Wednesday impeachment Senate trial round-up: Did we hear anything new? Was there anything today during the Senate impeachment trial that we have not already heard in the past three months? No, if you ask Sekulow and the Republicans, but does it really matter? How many ways can one say abuse of power?
Another day of split screens has completed. During day two of the Senate Impeachment Trial, Adam Schiff, a Lead Impeachment Manager, delivered opening remarks laying out the chronology of the case against Trump and then moved on to present the constitutional framework of impeachment.
The first day of trial was about finding out the rules which will govern the trial and whether the Senate will agree to obtain additional documents and evidence. The second day was about the facts, timelines and the presentation of an overall geopolitical context for impeachment. Democrats will have up to three days to make their case. After they finish, Trump’s defense team will then have their three day turn for rebuttal. The Senate trial could conclude as soon as next week.
Today’s presentation managed, to a great extent, to stay focused on geopolitics, specifically on Russia and Ukraine. There was discussion of the context of the U.S. election interference and Russia’s attempt to push its false narrative designed to undermine the Mueller investigation.
In his day two opening remarks, Schiff argued that Trump was involved in a long scheme to force Ukraine to announce a political investigation with two aims 1) to undermine Mueller and 2) to hurt Joe Biden.
The geopolitical context was compelling and elaborate, but it is reasonable to ask if there is a public interested in learning more about foreign policy and the complicated dynamics that defines bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine. Does anyone care deeply about what is happening in Ukraine, and did Americans even heard the name Zelensky before the impeachment? These are the questions that should be considered when discussing impeachment. That’s perhaps what explains not-so high pro-impeachment numbers in public opinion, as Ukraine seems like some far-away place for Americans. The public does not know much about it. Even the pundits have never been there. To energize the public around anything going on in Ukraine, and the country’s plight caused by Trump withholding military aid is not an easy task. The Trump first term has reduced political discourse to America First. Domestic politics have been the sole focus of attention. This has consequently transformed the political climate and the conversation we are having in the country.
The politics of insults
The Democrats and Republicans are using the two very different communication styles during the impeachment proceedings. The democrats are trying to focus on the facts, quotes from the Founding fathers and trying to explain the context in their case for impeachment. The Republicans are only interested in talking to their base.
Trump spoke from Davos during a last minute press conference. There, he called Jerry Nadler “a sleazebag.” Trump knows this type of language is inappropriate, but his base loves it; the president is not even trying to uphold a civil discourse. That in itself is a problem. The nature of political discourse has been reduced to a politics of insults. Republicans want to rank well with Trump, so they are following the communication style of the president. Thus, you had a Republican Senator Martha McSally calling a CNN journalist Manu Raju a “liberal hack.”
What happened? Divisions, no consensus
There is no consensus as to what happened in Trump’s phone call with Ukraine, let alone as to what ought to be done about it. The lines of division are deepening, and a spectator, in order to understand what is going on, is forced to switch the channels between two parallel realities.
Sen. Lindsey Graham claims that the Democrats are on a “crusade” to “destroy” President Trump: “If I were the president,” he said, ”I wouldn’t cooperate with these guys at all.”
This is the first time in American history that the president refused to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry, and the GOP is enabling this behavior at a great expense.
All partisanship aside, one must ask about the irreparable damage that this is doing to the texture of the American society. However this plays out, there will be a price to pay for the poisonous atmosphere that the country will be left with once the impeachment trial concludes.
Abuse the power and carry on?
George Conway said that the truth always has a way of coming out, but the problem with that is twofold: 1) what if this truth can’t be admitted into evidence? 2) What if there is evidence, and the Senate and American voters decide that it does not matter?
Trump’s defense team wants to argue that abuse of power does not meet the threshold for impeachable offense. Their role is to defend the president, but it is a very dangerous precedent to say the president can abuse power and carry on. The very nature of the American presidency is distorted by allowing the abuse of power. That constitutes a precedent that can carve out the path for the abuses of power in the future and long after Trump.
Fair trial or no trial at all?
The Democrats are focusing their argument around “fair trial.” The key question for them is: will there be a fair trial if the Senate does not hear from the relevant witnesses, and does not admit all relevant documents and evidence? My question is, will there be any trial if you can’t hear from the witness, and if you refuse to look into documents? What’s the purpose of this impeachment exercise?
How can any trial be conducted without witnesses, without evidence? What is happening here is the political theater of the absurd. What is happening here is a complete degeneration of political morals and values and ideals of law and justice that must exist in a true democracy.
Trump’s afraid of John Bolton
How can America have a trial without all of the relevant evidence? Without documents or testimony? The impeachment of President Johnson had 41 witnesses, Clinton’s had 3 witnesses. Will the Senate reconsider to include any in Trump’s?
Trump is afraid of John Bolton. He is the insider. He knows everything and Trump does not want him to reveal what he knows. Trump was very clear in Davos that he won’t let the Senate hear from John Bolton.
Trump is not fine with the facts coming out; if Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney, Giuliani testify under oath, it will be over for Trump. He would have to leave. The only thing Trump wants, the only thing the GOP Senate wants is to do a speed illusion of a trial, acquit Trump and use that as leverage to win another four years in power.
The Republicans are asking the question: why would the Senate call any witness that has not been called in the House? Dershowitz’s former student is Ted Cruz, and they both agree that in terms of legal relevance, the first witness they would call is Hunter Biden. Darshowitz says that there is no way that Justice Roberts would rule the testimony of Hunter Biden irrelevant.
The first president who invoked executive privilege was George Washington, who was then accused of abusing the power. The idea that anyone can be accused of abuse of power is a cliche according to Dershowitz. “It is not an impeachable offense”, he claims. “You can’t raise abuse of power to the level of impeachable offense,” is Dershowitz’s argument, and he claims that the framers would have rejected it.
Trump’s team is putting forward a defense that Trump is right to invoke executive privilege to protect the conversation of national security. As for Hunter Biden, Chuck Schumer said the idea of a “witness trade” that involves calling Hunter Biden, in exchange for John Bolton is “off the table.”
Lev Parnas should be also called to testify. If the Democrats were able to include Lev Parnas’ evidence into the impeachment hearings in the House before the vote on impeachment, there would have been a higher public support for impeaching Trump. Now the vox populi is catching up and is on 51%. How will this translate into the 2020 election? If the election was held today, Trump would win, but in ten months from now, in November, this may not be the case.
March toward predetermined impeachment outcome
As for the outcomes, we are watching this trial knowing the end result. Slowly, but surely, we are marching toward predetermined outcomes.The Senate will acquit Trump. The reason why they do not want to allow witnesses and new documents is because they know that Trump is guilty.. The Senate trial is all about the public messaging, and like I said for BBC World on day one of the impeachment hearings, is just the extension of Trump’s 2020 election campaign.
The Senate will acquit Trump, but will American voters do the same? This will be the biggest test for society. Come November, we will know if society will tolerate the abuse of power and lies that mark Trump’s type of the presidency. The American people are the ultimate jury.