If I Were Advising Trump
If I were advising Trump on confronting the latest impeachment trial against him, here’s what I would advise him to do.
First, he should deny the legitimacy of the trial itself on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to impeach and try a former government official. Personally, I don’t this argument is valid; former officials may be impeached, tried and convicted. But by making the argument that such a proceeding violates the Constitution’s provisions regarding impeachment, Trump would provide cover for those Senators who do think that such impeachments and trials are unconstitutional, an argument they are free to make and follow.
Second, he should argue that attempts to “incite insurrections” against the established government are, in fact, the essence of politics, at least of radical politics. Of course, he should argue that his attempt to incite such an insurrection was not meant to lead to violence and that he regrets that such violence occurred. But he should point out that even the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. was guilty of “inciting insurrection” against the established order, which is one reason King ended up in an Alabama jail. Trump could follow that up by referencing Malcolm X who once gave a speech, now rather famous, entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet.” And Malcolm X also claimed that blacks should fight for their freedom and equality “by any means necessary.” Again, this was obviously a call for an “insurrection,” which is why Malcolm X was targeted by the FBI, as was MLK also. The FBI was created to oppose and repress “subversive political activity,” and has remained true to its roots, e.g., in the 60s when it targeted anti-war, black power, and even civil rights groups, attempting to undermine them.
Many people seem to think that being investigated by the FBI means that one is a subversive and, therefore, being a subversive is a criminal act. But being a subversive is, in fact, the heart and soul of oppositional politics, of a politics, like Trump’s, which seeks to overthrow the established order. In our republic, subversion is constitutionally protected in several ways, for example, by the first amendment that protects freedom of speech and religious freedom. Both free speech and religion, when the Constitution was written, were recognized as potentially subversive activities and, nonetheless, they were granted constitutional protection. Not only the possibility but the legitimacy of subversive political activity in a republic should be taken for granted now as it was in 1787, when the Constitution was written and then a few years later when it was amended by the addition of the Bill of Rights.
This is the tradition that Trump should draw on because by doing so he not only would throw a monkey wrench into the Democrats’ attempts to convict him, but he would educate a nation about republicanism and its requirements. And this is the kind of education that is desperately needed in the United States today.