WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s historic arrest on charges related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election have outraged some Republican lawmakers in Congress − including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. In a news conference hours before Trump’s arraignment, McCarthy compared the former president’s false claims of election fraud to claims made by members of the Democratic party in past elections.
“I could say the same thing that Hillary Clinton says about her election that she lost… I can say the same thing about those in the Democratic party from the leadership on down about George Bush not winning, that Al Gore did,” McCarthy said. “But were any of them prosecuted? Were any of them put in jail?”
But the two instances are not the same. While Clinton and Democrat lawmakers have questioned the legitimacy of elections, they never plotted to overthrow one, as Trump is accused to have done. The indictment against Trump details how he knowingly leveraged false election fraud claims to try to alter the 2020 election results.
McCarthy’s remarks contrast with how he felt about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack two years ago. A week after the attack, McCarthy said that Trump bore responsibility and needed to “quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-Elect Joe Biden is able to successfully begin his term.”
“Let’s be clear, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week because he won the election,” McCarthy said.
Trump’s indictment also alleges that he called McCarthy − then House Minority Leader − to say that the crowd at the Capitol was more upset than McCarthy was. Trump was charged with conspiracy to obstruct and impede a congressional proceeding in which the outcome of the 2020 election was being certified.
“The Trump indictment alleges Trump was repeatedly told his lost the election by multiple government officials, state and federal,” Joan Meyer, a partner at the law firm Thompson Hine, told USA TODAY. “He had conversations where he was told specifically the statements he was making… were false but he kept making them.”
Here’s a closer look at McCarthy’s most recent remarks regarding Trump’s charges.
McCarthy makes apples to oranges comparisons in his speech
McCarthy’s questions about why former Secretary of State Clinton and other members of the Democratic party weren’t prosecuted misrepresents what was detailed in the indictment against Trump, legal experts told USA TODAY.
Clinton has previously questioned the outcome of the 2016 election that she lost and even called Trump an “illegitimate president” after he won. But her criticism of the election was limited to speeches, and she had conceded defeat to Trump, according to David Super, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown University.
Trump, on the other hand, had knowingly used false claims to get state legislatures and election officials to subvert the legitimate 2020 election results rather than conceding to Biden, the indictment alleges.
“As the indictment itself notes, President Trump was and is free to make whatever claims he wants about the election, even false ones,” Super said. “What he is not free to do is use dishonesty to obtain something through false means.”
The indictment also alleged that Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count valid electoral votes and used fake electors in a scheme to undermine Biden’s win, among other actions.
“He can have an opinion,” Marc Scholl, who served as a criminal prosecutor, told USA TODAY. “He can express an opinion. He can sue. But he cannot plot to break the law.”
Likewise, House Democrats have contested the certification of electoral votes for former President Bush after he beat Democrat challenger Al Gore in the 2000 election. However, these lawmakers did not plot to overthrow the election and Gore did concede defeat.
“There is a world of difference between what Donald Trump has been accused of and what Democrats did in 2000,” Jonathan Entin, a constitutional law expert at Case Western Reserve, told USA TODAY.
Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., called McCarthy’s criticism of Trump’s charges “complete garbage” on CNN, where he now serves as a senior political commentator.
“Even the base would look at that and go, ‘That’s not the same thing.’ It doesn’t make an ounce of sense,” Kinzinger said.
Source: USA Today