Discussion: Impeachment trial

February 13, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have no particular expertise—much less knowledge—about the second Trump impeachment trial, as I watched virtually none of it save the videos and thus can’t weigh in. All I can say is that I wish that the Democrats had made the indictment broader, as I indicated this morning in the Hili dialogue. Regardless, from what I know, I would vote to kick the s.o.b. out.

I’m also not sure what bearing a conviction has on his ability to hold future office. In truth, I’m also not sure—narcissist that he is—that he even wants future office. He may just be content with the role of “elder GOP statesman” for his fawning, slavering minions. But he’ll remain a danger so long as he has any political influence.

If you’d like to say your piece on the proceedings, or on the unlikely outcome that he’ll be convicted, by all means weigh in below. Will he be barred from office? How many Republican senators will vote for his conviction? Mitch “666” McConnell has remained strangely silent in the last several days; could it be that he’s rounding up 17 Republicans to vote for conviction, hoping to save the reputation of his party?

Whoops, cancel that. I just saw this on Twitter:

My friend Betsy sent me a New York Times summary of the defense’s case, which she found amusing in this description of one of Trump’s hastily-assembled team of lawyers:

“A personal injury lawyer whose Philadelphia law firm solicits slip-and-fall clients on the radio and whose website boasts of winning judgments stemming from auto accidents and one case “involving a dog bite,” Mr. van der Veen proceeded to lecture Mr. Raskin, who taught constitutional law at American University for more than 25 years, about the Constitution.”

If that isn’t snark in the news, I don’t know what is.

van der Veen, from the NYT. Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

71 thoughts on “Discussion: Impeachment trial

  1. Also breaking, the Senate trial is calling witnesses. It won’t make a difference regarding acquittal, but the managers are addressing the voters and posterity. McConnell’s spine transplant didn’t take, it seems.

  2. I’ve listened to the bulk of the prosecution’s presentation, and it is overwhelmingly conclusive of the key point, that Trump, over the course of months if not years, incited his base, told them to come to DC and to march on the Capitol, and refused to stop them when they invaded. This also applied to the numerous instances of attempted invasions and disruptions at statehouses and voting centers previously.

    The defense didn’t address any of that, but only argued, again, that you can’t try someone out of office, which the senate had already decided to the contrary, and that in his Ellipse speech Trump used the word ‘peacefully’ once. They also presented a montage of Democrats using the term ‘fight’ in a number of speeches, so you can’t indict someone on that basis. So in other words, the defense, to any reasonable observer, completely failed to address the key accusations. But of course they are relying on R’s not being reasonable observers.

    Today, in a surprising move, the Senate has decided to call witnesses.

  3. “In truth, I’m also not sure—narcissist that he is—that he even wants future office.”

    I think he definitely does want to run for President again. Not only has he told us that, it makes sense based on all we know about him. He’s continuing to claim he really won the 2020 election so he will try to “prove” it by winning in 2024.

    It seems unlikely he’ll win but, on the other hand, it does seem likely that he would easily win the GOP nomination and who knows whether Biden or Harris will be up to running against him in 2024? The chances are he won’t get elected but the contemplation of such an outcome is so horrifying, any chance at all is too high.

    BTW, hardly anyone is surprised that McConnell will vote to acquit. It is surprising, though, that the Senate has decided to call witnesses! Let the show go on!

    1. In four years, Trump will be 78, and from what we can see (and what little information has come out during his term in office), he’s not in great shape, obviously obese (something his long-lived father was definitely NOT). My hope is that biological reality—which he so cynically denied and distorted, at the cost of such a huge number of lives—will put paid to any future political ambitions or activities of his… big league.

        1. I’d rather hope tRump has a massive stroke that leaves him alive but incapable of speaking clearly or moving his hands for the remainder of his sorry life. But then his rabid base is so demented that even if he died they might still vote for a hologram of tRump to mis-rule the nation.

        2. No. I’m not anxious to see him die. But aging and infirmity, enough to keep him from ever again doing anything as strenuous as running for office, are definitely what I *am* hoping for. If I’d meant that I hope he died, and wanted to do it indirectly, I’d have said ‘any activities of his, period’. All I want is for the danger of him reentering politics to be eliminated, decisively.

  4. This business of calling witness now is ridiculous. The Dems agreed to no witness, and now that they think they haven’t made their case, they want to call witnesses. But the worst thing is that they want to call someone who wasn’t a participant or a witness to a phone call, but someone who heard about it. Why not call McCarthy who was a participant? If the Senate doesn’t allow the defense the witnesses they want, this will be seen as nothing but partisan and unfair.

    1. There are evidently several past impeachments where witnesses were called after there initially being no witnesses planned, so that dispenses with that objection. As to defense witnesses, what witnesses have they asked for and been refused? AFAIK, there are no witnesses that will be helpful to the defense.

      1. Well, we’ll have to see if there are helpful witnesses or not. They plan to vote individual on each witness, and the Dems have the votes to stop any witness. We are still at the point where we have to pretend that anyone is entitled to defend themselves.

    2. The Democrats never agreed to no witnesses. Everyone assumed no witnesses, but that was not part of the rules agreed upon.

    3. First of all, the rules of evidence do not apply at an impeachment proceeding. Accordingly, hearsay is admissible.

      Second of all, even if the rules of evidence DID apply, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s statement to Washington state Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler would be admissible under the hearsay exceptions for either “excited utterances” or “present sense impressions.” See Federal Rule of Evidence 803(1) and (2).

      Third of all, the senate has stipulated to the introduction of the substance of Rep. Beutler’s testimony rather to have her called as a live witness.

      Donald Trump’s statements to minority leader McCarthy in the middle of the Capitol rioting demonstrate an abject sociopathy on Trump’s part — first, by his lying that the people rioting in the Capitol were not his supporters, then, when caught in that lie, by telling McCarthy that it demonstrates that the rioters care more about Trump’s loss of the election than McCarthy does, and, finally, by refusing to take any steps at all to come to the aid the people trapped in the Capitol, even though his slavishly servile vice-president and the VP’s family, as well as members of congress, were then in jeopardy of life and limb from Trump’s violent, bloodthirsty supporters.

  5. IANAL. I am not conversant with the ins and outs of the law here.

    My concern is primarily as a citizen and an observer, and a retired shrink who has a pretty fair understanding of authoritarian personalities. If the Republicans and Trump get away with this, and Trump suffers no consequences after his “acquittal”, I believe that the next time the Rs win the Presidency will be the last legitimate election we ever have in this country.

    They almost got away with it this time. They are not going to let that failure happen again. It would be so easy for Trump or another like him to agitate his cult and have them foment sufficient violence to declare martial law and suspend the constitution, “temporarily” which will turn out to be forever. Rs have shown us all who they really are.

    They are so unbelievably stupid, too. They are responding to their voters, who are not a majority. What on earth makes them think that they will even have jobs in a dictatorship? Dictators don’t need legislatures.

    The only hopes that we have here are that there will be criminal proceedings against Trump after this charade is over, and that public opinion will be glaringly against him.

    Also, there have been 106 voter suppression bills introduced in state legislatures this year already. Most of them will probably be enacted. So, even though they are not the majority, the Rs will do everything they can to prevent another loss in the future.

    I am not hopeful about any of this.

    L

    1. Very well said. I think you have it in a nut shell. This whole thing, including democracy is just flopping in the wind. If Trump is let off with nothing, how long before it happens again. Do we care if it happens again? Apparently the jobs of many congressmen are more important than our Republic. That is why I also am not hopeful about the future.

  6. I’m also not sure what bearing a conviction has on his ability to hold future office.

    If he’s convicted, there may be a second simple majority vote to determine if he will be barred from future office.

    I think, in the case of Trump, if he is convicted, he will also get barred. It would only need all the Democrat senators and either the VP or at least one Republican.

    1. If they were to be able to get a conviction then they could bar him from future office. This is why it is important to convict the guy.

      By the way, Trumps team more or less folded on the witness thing and the testimony of the congresswomen will be entered into the record.

      1. Last I heard there was a move to call 100 witnesses in the defense. Likely to provide cover for cowardly Republican senators in their vote, and to sort of punish the Dems by prolonging this distraction during Bidens’ 100 days.

        1. Yes, another demonstration of Republican priorities. Making people who disagree with you look bad is certainly way more important than getting at the truth, or than getting the trial over with to have more time to help people who are hurting.

          Have you noticed that there is no room in republican world for a differing opinion on ANYTHING? The followers have to swallow the whole world view. Any deviation is met with censure and the threat of being primaried by someone who is in better lockstep.

          Thinking isn’t their deal.

          L

          1. It was Newt Gingrich who really got that going, including with the concept of a RINO — Republican In Name Only, referring to any Republican who disagreed with him. As far as Gingrich is likely concerned, even Abraham Lincoln should be tarred as a RINO. He was a great schemer and rabble rouser, but a horrible human being and a deplorable politician.

  7. General comment:

    If there were people no where near the show Trump put on that day, would there be an impeachment? No.

    Then it bears mentioning that the counterpart to Trump – staged antics or genuine “patriotism” – are the people, now arrested, that went up the Capitol steps.

    What is the educational background of these United States citizens? Most if not all are graduates of the United States public education system – a system that is, we are assured, preparing all its graduates to participate as responsible citizens in the democracy they are part of.

  8. If this were a real trial in a real courtroom with a real judge and jury, and not a Senate hearing, numerous GOP Senators would have been held in contempt of court and Trump’s lawyers would be facing censure and perhaps disbarment for making verifiably false claims.

  9. Jamie is currently giving the closing statement for the democrats. If you can get it, it might help to clarify all of this for you.

  10. Lots about this impeachment troubles someone like me who doesn’t identify with any political tribe. Impeachment was adopted to remove someone from office. Trump is gone. If he incited an insurrection as Blue America asserts, he can be tried criminally. Constitutional law professors disagree on whether the Senate can try an official who has left office. They also disagree on whether a vote to bar someone from future federal office applies to elected and appointed offices or just to appointed offices. So nothing about this trial has slam dunk historic or constitutional legitimacy. It’s motivated by the same political instincts that drive all DC culture, with the impeachers’ emotional intensity amped up to stroke-inducing levels by the fear those members and their families and employees experienced during the siege. Understandable reactions all but will impeaching Trump twice do anything other than cement his legacy as a president who stood out in our history books? Actions, like coins, tend to be multifaceted and this second impeachment may, in a seemingly perverse way, actually be giving Trump what he wanted, an historic presidency.

    1. “Impeachment was adopted to remove someone from office.”

      That’s not true. That’s like saying the law against stealing was adopted in order to throw people into jail. Removal from office is simply one of the main punishments for an impeached and convicted public official. Prohibition from running for future office is another.

      “Constitutional law professors disagree on whether the Senate can try an official who has left office.”

      Since the alleged crime was committed while in office, it makes no sense that an ex-President can’t be tried for them. Precedence says that it is Constitutional and, more importantly, it’s logical. Why should someone be allowed to get away with offenses committed in the last couple of months of their term?

      Perhaps you are worried that getting off twice for impeachment will embolden Trump. It certainly will. But that must be weighed against helping Trump voters come to grips with the truth about their hero. The more they hear of his actions, the more they will come to understand that they backed a criminal. It will take a while, but I think it will happen.

      1. As I meant to suggest, ex-President Trump can be tried for crimes committed in office. If he incited an insurrection, he can and should be tried in a court of law for that crime. If so tried, he can and should be held accountable by a jury of his peers. Impeachment was designed for a different purpose, to remove a person who had committed treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors from public office. An additional penalty can be extracted in the prohibition against holding a subsequent public office. But, as I previously stated, the details of that penalty are unclear. Does it pertain to appointed offices only or are members of the public prohibited from electing that person to the same or a different public office. We appear to be in uncharted territory here.

        1. Not so uncharted. I will leave it to you to look up the references but it is my understanding that prohibition from public office is a penalty that has been applied many times. As to how exactly it is worded and what offices it applies to, I suspect that it is simply up to the body doing the sentencing though it could only be applied to offices within their jurisdiction, federal in this case. Our resident lawyer, Ken, may be able to add more or tell me where I’ve gone wrong.

    2. Past precedence and the majority of constitutional law scholars across the political spectrum indicate that there’s nothing wrong with impeaching and convicting someone who is no longer in office, and in the process barring them from future office. And doing so sets a precedence that future presidents will be held liable for trying to do what Trump did. Not convicting, on the other hand, will set a precedence that it’s ok. So there’s a lot at stake here.

  11. It’s hard not to see this as part of the death throes of a failed state. When Trump is acquitted there can be little doubt that there is no rule of law in this country. That many of our so called leaders have no allegiance to the country. The impeachment hearing is the very definition of a moot court. A lot of posturing, pageantry and faux process that means nothing. The trappings of a court without any of the usual checks and balances. In every other aspect of life in this country it’s clear that self-policing doesn’t work. (Except in the Senate if course where all hearts are pure.) The perfect endpoint to four years of leveraging our adversarial system to the max – it’s never about the truth of things – just how much power and money you have to obfuscate, generate fear, and paper the airwaves with your argument.

      1. Even if the rule of law is only as strong as its weakest link, the last fours years is riddled with examples beyond judging the president.

    1. We’ve had other very trying times. The civil war standing foremost among them. But Trump has been voted out, and he will be facing various criminal trials (to which I look forward). These are steps in the right direction.

  12. The endless procedural quibbling over the impeachment of a former executive ignores the lessons of one of the great pioneers of democratic governance, the Republic of Venice. Wikipedia reports:
    “While doges had great temporal power at first, after 1268, the doge was constantly under strict surveillance: he had to wait for other officials to be present before opening dispatches from foreign powers; he was not allowed to possess any property in a foreign land.[19] The doges normally ruled for life (although a few were forcibly removed from office). After a doge’s death, a commission of inquisitori passed judgment upon his acts, and his estate was liable to be fined for any discovered malfeasance.”

    The reason for these stipulations, particularly the posthumous commission, was to dissuade doges from acts of malfeasance or misfeasance.
    The US obviously needs equivalent mechanisms. Mr. Trump’s continuous misfeasance in office was due, precisely, to the fact that he found that he could get away with anything, starting with the refusal to release his financial information. Future repeats of such behavior might be avoided by: (a) imposing some penalty on Mr. Trump, as a warning to future office-holders; and (b) passing laws governing Presidential behavior at least a fraction as thoughtful as those devised by the thinkers of late Medieval Venice.

  13. McConnell has to be one of sleaziest and oiliest persons to ever set foot in the Senate. The ruling has already be made that the trial is Constitutional, a ruling that almost all Constitutional scholars agree with. Hence, he now has a duty, mandated by his oath of office, to vote on the facts and evidence as that former legal issue is settled whether he likes it or not. This is like voting to acquit someone because you disagree with the law upon which the person was charged. In doing such you have violated your duty as a juror. It is like voting to acquit someone because you thought he was unfairly convicted on a completely separate charge.

    A vote on this basis is a non-vote and really should not be counted in determining whether the two-thirds majority is reached as McConnell is essentially de facto refusing to participate in the impeachment portion of the trial. This is so notwithstanding his irrelevant physical presence. It is really no different than watching the proceedings from the galley with the press. It is protesting the process by refusing to actually participate in the process.

    1. Perhaps the impeachment trial “judge” could instruct the “jury”, just before they vote, that the constitutionality question has already been answered and, therefore, is not a valid excuse for dismissing the charges. Of course, this isn’t a real trial and all the GOP need is an excuse they think will satisfy the voters.

    2. Don’t forget that the only reason the trial was held after Trump left office is because *McConnell himself* wouldn’t allow it to be held before Jan 21. There are no words.

  14. If he runs for President again in 2024, it will be the worst of all possible disasters for the Republican party. A run would further divide and cripple the already damage party. That said, I hope that he is alive and has been in jail for several years in 2024.

    1. I hope you are right though we should worry about assessing future events in the light of what people think now. In other words, anything can happen between now and 2024.

      1. True, but I’m trying to think positively about an awful situation. If Trump has enough support to get elected in 2024 our democracy is totally screwed.

  15. Listening to the defense’s closing right now. It’s so disgusting. For example, they are comparing the Capitol insurrection to the demonstrations around the White House when Trump deployed troops and had his holding-a-bible-in-front-of-a-church photo op. I worry that a Trump supporter watching it will be confused by this presentation. One of the results of this not being a real trial is that the lawyers can say virtually anything they want.

      1. Unfortunately, the senators have already decided how they’re going to vote. This defense presentation is for Trump’s supporters, voters and media, to give them fodder for their coming faux outrage.

        Now the defense is suggesting that the Dems shouldn’t be indulging their Trump Derangement Syndrome but working for the people on the pandemic, the economy, etc. Ironically, all areas where Trump has done little.

        1. Rationally, the term “Trump Derangement Syndrome” should describe supporters of Donald J. tRump, not his detractors.

    1. Ah, yes, of course. I had forgotten the crazed White House rioters, holding high the hammer and sickle, smashing their way into the White House, bludgeoning to death and maiming White House guards as they did so. I’m glad Trump’s defense reminded me.

  16. Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump on the impeachment charge, is right now on the US senate floor reading Donald Trump for filth.

    1. He’s just trying to have his cake and eat it too. His excuse for not being able to vote to convict is ludicrous, and contrary to the strong consensus of experts.

      1. There was no way McConnell was going to end up voting contrary to the majority of his own caucus. He would as lief stand atop the senate rostrum and gnaw off his own leg.

      1. Aside from his own personal political power, the thing Mitch McConnell prizes most in the world is big-dollar Republican donors. They’ve essentially said they are abandoning the Republican Party after the Trump-incited January 6th riot in the Capitol. McConnell’s speech denouncing Trump was aimed at keeping them in the fold.

        Still, I don’t think McConnell would have given that speech unless he had substantial support for it among the other 43 Republicans who voted to acquit.

        And Trump must be steaming mad after hearing McConnell’s denouncement of him, especially since McConnell all but came out and invited prosecutors to go after Trump criminally.

        McConnell knows the GOP has no future so long as it remains under the thumb of Trumpism.

        1. He wants to keep the Trump voters but not Trumpism, as it was under previous Republican presidents. But I don’t think the Trump voters will go back in the barrel.

          1. Me neither. I think the GOP is coming apart at its seams — between the hardcore, dead-end Trump deplorables and the standard-brand Republicans looking to live on to fight another day.

        2. We can take some comfort from the fact that Trump is going to be in the crosshairs of a multitude of criminal prosecutions, many of which look like they have a good chance of success. New York State has been gunning for him for a long time and now, with no one to pardon him or quash their indictments, they can smell blood in the water.

          And apparently, the majority shareholder in his two most profitable ventures—sky-high value properties in NY and San Francisco, the jewels in his organization’s crown—is planning to force Trump out, right at a time when he’s looking at close to half a billion dollars in debt coming due in just a couple of years. So he’s going to be extremely hard pressed financially to defend himself against a barrage of criminal prosecutions, of a sort that it’s hard to imagine Giuliani or Eastman or any of his other legal ‘aces’ getting him safely out of.

          The next few years of his miserable, worthless life are going to be a mad scramble to stay out of prison—and that’s another basis for hope that he’ll have way too much on his plate to flirt with getting back into the political arena.

  17. Someone back there said of the deposed president that “I’d rather hope tRump has a massive stroke that leaves him alive but incapable of speaking clearly or moving his hands for the remainder of his sorry life.” Nice. A generous wish, reflective of a kindly and great-hearted spirit indeed, no? >snort<
    But now the Dotard is deposed, and observing that the economy is in dire straits, the infrastructure decomposing, and the culture infected by the malignancy of phenotypic profiling ("identity politics"), perhaps the legislature can ignore him as he so richly deserves and begin the long work of national repair. Certainly a more creditably productive course than this persistent wallowing in vengeful Schadenfreude. Resentment, remember, is taking poison in the hope that your enemy will die, as the individual I quoted above seems so clearly to have done.

    1. It is arguable that Trump’s denial of the pandemic, thinking such a position would benefit himself politically, led to the deaths of ~100,000 Americans. I wouldn’t hold it against anyone for wishing him dead. It’s not murder as we know that wishes alone can’t influence such matters. Let’s just call it a manner of expressing a strong dislike.

      1. “Let’s just call it a manner of expressing a strong dislike.” Or, let’s just call it an indication of that not yet civilized part of human instinct that wants to destroy the other. In a mob or a rage, too often acted upon so definitely not benign. And, not to be encouraged by decent human beings since it is the first step to action.

    2. “…this persistent wallowing in vengeful Schadenfreude.” For myself, I’ve always just “wished him well, elsewhere.”

      Just not in politics and not on any channel I can’t turn off.

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