Saturday, February 1, 2020

The day the rule of law died - how we failed to keep our republic

Quote of the day: "A Republic, if you can keep it.” - Benjamin Franklin after the Constitutional Convention.

We did not.

Yesterday Sam Brodey in The Daily Beast reported that the Senate Republicans Decide Impeachment Trial Doesn’t Need Any Witnesses. A vote to call new witnesses failed on Friday, paving the way for a final vote to acquit the president.

After a ten-day trial packed with appeals from Democrats, counter-arguments from the White House and a few fresh revelations about President Trump’s conduct, the Senate voted against considering any new evidence in the impeachment trial, clearing the only real obstacle to a speedy acquittal of the president.

On Friday, 49 senators—all 47 Democrats and two Republicans—voted in favor of a motion that would have allowed the chamber to subpoena additional documents and witnesses pertaining to Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Fifty-one Republicans voted against it.

The Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump had argued that the most important vote for senators would not be the one to acquit or convict the president but the one to allow additional discovery. Airing new testimony was unlikely to ever change the odds of a vote to convict Trump in the GOP-held Senate, but it would have filled out the missing pieces of what transpired in the president’s attempt to get Ukrainian officials to launch investigations into his political rivals. It also would have maximized political pain on GOP senators’ votes to acquit Trump and possibly boosted Democrats’ plans to retake the Senate majority.

The Senate Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), said in a Friday morning press conference that “if my Republican colleagues refuse to even consider witnesses and documents in this trial, this country is headed towards the greatest cover up since Watergate.”

With the central drama of the trial already resolved, the only real question remaining is if any senators will cross party lines in the final votes on articles of impeachment. Some Republicans had hoped that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would move immediately to that vote. Instead, however, the Senate will likely take a few more days to hear closing arguments and allow senators to explain their votes in floor speeches, setting up an end to the trial early next week.

A string of recent stories in The New York Times reporting that ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton had written in his forthcoming book confirmations of Trump seeking a quid-pro-quo arrangement with Ukraine rocked the Senate trial. And, for a moment, it seemed to disrupt the carefully plotted course that McConnell had in mind. A third story, coming just hours before the witness vote, reported that Bolton had written that Trump directed him to help with his Ukraine pressure campaign, and that top White House officials had witnessed the ask.

That reporting was addressed repeatedly by House impeachment managers in their closing argument for witnesses on Friday. But Republicans remained unmoved, including those who had been considered possible votes to hear more evidence. One of them, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), pointed to the likelihood of acquittal as a major reason to not prolong the trial any further.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate,” she said. “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything.”

And with that, Murkowski, on behalf of her fellow Trumpublicans, condemned our constitutional democracy to the scrap heap of history. It will be replaced by a monarchy lasting at least one year and perhaps five or more.

Hamilton vs. Trump
Hamilton's prescience (from AZBlueMeanie)

In (lots of) commentary the Arizona Blue Meanie tagged 1–31–2020: The day the rule of law died in America. Here are a few excerpts.

There is a story, oft repeated, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Today we bear witness to the end of the American Republic. We now have an authoritarian Republican Party autocracy in league with malign foreign powers. It is the Founding Father’s worst fears realized.

On a vote of 51–49, with only Republican Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney joining with all of the Democrats, Republicans ruled “out of order” any debate over subpoenas for witness testimony and documents for a real trial. Republicans stood athwart 75% of public opinion to hear from witnesses and said “no.”

Every senator solemnly swore “that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.” Republicans openly flaunted and mocked this solemn oath. Even before taking the oath, Republicans publicly committed to acquittal before hearing any evidence. The evidence and the law simply did not matter to these lawless Republicans.

With an imperial president unbound and shielded by his Republican enablers in Congress from any checks and balances, the threat of impeachment, or even the rule of law as Republicans abdicate their Article I powers to an imperial president, what fresh hell will the malignant and malicious Donald Trump unleash on America as he seeks vindictive revenge against his political opponents and anyone else who would dare to criticize him?

Will Trump’s corrupt Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr use the Justice Department to pursue political prosecutions of the president’s political opponents? Will Republicans seek to redefine First Amendment “freedom of the press” to shut down what Trump calls the “fake media” and impose on America North Korean style state-sanctioned propaganda in praise of “Dear Leader,” as already exists to a disturbing extent in conservative media? Will Trump refuse to leave office in a peaceful transition of power should he lose the 2020 election, asserting that the election was rigged and is illegitimate, as he threatened to do in 2016? Will he incite violence from his MAGA personality cult followers to stay in power? Will there even be an election? These are the trademarks of every authoritarian autocrat who has ever risen to power throughout history.

Those are the reasons for all Americans to now be afraid - very afraid.

Don McLean’s haunting lyrics have never been more prescient and painful than they are at this moment:

Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’
Bye, bye Miss American Pie

It is the duty of every true American patriot to resist Trumpism, the new American fascism. To honor the members of my family and the millions of Americans who fought a World War to rid the world of fascism, and the millions who died in that conflict, I will not go quietly into this dark night. I will defend the Constitution and the restoration of American democracy and the rule of law once these “Vichy Republicans” have been defeated and consigned to the ash heap of history. Vive la résistance!

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