As House impeachment managers push to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Leon Panetta, who served as the 23rd Secretary of Defense, told Yahoo Finance “there’s no question” Trump was responsible for the insurrection, and that Republican senators need to stop worrying about reelection and “accept the truth of what happened.”
“This is a moment when we really look for people who are profiles in courage, who are willing to stand up and accept the truth of what happened, recognize the president’s responsibility for [the riot] on Jan. 6 and hold him accountable,” said Panetta, who was also the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “I don’t think there’s any question that when the U.S. Capitol was attacked and our democracy brought to a halt… that this was a major insurrection in our country and that the president was responsible for that insurrection.”
“The problem is that the impeachment trial is a political process and there are a lot of members on the Republican side who are worried about reelection. They’re worried about the Trump base that’s out there that could have an impact on their ability to survive. They are running in fear from that prospect.”
Convicting Trump would require 67 votes in the Senate, meaning that at least 17 Republicans would need to join their Democratic colleagues to reach the threshold for conviction.
Only six Republican senators voted on Tuesday that the impeachment trial against Trump is constitutional, suggesting that it is unlikely Democrats will be able to secure enough votes.
“They’re not going to vote to impeach the president because they’re afraid that it may have an impact on their self-survival,” Panetta said. “I don’t agree with that by the way. I think that if they stood up and did what was right for our country, recognize the truth of what took place and recognize their responsibility as elected leaders to hold the president accountable for what happened, I think that would be to their benefit. But unfortunately, there are too few of them that look at it that way.”
Insurrection ‘in many ways similar’ to 9/11
The White House has vowed to make the fight against domestic terrorism a priority, and lawmakers are calling for more action as well. On Jan. 19, a group of bipartisan lawmakers reintroduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. The act would dedicate domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to analyze and monitor homegrown threats.
There’s no time to waste, argues Panetta, who says it’s critical to recognize the threat from homegrown extremism.
“We have to recognize that what happened on Jan. 6 is in many ways similar to what happened on Sept. 11,” Panetta added, who warns that ignoring domestic terrorism could have severe consequences. “On 9/11, we were attacked and we recognized the threat from foreign terrorism. We realized that we had to go after those who had attacked our country and bring them to justice.”
“I think the same thing is true on Jan. 6. We saw domestic terrorism in this country and what it could do in undermining our democracy and tearing away at the fabric of what our democratic systems are all about,” Panetta said. “Therefore, I think we can’t underestimate domestic terrorism. We can’t assume that somehow it will never happen again.”
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