President Donald Trump must answer for the death of Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old San Diego woman shot by police at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. The violence is on Trump, and he has no excuse.
Like thousands of others, Babbitt answered his call to protest against a legal presidential succession. She was the kind of supporter Trump would find useful, an armed forces veteran who recited his talking points. She wore one of his campaign flags into her final "battle."
"We're walking to the Capitol, in a mob, there's an estimated 3 million people here today," she says excitedly in a video that has gone viral. (The most generous crowd estimate was a fraction of that.) She went on: "So despite what the media tells you, boots on the ground definitely say something different. There is a sea of red, white and blue patriotism in Trump.
"And it was amazing," Babbitt said as she strode from Trump's rally near the White House. Then she broke into a smile as she said: "You could see the president talk ... "
Fast forward to the chaos and vandalism inside the Capitol. Bystander video shows Babbitt was trying to enter the broken window of a barricaded doorway inside the Capitol when a police officer fired, The Associated Press reported.
Videos taken seconds after show her on the floor, bleeding from her mouth and body, as those around her scream for help and officers apparently try to clear space.
Babbitt was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Earlier Trump, in a bellicose rally speech, told the faithful to "fight" for him. "We're going to walk down and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down — We're going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we're going to walk down to the Capitol … "
He did not. It was one of his casual lies. Risking nothing, Trump stayed secure at the White House as Babbitt and the others marched to the Capitol. His tough-talk event was the customary con. He wailed for a thousandth time that the election was "stolen" by the "radical left."
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who memorably egged on a police-union riot at City Hall in 1992, also spoke at the preplanned gathering. At Wednesday's rally, Giuliani called for a "trial by combat," whatever that was supposed to mean.
It is not enough to say Babbitt shouldn’t have been in a riot, pushing toward the House chamber, or that the president "supports law enforcement."
Nor will it work for embarrassed Trump fans to make up fake stories that the transgressors were part of antifa.
It is as if Trump had sent a volunteer unit including Babbitt into an unwinnable combat situation far away. The little cosplay insurrection achieved nothing. No matter what she believed, she died in vain.
Babbitt would no doubt be alive if the Senate in 2019 had convicted Trump during impeachment and replaced him with Vice President Mike Pence. It is hard to imagine Pence behaving so recklessly and egotistically as Trump.
Early Thursday, after Congress had affirmed Biden's win, Trump acknowledged in wormy rhetoric through a spokesman that he lost the election. Hours earlier, he'd vowed never to concede defeat.
Trump, for whom loyalty is always a one-way street, doesn’t always support volunteer troops like Babbitt. Decency would dictate he at least go to the funeral and pay for it with his own money. But decency has little to do with anything occurring at the White House in these final days.