Guest: Former diplomat, Rep. Tom Perriello of Open Society Foundations US on our nation's need for accountability beyond impeachment...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2021, 6:42pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Donald John Trump made history yet again on Wednesday by becoming the first President to be Impeached twice. Plus, a former Congressman and diplomat warns accountability is needed if the nation ever hopes to recover. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

The U.S. House voted 232 to 197, with 10 Republicans joining all of the Democrats, to charge the soon-to-be-former President with "Incitement of Insurrection" [PDF] for inflaming his violent MAGA mob before they stormed the U.S. Capitol just one week earlier. Using false claims that he had actually won the election in a landslide, he told his infuriated supporters to "fight like hell" to prevent the 2020 election from being stolen for Joe Biden. At least five people, including a police officer, were killed during the insurrection, another officer later committed suicide. Scores of both law enforcement officials and rioters were hospitalized as the marauders attempted to find and kill Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers.

Soon-to-be-former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to the historic day by ruling out a trial on the charge in the U.S. Senate before next week's inauguration of Joe Biden. He did not, however, rule out his own vote to convict the twice-impeached President. Some close to McConnell have reportedly suggested that he may see the impeachment and a subsequent conviction of Trump as a way to distance the GOP from the nation's worst and most divisive President.

We share a number of the statements made during the House floor debate, both for and against Trump's impeachment, on Wednesday, including from one of the Republicans who broke with his party to vote to impeach the President.

Then, we're joined by former Democratic Congressman and diplomat TOM PERRIELLO, who now heads the Open Society Foundation for the U.S. Perriello, after serving as Representative for Virginia's 5th Congressional District, went on to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region during the Obama Administration. Earlier in the 2000s he worked as a U.S. diplomat with the UN-mandated Special Court for Sierra Leone and as a consultant to the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kosovo (2003), Darfur (2005), and Afghanistan (2007).

Comments from Perriello caught our eye last week when he was quoted by the New York Times following the attempted coup at the Capitol. It was an article on the growing demands by Democrats for accountability for Trump, his family and his associates after he leaves office. In the piece, Perriello is cited --- based on his experience helping to resolve political crises in various developing nations, including one in which a President attempted to stay in office beyond his constitutional term --- noting: "Countries that skip the accountability phase end up repeating 100 percent of the time --- but the next time the crisis is worse."

“People who think that the way forward is to brush this under the rug," he told the paper, "seem to have missed the fact that there is a ticking time bomb under the rug."

On a day in which a majority of House Republicans argued and voted against accountability for last week's Trump-incited violent assault on the U.S. Capitol --- with many arguing, hypocritically, that impeachment would merely serve to anger Trump supporters and lead to more divisiveness and hostility at a time the nation needs healing --- Perriello's insight based on his years of experience abroad is enlightening. Citing, for example, the efforts to rebuild Liberia following the tumultuous, criminal reign of its former President Charles Taylor, was to bring charges. "The only real path to peace involved accountability for him and the other warlords who had driven so much of that conflict across the region."

"Accountability can take a lot of different forms, but there's a reason you don't have a lot of candidates out there and politicians saying they want to be the next Richard Nixon or the next Joe McCarthy. These are people who faced public accountability in the form of censure and resignation, with real consequences to them. And that tends to define the path forward," ," Perriello tells me. "There's a reason that in Germany, there are not statues set up to Hitler and other Third Reich figures. The way in which we choose to understand our history and hold people to account has real consequences for other leaders in the future, and the actions they choose to take."

Citing his concern about what could happen in the coming days, in the wake of last week's attempted coup, he notes: "The insurrectionists are already planning escalations. The failure to take seriously such similar provocations or promises, really, is part of what got us into this mess. ... To me, as someone who has worked in conflict zones and on transitional justice, the most scary image was them walking out not in handcuffs, because those images were ones that simply invited the idea of impunity. And impunity leads people to repeat those events, and repeat them with escalation. Allowing even a 24-hour news cycle in which these people could exit as heroes, was something that was almost certainly going to lead to more violence down the road. And that's why this issue of introducing accountability is important." 

So, is the best way for Joe Biden to help "heal" the country to look forward, not back, as the Obama Administration did when taking office after George W. Bush, when they failed to bring accountability for torture and domestic spying by the Administration or for those whose crimes resulted in the 2008 financial crisis? Or should the Biden Administration hold Trump and his enablers to account for their actions? Should some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Committee be formed to help the U.S. out of its current seemingly-intractable morass, as Perriello helped oversee in overseas, third-world nations?

He offers his thoughts on all of that, on Biden's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for Attorney General, as well as on today's history second impeachment of Donald Trump, and even explains why he believes "this may yet be our finest hour." All of that on today's jam-packed program!...

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