Former President Trump was acquitted in the second impeachment trial stemming from the Democrats’ relentless effort to remove him from office after his shocking election in 2016. In both efforts, the two-thirds super-majority necessary to convict was always impossible, because unlike previous impeachment efforts, these involved no crimes, and were not bi-partisan . They were exercises in pure partisan warfare, despite the contrary intent of the Founders and the flood of exaggerated rhetoric from Trump’s enemies who had presumed he needed to be impeached from the moment he was elected.
The sudden vote yesterday came as a surprise, as the Senate had just voted to allow witnesses in the “trial,” and that would have extended the fiasco considerably. I assume, without knowing, that the Democratic leadership finally figured out that its plot wasn’t working, and that it was time for the party to cut its losses. They might still be considerable. I hope they are considerable. This has wounded the nation badly, and the party that has blathered on about accountability needs some, and hard.
Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania voted guilty along with every Democrat. Interestingly, only two of the seven have a law degree, which may partially explain why they think a guilty verdict is defensible (it’s not.) The two lawyers, Romney and Murkowski, are barely Republicans and have been consistently anti-Trump. The fact that not a single Democrat had the integrity to buck the party’s mandate and oppose such a damaging precedent and such a dubious impeachment tells us all we need to know about the state of the current Democratic Party.
Now, three quotes following the vote:
Quote #1: From law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds:
“The Democrats have converted impeachment from a measure of “high crimes and misdemeanors” to simply an indicator that the House of Representatives is controlled by the opposition party. Once again, people claiming to stand up in favor of institutions and traditions against Donald Trump have actually wrecked those institutions and traditions out of pique. This has done lasting damage to the Republic, and they don’t care. They never care.“
Exactly. They were determined to impeach Trump or torture the Constitution to get him out of office by other means (the 25th Amendment, Emoluments). Ironically, they managed to diminish the stain and the threat of impeachment in the process, after finally scraping the bottom of the metaphorical barrel with what Professor Turley calls the “snap impeachment”:
What is striking this time is that there was literally no record in the House. None. There was no hearing, no investigation. Just a snap impeachment. As we have discussed, the House could have held days of hearings and still impeached Trump before leaving the White House on January 20th. (A Senate trial before Trump left office was not an option). They refused. Then four weeks passed where they could have called key witnesses to answer myriad of questions, they again refused and decided to go forward without such direct evidence. At the trial, both the House and the defense highlighted critical questions that have remained unanswered due to the lack of such testimony. Yet, the Democratic senators do not want to hear witnesses anymore than the House. This is not because of prudential objections to the use of a snap impeachment. They have indicated that they do not need such answers to pronounce guilt.
They never did, nor with the previous impeachment either. They just decided he was guilty (Translation: Trump never should have been elected, and wasn’t “legitimate” in the first place, so he was preemptively guilty). More from Turley:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she heard from enough people through “interviews and video presentation.” Of course, she did not hear a single line of sworn testimony because there is no such testimony despite the availability of direct testimony from witnesses who have already given public statements. Yet, she declared “I feel like we’ve heard from enough witnesses.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said “I think the case has been made. I don’t know what witnesses would add.” That may be true since no one has even deposed a witness. This is a case of ignorance being bliss when it comes to a desire for conviction.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tried a different tact and said that the accused has the burden. She said Trump could come and “give his explanation of the day,” but “otherwise, it feels like to me we’re done.”
Of course, the burden is on the House and they presented an entirely circumstantial case on Trump’s state of mind despite a dozen witnesses who could confirm what he said and did in these critical hours. Indeed, the Senate did not even see confirmation on details whether Trump delayed deployment of National Guard or whether the fault of the delay rests equally or more with others, including Congress, on the preparation for and response to the protest and later riot. The trial therefore will remain circumstantial by design and popular demand.
Quote #2: Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
Read his full statement here.
McConnell laid out the slam-dunk argument, made by others more astute than him, that the Senate had no jurisdiction to try a private citizen in an impeachment trial. He should have left it at that, but McConnell is a jerk. He began by pronouncing an over-heated description of the January 6 riot, and stating that the rioters
“…did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty…There is no question—none— that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth….The issue is not only the President’s intemperate language on January 6th….It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe; the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-President.”
Enough. It was stipulated on Ethics Alarms that President Trump should not have become the public face of suspicions regarding the election, the justifiable—I would say undeniable—assertion that the election was not held on a level playing field, and the accurate belief that the news media assisted Democrats in—pick your word—rigging, stealing, fixing the election. It was wrong and, yes, dangerousfor him to do this, as well as stupid. It was not incitement, however, nor was it a crime. If Trump was responsible for the January 6 riots, then Barack Obama was responsible for the violence that occurred in Trayvon Martin demonstrations in a hundred cities after Obama compared the dead black teen to him and his hypothetical son, while falsely characterizing the facts of the case. If Trump was responsible for the January 6 riots, President George H.W. Bush lit the fuse for the 1992 riots fallowing the verdict in the Rodney King case, since Bush had wrongly presumed to characterize the beating of King by LA police before the full video had been seen or the trial. “Those terrible scenes stir us all to demand an end to gratuitous violence and brutality,” Bush said. “Law-enforcement officials cannot place themselves above the law that they are sworn to defend. It was sickening to see the beating that was rendered and there’s no way, no way in my view, to explain that away. It was outrageous.” I criticized Bush for this at the time, much as I criticized Trump.
But neither Bush, nor Obama, nor Trump intended to provoke a riot, and the responsible parties were and are the rioters themselves. Trump’s claims about the election certainly went on longer than Obama’s or Bush’s false statements. He also had more basis for his complaints. Nothing in Trump’s speech to the gathered protesters can be pointed to as triggering the riot, and for McConnell to go back before that shows an eagerness to blame Trump for the anger—and legitimate anger–of Trump supporters who were insulted, abused and virtually disenfranchised by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/mainstream media cabal that undermined the President the public elected for four years. (There was no false evocation of a “secret coup,” as McConnell said. There was an obvious and open attempted coup for Trump’s entire term.)
The emerging evidence shows that the rioters had planned their attack on the Capitol before hearing Trump, rendering the case against him to be the legal fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefor because of this”). Had there been no incursion of the Capitol, Trump would have been held blameless despite acting exactly as he did. And Mitch deserves a special place in hell for this statement: “According to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election!” McConnell is using mainstream media rumor-mongering as fact, the routine practice for four years that makes journalists among those culpable for the anger behind the riot.
There was no evidence presented that Trump’s words on the 6th caused the events of January 6, and his typically hyperbolic claims were not necessary to create a critical level of anger among the more unstable Trump partisans. Moreover, while a long-lasting swamp creature like McConnell would be the last person to admit it, the “atmosphere of looming catastrophe” was not manufactured then and isn’t now. Democracy, the Constitution, civil rights, our institutions and personal liberty in the United States are in real peril. Fighting to protect them is not just reasonable, it is essential, and using the term “fight” is not a call to violence, but to lawful opposition and patriotism.
In the absence of intent, causation, and evidence of either, McConnell’s post acquittal rebuke was itself irresponsible, calculated to confuse the public, and cowardly.
Quote #3: Former President Donald Trump
“I want to first thank my team of dedicated lawyers and others for their tireless work upholding justice and defending truth. My deepest thanks as well to all of the United States Senators and Members of Congress who stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principals at the heart of our country. It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”
It is a sad commentary; in fact it is tragic and ominous. Donald Trump has said a lot of reckless, false, wrong and stupid things, but on this occasion, he could not have been more astute.