The Founding Fathers took certain things for granted. When Madison texted Hamilton at 2 a.m. and asked, “u up?” the night before the Constitutional Convention’s 1787 vote, they didn’t hook up to hash out final arguments over the use of the term “trial.” To call it a “trial” was never in doubt. There was no other word for the event they envisioned as a remedy to remove a corrupt president. They accepted that there is and always will be certain connotations that accompany this term in the new republic: 1) A trial is supposed to be an impartial process. 2) A trial is supposed to seek the truth. Yeah, “high crimes and misdemeanors” could have been sussed out a little more. But no Founder doubted the definition of “trial.” Which leaves us with a simple question: Do the Senate’s impeachment proceeding rules reflect the two givens every honest rhetor can agree appertain to the term “trial”? 1) Do the Senate rules reflect an impartial process? 2) Do the Senate rules support seeking the truth? (scroll down for full article)
— RECENT HEADLINES –
“IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 1: Ceremony, Swearing in of Chief Justice Roberts, Senators” (1/16/2020)
“Pt. 2 of Indicted Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas’ Interview: 1) Rick Perry Delivered Extortion Message to Ukraine Pres.; 2) Trump Said Announcement Must State ‘Biden,’ Not Just ‘corruption’; 3) Jay Sekulow ‘in loop’; 4) Trump Pushed Visa for Corrupt Shokin to Visit U.S., Accuse Biden of Corruption” (1/16/2020)
“AG William Barr’s DOJ Opening New Leak Investigation Into Fmr. FBI Dir. James Comey” (1/16/2020)
“Lev Parnas’ Statements Largely Corroborated by Other Evidence, No Disputes so Far” (1/17/2020)
“Senate Leader McConnell Releases Imp. Trial Rules to Outrage; Clearly Favor Cover-Up: Each Sides’ Arguments Limited to Two 12-Hr. Days; House Evidence Likely Won’t Be Admitted” (1/20/2020)
“IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 2: Rules Debated, McConnell Forced to Compromise: Arguments Go to Three 8-Hr. Days, House Evidence Admitted; Defense Team Far Out-Lawyered by House Mgrs.’ Deft Presentation; Defense Lawyers: No Defense, Lies, Name-Calling, Process Complaints” (1/21/2020)
“At Davos World Economic Forum, Trump Threatens European Allies With New Tariffs ” (1/22/2020)
“At Least 11 U.S. Troops in Iraq Sent to Hospitals for Treatment After Iranian Attack 2 Weeks Ago; Trump Initially Lied, Claimed Zero Injuries, Continues to Perpetuate Lie by Making No Correction” (1/22/2020)
“IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 3: House Mgrs. Begin Arguing Case; Adam Schiff Is Brilliant” (1/22/2020)
“Trump Says Quiet Part Out Loud in Davos, Taunts Democrats With His Continuing Obstruction of Congress: Asked About Impeachment Trial, Trump Says, ‘We’re doing very well. Honestly, we have all the [impeachment] material. They [Democrats] don’t have the material.’” (1/22/2020)
“Multiple Prominent Polls Show Majority Want Witnesses Called, Trump Removed” (1/23/2020)
“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”
(1798 oath administered to U.S. senators by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts; followed by senators confirming their oath via signature in Senate oath book; 1/16/2020.)
There are 100 affirmative signatures in the Senate oath book.
But there is a prominent anti-oath theme running through the Senate Republican caucus appertaining to the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump. Trump World wants no witnesses, no documents, and Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is doing his damnedest to keep his caucus together to oblige. Mitch even tried to exclude the existing House evidence, but that was a GOP bridge-for-sale too far. Team Trump, of course, wanted no trial if they could get away with it. They had hoped to prompt a motion to dismiss the whole thing on Day 1 without any arguments.
But pity the fate of poor GOP senators. They fear tough impeachment trial decisions; they’re terrified of possible tough procedural votes — you know, the ones in which they’ll have to vote “No” to save their seats but every ethical person in America knows they should have voted “Yes.” Their problem with Trump, of course, is they can’t live with The Donald, and they can’t get reelected without him. Most of them secretly loathe him and all he stands for, but they’re deathly afraid of his cultist Twitter base of supporters. Republican senators have sold their souls simply to keep their jobs, but one school-yard-put-down tweet could end it all in a primary.
“I Don’t Wanna Know”
The Trump Republican Party theme for the impeachment trial is: “I don’t wanna know.”
The only thing getting in the way of a 100% cover-up, i.e., no trial, no House evidence, not even a remote chance of witnesses and documents, are the handful of moderate Republican senators who must present the appearance of fairness to appease their ideological mix of constituents. These moderates still care only about reelection and/or future business opportunities with GOP buds, but their constituent base requires a slightly different calculus.
So McConnell has to settle for a 98% cover-up.
There has been much said about the complaints from Democrats, independents, and ethical Republicans that a real trial cannot be conducted without witnesses and documents. But faithful viewers of Law and Order know full-well these were the same rules Asst. District Attorney Jack McCoy had to play by in each episode. There were never any witnesses. There were never any documents submitted as Exhibits 1, 2, or 3. There were simply opening and closing arguments, all rolled into one. Then the jury voted. Oh yeah, the jury was always comprised of mostly the defendant’s friends, and they could leave the courtroom, do crossword puzzles, or talk to each other during the trial.
At least, that’s what the GOP would have you think. “Senator McConnell, I watched Jack McCoy (question witnesses). I knew Jack McCoy (submitted evidentiary documents). Jack McCoy was a (fictional) friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack McCoy.”
Not a Criminal Trial
On a lighter note: Trump supporters and other observers like to remind us that an impeachment trial is not like a criminal trial. There are House managers instead of prosecutors. The presiding judge, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, has almost no power compared to a criminal trial judge. The senators are the jurors, and all of them have a bias for or against the president. Senators can ask questions but they must be fed through the chief justice who reads them. Yes, impeachment is a political exercise, not a criminal one.
But this doesn’t mean there are zero similarities between an impeachment trial and a criminal trial. Here are two primary parallels:
— They are both supposed to be an impartial process.
— They are both supposed to seek the truth.
It is well-known that the Constitution says very little about impeachment guidelines. The House does the indictment part and sets its own rules. The Senate does the trial part and sets its own rules. That’s about it. The framers wrote it this way because no set of laws can regulate every possible contingency or historical development. The Constitution was written as a living, breathing document to accommodate adjustments such as amendments. The Constitution is the bend-don’t-break defense in the superbowl of democratic republic football. (Excuse my malfeasant metaphorical overkill.)
But our Founding Fathers did take certain things for granted. When Madison texted Hamilton at 2 a.m. and asked, “u up?” the night before the Constitutional Convention’s 1787 vote, they didn’t hook up to hash out final arguments over the use of the term trial. To call it a trial was never in doubt. There was no other word for the event they envisioned as a remedy to remove a corrupt president. They accepted that there is and always will be certain connotations that accompany this term in the new republic:
— A trial is supposed to be an impartial process.
— A trial is supposed to seek the truth.
Yeah, “high crimes and misdemeanors” could have been sussed out a little more. But no Founder doubted the definition of trial.
Which leaves us with a simple question: Do the Senate’s impeachment proceeding rules reflect the two givens every honest rhetor can agree appertain to the term trial?
— Do the Senate rules reflect an impartial process?
— Do the Senate rules support seeking the truth?
With his opening introductory presentation of the House case against Donald Trump Wednesday night, lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff scared the absolute hell out of me. He laid out the facts of the crime. He laid out Donald’s complete inculpation, from top to bottom. And he laid out the consequences for our republic if this corrupt president is not held accountable.
No senator doing “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” could have been unmoved. ■
Impeachment Timeline — This Week
[RECAP]: 1/15/2020 — House votes to send impeachment articles to Senate; Pelosi names impeachment managers; GOP claims Pelosi’s delay was failure; though she didn’t win commitment from Leader McConnell for witnesses before trial starts, Dems, Independent pundits point out: 1) McConnell’s attempt to have Senate vote for immediate dismissal was blocked; 2) several GOP senators have become ready to vote for witnesses; 3) John Bolton has agreed to testify; 4) much more damning evidence against Trump has emerged during delay
[RECAP]: 1/15/2020 — “INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE LEV PARNAS TELLS ALL ABOUT TRUMP-UKRAINE EXTORTION SCANDAL IN RACHEL MADDOW INTERVIEW: 1) Parnas worked directly for Giuliani who worked directly for Trump; Trump knew everything every step of the way about Parnas’ efforts to get Ukraine to announce Biden investigation, lest it would get no aid, no visits, no U.S. relationship or support; 2) as Ukraine resisted, its aid was held up, it lost a planned Trump meeting in Poland, it lost VP Pence’s attendance at its inauguration; 3) all meetings Parnas had with Ukrainian officials started out with Giuliani on speakerphone confirming Parnas spoke directly for Trump; 4) VP Pence, AG Barr, NSA Bolton all were “in the loop”; Rep. Nunes (D-Calif.) was involved; 5) Parnas personally witnessed Trump ordering the firing of Amb. Yovanovitch.
[IMPEACHMENT: DAY 108 — 1/16/20]
1/16/2020 — IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 1: mostly involved pomp and ceremony: Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in, who then administered oath to all senators
1/16/2020 — “PT. 2 — INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE LEV PARNAS TELLS ALL ABOUT TRUMP-UKRAINE EXTORTION SCANDAL IN RACHEL MADDOW INTERVIEW: 1) Energy Secy. Rick Perry delivered extortion message to Ukrainian president at his inauguration; Trump, Giuliani instructed that Ukraine announcement must mention “Biden,” not just “corruption”; Perry confirmed message delivery to Giuliani, then resigned and refused House subpoena to testify; 2) Trump attorney Jay Sekulow was “in the loop” but disagreed with extortion plan; 3) Trump was personally involved in securing visa for corrupt former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin — over Amb. Marie Yovanovitch’s objections — so he could visit U.S. and publicly accuse Joe Biden of corruption; 4) Parnas’ statements are largely corroborated by evidence, with no disputes so far
1/20/2020 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) releases impeachment trial rules to howls of Democratic outrage: 1) Dems say rules support cover-up; 2) both sides’ arguments each are limited to two 12-hour days, essentially placing many of them after midnight; 3) House evidence likely won’t be admitted
1/21/2020 — IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 2: impeachment trial rules debated, McConnell forced to compromise by several moderate Republican senators: 1) arguments will be spread out to three 8-hour days for each side; 2) House evidence will be admitted; 3) observers agree Dem House managers far out-lawyered Trump defense team; 4) House managers deftly presented core of their case while offering amendments they knew would fail, to educate public while it was paying attention; lead House manager Adam Schiff widely commended for effective, professional presentation; 5) Defense team caught in several blatant lies, distortions, offered no defense for Trump’s actions, offered mostly name-calling, inaccurate process complaints; 6) House mgr. Jerrold Nadler admonished for accusing GOP senators of “treacherous” behavior if they refused to vote for witnesses, accusing Trump defense team of “lies”
1/22/2020 — IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 3: House managers begin arguing their case; lead House mgr. Adam Schiff Is brilliant; many GOP senators breaking rules, showing disrespect for process by leaving seats, room during House mgrs.’ presentation; Trump continues to attack Dems, process, calling top House mgrs. “major sleazebags … very, very dishonest people”
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget