Trials and Tribulations
Only a few words about the start yesterday of the Senate trial of Donald John Trump. (Okay, it will be more than just a few words, but considering the details and hours, I'm only skirting on the surface and not diving in deep.)
The opening day of the trial was long and repeated pretty much everything we've heard relentlessly since the House impeachment hearings after which White House spokespeople tried to song-and-dance everything they could while avoiding addressing the specific charges that Trump was impeached of.
I thought Adam Schiff was wonderful -- low-key, pointed, and insightful. While the other House Managers on this first day did very good jobs,from Zoe Lofgren to Val Demmings to Hakeem Jeffries, all strong, I'd have been happy to listen to Adam Schiff for the full time. The Trump lawyers showed their anger well, though they seemed to ignore the charges against Trump, while trying to sound outraged against everything else, including the House Managers, and bringing up outraged points that were factually wrong. Rep. Schiff did a very good job correcting them on these...er, mistakes. Like that no Republicans were allowed in the "secret hearing" -- despite there being 100 people in those "secret hearing" and Republicans on record speaking in equal terms with the Democrats. As much as factual lies are far worse, my favorite GOP outrage was the one where Trump lawyers tried to make an "accurate" gotcha point about how President Barack Obama withheld funds earmarked for Egypt. Adam Schiff responded that while the funds were indeed withheld, he noted that the Trump left out that there had been a revolution in Egypt and Republican senators asked him to withhold the funds!
Especially effective was the use by Democrats of video clips showing Trump saying things like how he wanted all of his aides to testify and that as president he could do whatever he wanted and other ramblings, along with testimony of witnesses in the House impeachment hearing -- a clever way of at least getting some evidence admitted. On the Trump lawyer side, they used clips to...well, okay, no they didn't.
But most impactful was the unrelenting repetition by House Managers on the point that Trump and Republicans are allowing no documents as evidence, no witnesses, no documents as evidence, no witnesses, no documents as evidence, no witnesses, and also no documents as evidence, no witnesses. While Trump lawyers kept repeating the bizarre, untrue statement that Democrats want all these witnesses and evidence because...because apparently they couldn't prove the case that they have. For the record, Democrats proved their case in the House which is why Trump got impeached. What they want is to admit all that evidence into the Senate trial and get witnesses admitted who they wanted to get in the House but were blocked by Trump, in order to reinforce their case and put it all in full perspective.
What Schiff did, as well, that I liked very much since I think it's a critical point and was waiting to hear it all day, is that, basically, if I can paraphrase -- if you do this, if you block witnesses, if you block the admitting of evidence, you are setting precedent for all future presidents to ignore requests by the Senate and let them act however they want without any concern for the separation of powers.
It's likely few people watched the whole thing. And it's likely that few opinions were changed among the senators. (Though after one break, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed several of his rules, mostly likely because of some of his GOP members being upset.) But mainly, where this will have the most impact is on the voting public, regardless of how much they watched, and will watch. And with that, I think the most important thing that came through today was the point that Republicans are blocking all evidence and witnesses. And Republicans are not addressing the charges. And in the end, when it comes to voters, since details get blurred, that is a massively important takeaway.
And what has been clear about seeing all that all day is that this is not about Trump, but about the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit.
And it's just Day One.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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