The Senate impeachment “trial” concluded its question and answer phase yesterday, and afterwards we discovered that one key Republican Senator will not vote for witnesses. Senator Lamar Alexander stated last night that he believes the Democrats proved their case for a quid pro quo, that Trump did in fact condition US aid to Ukraine on a personal political errand, but that it didn’t rise to the level of removal from office.
And this is surely the endpoint of the larger Republican argument. Trump did something “less than perfect” but it wasn’t bad enough to remove him, especially with an election 10 months away. It seems highly likely today that Senate graveyard “crypt keeper” McConnell will be able to shut down the proceeding and move on to the important business of doing nothing.
One of the many great flaws in the GOP argument rests on the fact that, beyond an unjust electoral college and undemocratic gerrymandering, the 2020 election may still be hacked or warped by Russia and rigged or defrauded by Trump. So Republicans are saying they’re comfortable risking that Trump may still cheat his way to an illegitimate victory. It’s okay, after all, since his cheating only helps them.
But in a perverse way, by desecrating the “trial” process and soiling the legitimacy of the Senate, Republicans have handed a gift to the Democrats. No matter what any witnesses might have said or corroborated, there would never have been 67 votes to toss Trump out of office. Bolton’s testimony would have been the right thing to do for the rule of law and for the official record, but it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. By preventing witnesses and forcing a sham process, Republicans have defied overwhelming public opinion and will now be seen by many as having betrayed their oaths and duties under the Constitution. A trial without witnesses is not a trial.
On MSNBC last night filmmaker Michael Moore–who has his ear to the ground in middle American and predicted Trump’s win in 2016–predicted that the sham trial will help Democrats win big in 2020. He believes Democrats will flip the Senate and take back control of the White House.
I’m not as optimistic as Moore, but Democrats challenging Senate Republicans can now run ads rightly claiming that incumbents failed to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution–and failed their constituents. They can scream that by tossing Congressional checks and balances in the sewer incumbents sided with authoritarianism and unbridled executive power at the expense of Democracy. That’s a powerful charge.
Here is what some prominent political figures had to say:
- Rep Adam Schiff: “After two and half centuries of our nation’s history, it’s come to this: The President’s lawyers argue on the Senate floor that he can withhold aid, coerce an ally, and try to cheat in an election, And there’s nothing we can do about it. Our founders would be aghast.”
- John Weaver, Conservative Consultant: “Burn it down. The GOP has put the country on the path toward corrupt authoritarian rule. All that remains to stop this are sweeping Democratic wins in November. We are all in this together.”
- Neal Katyal, Supreme Court Lawyer: “If Trump is acquitted, he can call on foreign govts tomorrow to investigate every Democrat in our nation (and do so in secret). He can ask DOJ to target every Democrat as well, too. And his legal argument, voiced by his lawyer, is that there is nothing wrong with this. Buyer beware.”
- Garry Kasparov, Chess Champion: “Don’t be surprised, be angry. Show all of these GOP Senators treating Trump like a king that American Democracy still works by voting them out. Every last one of them. […] Trump’s pathetic defenders deserve to be grilled every day as further evidence of his abuses comes out. They are also complicit in his every act going forward. They know what he is and what he did, and that now he will do more. The 2020 election is under assault.”
- Susan Hennessey, Lawfare Executive Editor: “Just a complete disgrace and an incredibly dark day for American democracy. No on is going to save us from Trump and his corruption and destruction of the rule of law. Not Mueller. Not 51 Republicans. Not John Roberts. We have to save ourselves. We have 10 months get to work.”
Hennessey’s conclusion is crucial. Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.” We have 10 months.
Have a restful weekend.