Saturday, December 21, 2019

To save the GOP Republicans need to put country first and call the witnesses

The NY Times Editorial Board observes that Trump Has Been Impeached. Republicans Are Following Him Down. Ignoring facts and trashing the impeachment process is no way to protect democracy. Here is a bit of it.

… the nihilism of this moment — the trashing of constitutional safeguards, the scorn for facts, the embrace of corruption, the indifference to historical precedent and to foreign interference in American politics — is due principally to cowardice and opportunism on the part of Republican leaders who have chosen to reject their party’s past standards and positions and instead follow Donald Trump, all the way down.

It’s a lot to ask of Republicans to insist on holding their own leader accountable, just as that was a lot to expect of Democrats during the Clinton impeachment inquiry. But while many Democrats then criticized President Bill Clinton and some voted to impeach him, Republican lawmakers would not breathe a word against Mr. Trump on Wednesday.

Instead, they competed with one another to invoke the most outlandish metaphor of evil — from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ — and suggest that Mr. Trump is enduring even worse.

By any reasonable measure, Mr. Trump’s own conduct in office clears the bar for impeachment set by the founders. The case against him is that he solicited foreign interference to help in his 2020 re-election campaign, that he used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to do it, that his administration tried to hide the evidence and that he then blocked Congress from performing its constitutionally mandated role of checking the executive branch. Multiple government officials, some appointed by the president himself, have confirmed all of these facts.

There may be no better illustration of what the Constitution’s framers considered to be impeachable conduct. And that’s leaving to the side strong evidence that Mr. Trump has committed other impeachable offenses, including taking foreign money at his personal businesses, obstructing justice and violating campaign-finance laws — the latter two of which are also federal crimes.

Through it all, Mr. Trump has had the opportunity to rebut the charges. By his account, he could have extinguished both articles of impeachment by allowing top administration officials to testify under oath. If he really did nothing wrong, the testimony of these officials would exonerate him of the charge of abusing his power, and simply their appearance under oath would dissolve the charge of obstructing Congress.

And yet when given the opportunity to defend himself, the president has refused to participate, defying all of the House’s subpoenas for witnesses and documents, effectively declaring himself unaccountable.

When it comes to the prospect for a valid trial in the Senate, “Unfortunately, the Senate is led by Mr. McConnell.”

Mr. McConnell, who like all senators will swear an oath to “do impartial justice” at the start of the trial, has already vowed to violate that oath. “I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday. “The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate.” He has also vowed to coordinate directly with the White House on all aspects of the trial.

No one is suggesting that House Democrats are above playing politics, but at least they held hearings, considered evidence and did their best to get at the truth. Mr. McConnell won’t even promise that much.

The bottom line is that impeachment in the House is unlikely to protect the country from Mr. Trump’s abuse of power, because his fellow party leaders prize their power more than the principles they say they stand for. The only way to protect American democracy is for those who value it to put it to work, and vote these people out.

But that will be then - as in November 2020. What will happen now?

Former Senator Jeff Flake appeals to his former colleagues in a Washington Post op-ed: The president is on trial. So are my Senate Republican colleagues.

To my former Senate Republican colleagues,

I don’t envy you.

It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months.

President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.

As we approach the time when you do your constitutional duty and weigh the evidence arrayed against the president, I urge you to remember who we are when we are at our best. And I ask you to remember yourself at your most idealistic.

We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.

Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”

Personally, I have never met anyone whose behavior can be described as perfect, but so often has the president repeated this obvious untruth that it has become a form of dogma in our party. And sure enough, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that “the president did nothing wrong.” My colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when an equal branch follows that president off the cliff, into the abyss of unreality and untruth.

Call it the founders’ blind spot: They simply could not have envisioned the Article I branch abetting and enabling such dangerous behavior in the Article II branch. And when we are complicit, we cede our constitutional responsibilities, we forever redefine the relationship between Congress and the White House, and we set the most dangerous of precedents.

My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior? I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you. You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.

Regarding the articles of impeachment, you could reasonably conclude that the president’s actions warrant his removal. You might also determine that the president’s actions do not rise to the constitutional standard required for removal. There is no small amount of moral hazard with each option, but both positions can be defended.

But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has.

The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.

Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.

Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.

Next, ask yourself: If the president’s conduct hasn’t changed, has mine? Before President Trump came on the scene, would I have stood at a rally and cheered while supporters shouted “lock her up” or “send them back”? Would I have laughed along while the president demeaned and ridiculed my colleagues? Would I have ever thought to warm up the crowd for the president by saying of the House speaker: “It must suck to be that dumb”?

As I said above, I don’t envy you. You’re on a big stage now. Please don’t accept an alternate reality that would have us believe in things that obviously are not true, in the service of executive behavior that we never would have encouraged and a theory of executive power that we have always found abhorrent.

If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.

And the first step is for Moscow Mitch McConnell to call the witnesses. The only reason not to is laid bare by David Gordon writing at Blog for Arizona: Moscow Mitch, Call the Witnesses.

… at the Democratic Presidential Debate in Los Angeles, Senator Amy Klobuchar gave the best reason of all the candidates to call the witnesses, stating to the audience that:

“And I would make this case. As we face this trial in the Senate if the president claims that he is so innocent, then why doesn’t he have all the president’s men testify? If President Trump thinks that he should not be impeached, he should be not scared to put forward his own witnesses.”

Pelosi, Klobuchar, and Schumer are right. If the President is innocent and Republicans have nothing to fear, why is the Administration actively preventing all of the remaining first-hand witnesses to testify? Why are Republicans like Moscow Mitch so reluctant to call these very same people who can definitively say whether or not the President committed impeachable acts?

The answer is fairly obvious: Republicans already know what the answers from these witnesses will be and are eager to fast forward an impeachment “show trial” where the guilty man is not removed from office and hope the Trumpist cult base does not pause to think why these people would not voluntarily want to testify for their Duce…President.

It is time for the Political Prince of Darkness-Enemy of the People-Obstructionist in Chief-Moscow Mitch McConnell to put the country’s interests above his own and Individual One’s.

Moscow Mitch, Call the Witnesses.

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