Liz Cheney violated the Constitution

In voting to impeach President Trump, Wyoming rep. Liz Cheney violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution by declaring him guilty before due process.

Regarding the mob violence at the U.S. Capitol building, Rep. Cheney stated that the president "lit the flame of this attack."  To be sure, he enflamed the marchers to the Capitol, but he did not incite to a riot.  The mob itself chose to do that.

The Constitution does not protect speech that incites a riot.  Trump did not tell the marchers to march to the Capitol and engage in violence.

In fact, he stated to them, "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard."

Rep. Cheney declared, "Everything that followed" at the Capitol "was his doing."  No, it was not his doing; it was the doing of many of the mob.  She makes a faulty leap of post hoc, ergo propter hoc: after his comments, therefore because of his comments.  The law and the Constitution don't work that way.  Nowhere did the president state or imply that the marchers should next march to the Capitol for violent insurrection.

Rep. Cheney then charges the president with "betrayal ... of his oath to the Constitution."  In unwitting irony, it is Cheney who betrays her oath to the Constitution by declaring guilt before due process.

She should have taken the route that Sen. Mitch McConnell carefully did: wait to see what the evidence says — which implements due process.

On January 17, the Republican Party Central Committee in Carbon County, Wyoming voted unanimously with 45 votes to censure Cheney for her vote to impeach President Trump.

The Committee declared that "she voted in favor of the Democrats' rushed impeachment article, denying President Trump due process."  The Committee was accurate in its charge.

It is understandable that one week later, state senator Anthony Boucher tossed his hat into the ring in the Republican primary against Rep. Cheney.

I want to relate a true story that explains the distinction between enflaming people and inciting a riot.  These are constitutionally two entirely different things.

In the late '60s, when I was a college professor at a mid-sized Michigan university, nearly every campus in America was protesting the country's involvement in the Vietnam war.

One well known and revered professor at my university decided in a Hyde Park manner to protest the war.  He set up a P.A. system in the center of campus and blasted his protests of the war.

After dark, student mobs destroyed the campus.  The destruction got so violent and widespread that military helicopters were flown in to tear-gas the entire campus, dispersing the students.

Was this the professor's constitutional right to engage in free speech on a public, not private, campus, or did he incite a riot?  He enflamed students, but he did not instruct or suggest that they should violently destroy much of the campus.  

I take this as the professor's constitutional right to free speech on a public campus — much as I take President Trump's right to protest to his followers, even enflame them, but not incite them to mob violence and destruction.

I've always liked Liz Cheney's politics and wish she would have made the critical distinction between Trump's enflaming comments and incitement to riot. 

With unanimous censure by her party leaders in Wyoming, she could lose her seat.  

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D. is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif.  He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for U.S. chief justice Warren Burger.

Image: Milonica.