“FIFTY-FIVE VOTES TO HEAR WITNESSES,” I giddily announced on Facebook at precisely 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 13. “Collins, Sasse, Murkowski, Graham (!!!) and Romney included.” I could scarcely believe it; all throughout the abbreviated impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the possibility of calling actual witnesses had seemed remote at best… until five Republicans crossed the pond to skate with the Democrats. The managers had won the day in a rout, and the world could now learn precisely what Trump did, and refused to do, on that terrifying 6th day of January.
By 3:00 p.m. that same Saturday afternoon, however, Trump had been acquitted of the charge of incitement to insurrection with not one single witness having been called. Seven Republicans voted with the majority in favor of conviction, but the vote was still 10 short of the 17 Republicans needed to convict. With the abruptness of flicking a switch, it was over.
I spent much of the remaining weekend in dark rooms staring at my hands. “What am I using these for?” I kept asking myself. The quest for simple justice in this impossibly corrupt country is enough of a permanent burden without having victories — rare, precious victories — snatched away and discarded by the very people who worked so hard to secure them. I have been through my fair share of social and political traumas, but somehow the slammed-lid ending to that second impeachment trial felt like the unkindest cut of all.
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Rep. Jamie Raskin overcame a huge emotional burden — the recent loss of his son and the threat to his family when the Capitol was sacked — and he, along with his fellow impeachment managers, put on a presentation for the ages. Then, after succeeding beyond all expectations in securing Republican support for witness testimony, they gave away the store.
Instead of bringing in witnesses to offer testimony, the managers made do with a statement from a single witness who described Trump as being deeply disdainful to those asking him to intervene in the violence.
That was it, thanks for coming, turn out the lights when you leave.
“The jury is ready to vote,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons successfully urged the managers in his bid to end the trial. “People want to get home for Valentine’s Day.” And so it was that a manufactured holiday designed to make people spend money in February got the drop on justice in the same building where they were still sweeping up the broken glass.
“We have no regrets,” Raskin later said on Meet the Press. “We left it totally out there on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and every senator knew exactly what happened. We could have had a thousand witnesses but that could not have overcome the kinds of silly arguments that people like McConnell and Capito were hanging their hats on.” Representatives Stacy Plaskett and Joe Neguse, two breakout stars from the manager’s team, are taking a victory lap and looking toward a brighter future.
Bully for them. While it is almost certainly true the Republicans would have voted to acquit Trump in the end, this misses the ultimate point by several nautical miles. An impeachment “trial” is really a hearing, and hearings are as much about politics as they are about the facts. The GOP has used hearings to transmit its mayhem arguments to the country to incredible effect over the years — Benghazi, your table is ready — but when Democrats WON (!!) the opportunity to do the same, they spit the bit and talked about having no regrets.
Far more went on during the events of January 6 than the people have been made aware of, even after Raskin and the managers painted the walls of Congress with vivid imagery of a bloody coup barely avoided. Some 57 state and local Republican officials participated in the attack on that building. Trump himself offered support that was arguably tantamount to holding the Capitol doors open for the mob to charge through with nooses and zip ties.
Witnesses would have told the people about that in necessarily excruciating detail. Witnesses were already lining up to do just that. Would it have altered the outcome? No more than the Benghazi hearings ultimately resulted in Hillary Clinton’s arrest, but that is not the point of the exercise. The GOP would have been forced to defend Trump and his people with the weight of witness testimony bearing down on them, and like as not it would have served to further undermine the still-too-large power and influence enjoyed by our traitor former president. Much good would have come from the theater of it.
Instead, they threw the opportunity away.
And how has the Republican Party reacted to that surprising bit of weekend largesse? They are outrageously accusing House Speaker Pelosi of being responsible for the inadequate protection of the Capitol on January 6, when members of the pro-Trump mob ransacked her office and terrorized her staff.
After spending a long, lethal year defending Trump’s horrific failures in the face of COVID, Republicans are now seeking to capitalize on that pain by “weaponizing” frustrated parents against President Biden. “Republicans see room to capitalize on the grim public health and economic situation the White House inherited from Donald Trump by trying to put Democrats on the defensive for being too removed from the pain or too slow-moving to address it,” reports Politico.
In tandem, Republicans are also lining up to thwart Biden’s deeply needed and wildly popular relief package, which the administration hopes to deliver by March. “Republicans are adrift at the moment,” reports Punchbowl News. “The lowest common denominator to get back on the same page will be opposing Biden and his agenda — especially a package of this size. We saw them do this in 2009 with the stimulus. And we expect the same here.”
And it’s only Tuesday.
President Harry Truman once asked, “How many times do you have to get hit over the head until you figure out who’s hitting you?” What happened last Saturday was a disgrace to the cause of freedom and truth, yet another humiliation for a Democratic Party that never seems to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Instead, they stand there, backs turned, while the hits just keep on coming.
Anyone who calls themselves a Democrat today should be embarrassed, and the Democratic leadership should be made to hear of it. Attempts to spin the conclusion of that trial as some sort of moral victory are laughable. The managers got right where they needed to be, and then gave away the game ball because it was the easier thing to do. Too many more “victories” like that, and we’ll be inaugurating Donald Trump again in four years.