on the Trump presidency, using his short-timer status to justify their inaction. “I firmly believe impeachment would further destroy our ability to heal and start over,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy maintained that impeaching Trump so close to the end of his term “will only divide our country more.”
For the record, I don’t remember Republicans in Congress worrying about healing the country when they created the Select Committee on Benghazi for the sole purpose of undermining Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ leading presidential prospect in the runup to the 2016 race. Does this mean that if there was more time in the Trump presidency, they’d magically be for impeaching him? Last time I checked, they had the chance to impeach him a year ago, and they refused.
Comfy lifestyle for ex-presidents
It was GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who famously said that Trump learned “a pretty big lesson” from impeachment. Predictably, the lesson he learned was that Republicans in Congress were too chickens–t to do anything about his treasonous behavior. After seeking and welcoming help from an enemy foreign power, what’s the big deal about adding sedition and insurrection to the list?
Setting aside the dangerous precedent that will be set by doing nothing to a person who incited a rebellion against the United States of America, since Republicans are so intent on the clock defense, it is incumbent upon Democrats to recalibrate their messaging strategy on impeachment. Instead of making it about accountability for the Capitol siege, they need to make Republicans own Trump’s post-presidency perks. Most Americans are unaware of the fact that they fund a pretty comfortable lifestyle for former presidents.
Upon leaving office, Trump will be the beneficiary of a number of taxpayer-financed benefits, all of which would be wiped out if he were successfully impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.
Gone would be the $200,000 a year stipend.
Gone would be the $1 million a year travel budget.
Gone would be taxpayer subsidies to finance his office and staff.
Gone would be the pension for the spouse of the president.
Gone would be the lifetime of Secret Service protection.
Deny Trump millions in benefits
A vote for impeachment is a vote to take away the perks of Trump’s post-presidency life. A vote against impeachment is a vote to maintain them. This is the message. It is simple, direct and easy to digest. This isn’t complicated. This isn’t the Mueller report. Democrats need to force Republicans to make a decision and go on the record with it: Do they believe that after the insurrection Trump fomented, he deserves millions in taxpayer-funded benefits every year for the rest of his life? Impeachment isn’t about removing Trump from office. It’s about holding him accountable for inciting a domestic terrorist assault on our Capitol.
Democrats need to frame this challenge nationally and put it on the doorstep of McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They need to own their deliberate choice to subsidize the rest of Trump’s life. Long after Trump leaves office, the American taxpayers will still be footing the bill for this con artist. Impeachment is the instrument Congress can use to remove this financial burden from the shoulders of the American people.
As the impeachment debate progresses, this is how Democrats need to challenge Republicans in Congress. This is the choice Republicans must be forced to make. Do not let them get away with hiding behind the calendar. As we saw the last time Trump avoided accountability, he will only get worse, his followers will only get more violent and, next time, the damage could be catastrophic for our country.
Kurt Bardella is a Senior Advisor for the Lincoln Project and is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributor. Kurt served as the spokesperson and senior advisor for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans from 2009-2013. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella