This is how historical accounts of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will read: “After searching, for three years, for a reason to impeach the president, Democrats settled for a telephone conversation, claiming that Donald Trump said some things he shouldn’t have said. The Senate trial began in mid-January 2020 and, yadda, yadda, yadda, the president was acquitted.”
Intended by the Founders to be a fail-safe measure that would bring to an abrupt end the presidency of an individual whose conduct posed an immediate threat to the Republic, impeachment has now become a joke. No rational person can take Trump’s trial seriously. Indeed, no rational person can watch the proceedings in their entirety and remain rational.
From the moment this supposedly greatest deliberative body on Earth began debating the string of amendments to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) trial rules resolution, the whole, sorry affair became something resembling an interpretive remake of the movie Groundhog Day. Like a herd of Bill Murrays, political pundits and correspondents find themselves listening to the same points being made, over and over again. Adam Schiff (D-CA) may well be playing the role of the very creature for whom the aforementioned movie is named. Pray he does not catch sight of his own shadow, lest we are faced with six more weeks of impeachment.
The amendments themselves were mostly efforts to subpoena documents and witnesses from the executive branch – including former National Security Advisor John Bolton. All eleven of these amendments were tabled on party-line votes, though Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) did vote with Democrats on a single amendment, regarding the trial’s time frame.
The latest news from the trial is, simply, this: There is no news. The Democrat House managers – the prosecutors – are into the second of their three days of opening argument. Perhaps they have scored a minor tactical victory because they will wrap up this phase of the trial on Friday, Jan. 24, and the American people will spend the weekend reading about the case against the president without yet hearing from Trump’s defense team.
That is one theory, anyway. Another is that any American with common sense will spend his or her weekend with family, going to the cinema, drinking, dancing, fishing, hunting, texting and driving, or indulging in any of the other great American pastimes. Don’t text and drive.
Can I Get a Witness?
On Monday, Jan. 27, the president’s legal team will commence their own opening argument. It will be at least a little more entertaining, if only by virtue of the fact that they will be in the position of reviewing and dissecting the broken-record-like presentation of the House managers.
After Trump’s lawyers conclude their presentation, the pivotal phase of the trial will begin: The debate and voting over whether witnesses and, possibly, documentary evidence will be allowed. Not that the outcome of the trial is likely to be affected, either way, but Democrats might do well to remember the old adage “be careful what you wish for,” if their insistence upon witnesses leads to the appearance of individuals from whom they may not want to hear. Unfortunately, this part of the trial will be a re-run of the debates over the rules amendments, so, back to Groundhog Day.
This congressional circus is not a perfect analogy for the 1993 comedy, though: In the movie, Bill Murray’s character learns to make use of his time as he is forced to live the same day, over and over. He acquires new skills and makes each repeat of the day a little better and more productive. Democrats are learning nothing, though, and the public is slipping further and further into a state of complete apathy.
Read more from Graham J Noble.