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Did President Trump commit an act of sedition?

Trump supporters Washington Capitol photo
Julio Cortez
Associated Press

A number of historians, lawyers and business leaders say that when President Donald Trump addressed the pro-Trump mob in Washington D.C. yesterday, he encouraged them to march on the U.S. Capitol Building commiting an act of sedition.

“Part of the speech that Donald Trump gave was basically egging people on. He was sitting here saying you need to march on the Capitol you need to march down there. I'm going to march down there with you. And then of course he didn't because he's not going to stand in the line of fire."

Jeffrey Swartz is a criminal law professor at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law school. He says those actions amount to sedition.

“Sedition is doing anything by word or act that encourages councils or involves other people in an act of insurrection. Insurrection is an act against the government in an attempt to overthrow the government. And here the attempt was to overthrow the government by throwing the House and the Senate into shambles and not allowing them to do their work to select another President of the United States. That's what this was all about. And so, it is sedition to attack the U.S. Capitol and that's what they did, they attacked the US Capitol.”

I asked if the President is still culpable in this case and responsible? What is the penalty for sedition?

“Penalty for sedition is life in prison. That wouldn't happen in this case because, you know, life in prison for him is like 10 minutes. But the truth of the matter is that he will pardon himself. He will attempt to pardon himself. I do not believe that if he resigns (Vice President Mike) Pence will do this. I think Pence will say, no I'm not going to pardon him. Not after what you did on January 6th. He can't afford to do that. This isn't Nixon. This is worse than Nixon. We haven't had an armed insurrection in this country, other than the Civil War, since in Shays’ rebellion during Washington’s first term.”

Swartz tells us the last time the U.S. Capitol Building was attacked was during the war of 1812. 

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.