Despite the House impeachment managers’ devastating case that Donald Trump incited the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Senate Republicans remain determined to let him off the hook. The arguments Wednesday showed Trump’s repeated attacks on Mike Pence for refusing to try to overturn the election results. They showed the mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” They showed Trump’s tweet yet again directing the ire of his supporters at Pence, and they showed an insurrectionist reading that tweet through a bullhorn in the middle of the attack on the Capitol. But according to Sen. Ted Cruz, “They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the President doesn’t come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement.”

“Donald Trump over many months cultivated violence, praised it,” Del. Stacey Plaskett, one of the House managers, said. “And then when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event.” And they showed, in meticulous detail, how Trump set the stage for the January 6 events, down to the fact that he was the one who called for a protest on that date, the date Congress was meeting to certify the election results. Far-right groups were planning Washington, D.C., events for other dates—until Trump started calling for January 6. “Be there, will be wild,” he tweeted on December 19 in just one of several times he promoted the event. And lo, it was wild.

But despite all the time spent on Wednesday showing all the ways that Trump convinced his supporters to believe that the election had been stolen, and how he repeatedly urged them to show up on that date—a date chosen because Congress would be cementing his loss one more time, an event he was frantically trying to block—and how he specifically focused their ire on Pence, and how he called on them to march to the Capitol—despite all that, Senate Republicans are pretending that the case against Trump is simply a matter of people who happened to support Trump doing a bad thing without any connection to him. That sure, there are some very scary videos showing that they themselves were in jeopardy, and that’s a terrible thing, but those are unrelated to Trump himself.

“The images are—first of all, they’re real, it’s not manufactured, but they are put together in a way that adds, on purpose, to the drama of it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer said. “I don’t begrudge them that.” But he clearly wanted focus on those images of the attack, because they enabled him to try to send all those carefully drawn ties to Trump down the memory hole.

“Senators are, you know, pretty analytical, as a matter of just a profession,” he said. “So it doesn’t affect me in terms of how I feel about the president’s culpability. That’s what’s on trial.” Yes, and there was evidence of that … but Cramer and most other Republicans don’t want to talk about it, though Sen. John Thune did acknowledge that the House managers were “connecting the dots.”

Other Republicans plan to rely on their obviously partisan claim that they aren’t allowed to even hold an impeachment trial for someone who is no longer in office. That way they don’t even have to consider the evidence—as Sen. Mike Braun said, “When you think the process is flawed in the first place, I think it’s going to be different to arrive at a conclusion on the facts and the merits itself.”

Whether Republicans are afraid that Trump will again send his violent supporters after them physically, afraid that they will be primaried with Trump’s support, or simply are too partisan to take action against any member of their party ever, they are telling us—again—that the evidence doesn’t matter. Their party comes first. Donald Trump comes first.

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