This Unhappy Day in History
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 14, 2019
For a day, or even a week heralded as Living History because it teed up Donald Trump as only the third U.S. president to be impeached, it was a pretty sorry time of it.
The proceedings that got us to this step were unduly contentious, overwhelmingly ugly, and, in the end, almost futile, since Trump is assured of a Senate vote that will clear away any charges as if they had never happened.
Indeed, the House Republican Wall of Defenders made it sound as if there never was a months-long campaign run as a secretive, rogue effort led by Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to lean on a vulnerable new government in Ukraine to come up with political dirt helpful to Trump in order to win official White House acknowledgment and collect Congressionally approved military aid. Indeed, at times, while insisting that the outcome of elections should be respected over any oversight activity, they specifically substituted the elected House majority for Trump. That various voices have called for consideration of impeachment for a long time ignores the very fact that since even before the first day in office, this president, elected in the Electoral College after losing the popular vote, has consistently pursued efforts that run afoul of law, fairness and the Constitution.
We don’t need to replay these most recent exchanges of personal attack to understand that the House Judiciary Committee Republicans had bought into the Trump demand for a full-out, very aggressive outburst of procedural interruptions, and fact challenges to oppose the two resulting charges to the bitter end.
It was all just in time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to go on Sean Hannity’s Fox show to saw out loud what we all had figured: There is no chance that the Senate, with Republicans in charge, will allow a trial to succeed in ousting Trump. Indeed, McConnell said outright that he is working hand in hand with the White House lawyers to frame the trial as the defendant in the case would want it.
We have just the formality of a full House vote, expected next week, before a show trial of some kind will be arranged in January.
My question is this: Will Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who is supposed to oversee this trial, agree to sit as judge of a rigged trial? This is the same John Roberts who tells us repeatedly that he stands for the Constitutional independence of the judiciary.
So much for all the procedural complaints about fairness, or about allowing the president to call witnesses.
So much for marking History with intelligence, grace, humiity or even oratory that could mark the day as special and important.
The committee work ended in a grim roll call, dissension among the committee members, threats from at least one Republican that he already has the papers in place for the arrival of the next Democratic president to be impeached as soon as possible.
Sure, some of it was play-acting, but enough of it seemed to be real that it seemed remarkable that non-impeachment legislation could actually succeed in the same day or two.
Trump and Atty. Gen. William P. Barr were kept busy re-casting the conclusions of a Justice Department inspector general’s report to the opposite of what the report actually says.
Trump was spending hours tweeting personal attacks on the “sham” that Democratic House members had created in the impeachment process, even as Giuliani was visiting the White House anew carrying a stack of papers that were the result of returning to Ukraine to interview discredited Ukrainian officials in hopes of finding a case to pursue against Joe Biden and son, Hunter, as if that would balance off any attempted extortion of Ukrainian president Volydmyr Zelenyy to announce a public investigation of the Bidens.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the indicted Lev Parnass, who assisted Giuliani in reaching Ukrainians, was back in court to explain how he came into a million bucks.
And the White House was reacting to the whole incident by moving to reduce the numbers of people who normally listen into presidential phone calls to take notes, to keep Trump on track with policy, and to review transcripts.
It not only feels like a mess, it is one.
I believe that Democrats did the right thing, win or lose. They pursued a case that was real and shocking, however poorly they handled various aspect of the public relations of the case. Congressional Republicans did what they thought was right, but proved to me, at least, that they have no interest as a group in living up to their oaths in office.
It is a pledge of allegiance to Trump, whom many of them probably loathe on some level, not to the Constitution or even the defense of Congress.
In a better world, Republicans would have wanted to get to the bottom of a scheme being run out of the White House — even if they then concluded that impeachment was the wrong punishment to pursue. But that’s not what is happening here.
The only remaining question now is how much of a show trial Trump can create, using his own impeachment as an excuse to get Republican defenders to call the whistleblower or the Bidens.
In the meantime, expect that Trump, once cleared of the impeachment charges, will simply roll right on, continuing to obstruct any attempt at oversight of the myriad bad behavior schemes being run out of the White House.
On this particular Day of History, the view is pretty bleak — and exhausting.