In previous posts, for example, I have argued that the real story of the 2016 election is not Trump, him being but a symbol, a front man for his supporters and those who voted for him. The latter group is the real story I argued. However, there is another group who are the players in the another story about to unfold - the Republican senators who are now marching in lock-step to the beat of Trump’s drum - Drumpf, Drumpf, Drumpf … It is these Drumpfers who say what Trump decrees who will sometime soon to pretend to conduct an impartial trial. It is already established by their majority leader that there will no such thing and that the leader, Mitch McConnell, would just as soon conduct no trial at all.
Shame, I say. And that is a burden of history that the senate Republicans will bear for all time. Two columnists, George Conway (Washington Post) and John Cassidy (New Yorker) make that case.
Conway shows how Republican senators run the risk of being shamed by Trump himself.
In his unhinged letter Tuesday, President Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” A few days earlier, he accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment.”
If anything has cheapened or trivialized the process by which Trump was impeached, it was House Republicans’ refusal to treat the proceedings with the seriousness the Constitution demands. Unable to defend the president’s conduct on the merits, GOP members of the House resorted to deception, distortion and deflection: pretending that Trump didn’t ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival; claiming that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election; and throwing up all manner of silly assertions of procedural unfairness.
In any event, the fact that senators swear an oath to “bear true faith” to the Constitution, and the fact that the Constitution requires the Senate to “try all Impeachments,” should require them to hold a real trial with live witnesses. But if that isn’t enough to persuade them, Republican senators should consider at least two significant practicalities.
The first is that the Ukraine investigation is only three months old. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has cited this as evidence that the impeachment was rushed and unsupported. Actually, the opposite is true: A remarkably strong case was assembled in an unusually short time, even in the face of extraordinary obstructionism from the administration, which directed numerous witnesses not to testify. The Watergate investigation, by contrast, spanned roughly two years; the Starr investigation and Clinton impeachment proceedings, 11 months.
What that tells us is that plenty more evidence remains to be unearthed. We know already of the witnesses whom Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposes should testify, but whose testimony was blocked by Trump: acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, a senior adviser to Mulvaney; former national security adviser John Bolton; and Michael Duffey, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget. No doubt there are volumes of electronic and physical documents that remain to be produced.
One way or another, the gist of that evidence will seep out, as truth inevitably does. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, will continue to make admissions, and, if he were to be criminally prosecuted, evidence would come out in his prosecution. Others — most notably Bolton — will write books. There will be more leaks to intrepid journalists. Perhaps more whistleblowers will step forward.
Meanwhile, the House can still investigate, if it so chooses. In fact, it should. After all, not only does the House have a continuing obligation of oversight, but also there is no double-jeopardy prohibition on impeachment: If more damning evidence surfaces, there is no constitutional reason Trump couldn’t be impeached again.
So common sense should tell senators that, even if Trump is acquitted in a short-circuited trial, that won’t prevent the evidence from revealing whether an acquittal was a just one. If Republican senators cut the trial short, they run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history by the very evidence they sought to suppress.
But that’s not the only practical reason they shouldn’t cut the trial short. A second reason — perhaps the ultimate reason — is President Trump.
For the extraordinary evidence of the Ukraine scandal isn’t a one-off. Putting his interests above the nation’s is what Trump instinctively does.
Trump’s written tirade to Pelosi confirms the point: It shows that, even as he is being impeached, he still has no idea why — and thus no idea what his presidential duties require. He hasn’t learned his lesson, and never will.
And that is the ultimate point Republican senators who care about their legacies should consider: They run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history not just by the evidence — but by Trump himself.
Cassidy documents The Republicans’ Abject Submission to Trump at the House Impeachment Vote. They undoubtedly will show the same debasement at a Senate trial.
Mark Twain, no fan of the legislative branch of the federal government, famously wrote that “fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.” It’s not clear that Donald Trump has ever opened a Twain book. But the lengthy impeachment debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday showed that he has taught Republican members of Congress to repeat his propaganda so faithfully it would be beyond even the most able little parasite. Either that or the Republicans taught themselves, which is an even more alarming thought.
The President “was denied due process… . That makes this process illegal and illegitimate. What a shame. What a sham.” This was the Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer, who represents Missouri’s Third Congressional District. “The process has been rigged from the start,” Debbie Lesko, a first-term Republican congresswoman from Arizona, said. “I am voting no because the President has done nothing wrong,” Roger Marshall, an obstetrician who represents a sprawling Republican district in northwest Kansas, declared. “The only party guilty of obstruction, abuse of power, or whatever focus-groups terms they’re using today is the party on the other side… . It’s past time to be done with this circus… . I will vote no and encourage this body to move on from this heartbreaking, disgraceful day.”
The contributions from Luetkemeyer, Lesko, and Marshall were notable not because they were unusual or novel but because they were entirely typical. One after another, all day long, the Republicans parroted the lines that Trump has been feeding them since September, when the news broke that an anonymous whistle-blower had filed a complaint about Trump’s behavior, and the Ukraine story was blown open.
As the sorry details emerged of how Trump squeezed Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, to dig up dirt on the Biden family—or, at least, to announce that he was starting an investigation into the Bidens—some commentators, myself included, speculated that the Republicans would ultimately fall back on the argument that Trump’s actions, although reprehensible, didn’t rise to the level required for impeachment. And indeed, Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor, did make a version of this argument earlier this month, when the House Republicans invited him to testify to the Judiciary Committee.
That defense wasn’t good enough for Trump: not nearly. From the very beginning, he has insisted that his July 25th call with Zelensky was “perfect”; that he had merely been pressing the Ukrainian President to tackle domestic corruption in Ukraine, even though he never used that word; and that the entire impeachment inquiry was a Democratic “witch hunt.” But Trump didn’t merely promulgate this fake narrative himself. He demanded that Republicans in Congress repeat it, too, and Wednesday’s hearing showed how completely he succeeded in bending the House G.O.P. caucus to his will.
By the eve of the hearing, it was clear that not a single Republican would vote for the two articles of impeachment. It still seemed conceivable, at least, that one or two of them would allow that Trump’s behavior had raised some serious concerns. No. Congressman Will Hurd, the sole black Republican in the House, who recently announced his plans to retire, perhaps came closest when he said that the impeachment inquiry had unearthed “bungling foreign-policy decisions.” In truth, however, even that statement was a woeful cop-out.
The rest of the Republicans acted as if they were participating in a show trial—one with a predetermined not-guilty verdict. James Comer, of Kentucky, described the impeachment process as “a baseless attempt” to override the votes of sixty-three million Americans. Denver Riggleman, a Virginia congressman whose district includes Monticello, said that Jefferson and Madison would hate to see Congress trying to reverse the result of an election. Greg Murphy, from North Carolina, declared the proceeding to be “a mockery of American justice.” Clay Higgins, a hard-right pro-Trumper from Louisiana, called impeachment “a betrayal” and said it was “brought upon us by the same socialists who threaten unborn life in the womb.”
Trump, who the White House press office claimed might “catch some of the proceedings”—even as he tweeted about it (in all caps)—will have appreciated Higgins’s rant. But the prize for the most ludicrous speech on his behalf perhaps went to Representative Barry Loudermilk, of Georgia, who reached into the New Testament for inspiration. “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” Loudermilk declared. “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process.”
After Loudermilk finished, Jerry Nadler, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, which drew up the articles of impeachment, calmly pointed out that the committee afforded Trump the chance to personally testify, as well as to have a counsel present who could question other witnesses. The President turned down these offers. Adam Schiff, the head of the Intelligence Committee, quoted Hamilton, one of the originators of the impeachment clause, and said he “predicted the rise of Donald Trump with staggering prescience.” John Lewis, the seventeen-term Democratic congressman from Georgia, invoked generations to come and said, “We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
These were memorable moments, but not as memorable as the abject submission to Trump and Trumpery that the elected Republicans displayed throughout. When historians look back on this day, that is surely what they will find most notable, and tragic.
From the Library of Congress:
As the Constitutional Convention adjourned, “a woman [Mrs. Eliza Powell] asks Dr. Franklin well Doctor what we got a republic or a monarchy? A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” James McHenry. Diary, September 18, 1787. Manuscript. James McHenry Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (63.02.00) [Digital ID# us0063_02p1]
Returning to Rep. Lesko’s amazing assertion, “the President has done nothing wrong,” she reveals a fundamental truth about the Republican’s defense of Trump. If what he said and did is ”nothing wrong“ then nothing will ever rise to be branded as ”high crimes and misdemeanors." That means that every president, the current one included, will be above the law. And if that is the case, we will have lost our republic and the Republicans in Congress will bear the blame.