A political trial

So Donald Trump was acquitted. This isn’t a surprise. Frankly, I’m surprised that seven Republican senators voted to convict him on the articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives. For the record, those seven were Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

It was always extremely unlikely that any more than that would turn on Trump. For several of them, there was no way they could, seeing as how they were more or less unindicted co-conspirators in the events that led up to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. How could they possibly vote to convict when they should have been on trial instead of part of the “jury.”

Impeachment and the trial that follows are purely political acts. The Constitution sets impeachment apart from the rest of U.S. law and allows the House to determine what “high crimes and misdemeanors” actually means and the Senate to determine what the rules are for the trial. In a perfect world, each senator would have listened carefully, weighed the evidence, and rendered an honest verdict.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and, as we witnessed over the past few days, the Trump wing of the GOP wasn’t even willing to actually listen to the House managers as they presented their case. They doodled, they passed notes, they giggled, they got up and left. They behaved like bored children. They already knew how they were voting before it even began.

In the end, if Trump had been convicted, his supporters wouldn’t have changed their minds and he’d have been an even bigger martyr than he is now. His acquittal changes nothing: Even Mitch McConnell knows that Trump was guilty of the charges brought against him by the House, but he used the technicality of him being a “former president” as the reason not to convict. We know what happened, we watched it and lived through his disaster zone of a presidency.

I suggested back in January that the impeachment trial could be a distraction from the positive things that Congress needs to be doing right now. I still feel that way. I know the trial needed to happen, especially because the high crimes Trump committed directly affected Congress itself. But I’m relieved it’s over. His legal exposure doesn’t end with this political acquittal, in fact, Donald’s problems have just begun.

Sorry, no puppy today.

Sorry, no cute puppy today. I’m watching the impeachment. After last night’s recap I felt compelled to watch it live today. I don’t regret that decision – yet – but it’s incredibly sad to watch.

It’s not just the events of January 6, which were despicable. It’s the feeling that no matter how clearly the House impeachment managers lay out their case against the former president (and it’s a very compelling case), it remains unlikely that 17 or more Republican senators will vote to convict him.

It’s not impossible, of course, and I’m frustrated with media prognosticators who have already thrown in the towel. It’s possible that more of them will change their minds. Frankly, I think if it could be a secret ballot you’d easily get at least 17 Republicans to vote to convict, but having it be a roll call vote puts them in an untenable position. Some may also be concerned about violence directed at themselves and their families, which is understandable, except for the fact that they allowed this situation to get to this point in the first place.

And some of them currently sitting as part of the jury would be better described as co-conspirators; they can’t vote to convict without indirectly convicting themselves for their roles in the Capitol attack and attempt to overthrow the election.

It’s a no-win situation for many of the Republican senators, especially those up for re-election in 2022. If they vote to convict, they’ll certainly get primaried by a MAGA opponent. If they vote to acquit, it’ll be used against them by their Democratic opponent in the general election. There’s no good way out.

The New York Times, February 11, 2021

Which is why I still hope that some of them, faced with that decision, will decide to land on the right side of history and vote to convict Trump. If they don’t, they’ve allowed a new “January exception” to impeachment, where a sitting president who is facing the end of their term incites violence and insurrection to remain in power.

Some Trump supporters keep using images and videos of violence and property destruction at Black Lives Matters demonstrations during the summer of 2020 as an attempt to “both sides” the issue. Violence and property destruction are not acceptable, but in this case, only one of those events was promoted, managed, and incited by the president of the United States in an attempt to overturn the results of an election, potentially destroying our democracy. That was the insurrection of January 6, 2021. And that’s what’s on trial this week.

There is no valid defense.

Sunday news scan

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I can’t decide if watching Donald Trump try to defend himself in the upcoming impeachment trial would be the best or the worst thing ever. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be anywhere near the middle of that spectrum, though. And I wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

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In the “Anything is possible but very few things are likely” file today, we have this from Los Angeles. I suppose it’s possible that the government has been trying to mind-control us with fluoride in our water and through vaccinations for decades. If so, they’ve done a very poor job of it, or they’re playing the longest-possible long game. Or we’re already mind-controlled and these people are the only ones who’ve avoided it somehow. Occam’s Razor applies here.

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There aren’t many trades in the NFL, and even fewer that can be called “blockbusters.” This is one. Matthew Stafford leaves the Lions to head to L.A. (watch out, Matthew, apparently the “MARK of the BEAST AHEAD” out there) where he might just have a chance to win a playoff game or two. Best wishes to him. The Rams send their erstwhile former #1 overall pick, Jared Goff, who still potentially has some upside (though Detroit isn’t the first place I’d want to go to find out if that was true), plus not one but two first-round draft picks and another third-round pick. The Rams get the solid, top-rated quarterback they’ve needed and the Lions… well, the Lions get to start another rebuild. Maybe this time will be different, but, as noted before, anything is possible but few things are likely.

Have a nice Sunday.

Leave him to the prosecutors and creditors and get on with the people’s business

This may come as a surprise to my readership (such as it is), but I’m only lukewarm on the idea of the Senate actually holding an impeachment trial for He-Who-Shall-No-Longer-Be-Named (and who shall be hereinafter be given the acronym “HWSNLBN”).

I do believe that HWSNLBN must be held accountable for the myriad crimes he likely committed as president, up to and including his involvement in inciting a insurrectionist riot on January 6. However, I think the impeachment trial would be a distraction from the many good things that President Biden (who shall hereinafter be named, repeatedly and without acronyming) is attempting to do in his first few months in office.

HWSNLBN has been impeached – twice, now – and the stain of that will never go away. Fifty percent of all of the presidential impeachments in the nearly 232 year history of our constitutional government belong to HSWNLBN. Last year, in the first Senate trial, Republicans tried to claim that standards of evidence that would apply to a criminal or civil trial should be used. But an impeachment trial isn’t like that. Ultimately, it’s political. The standards of what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” are largely left up to the House to decide when they vote to impeach, and to the Senate to decide when they vote to convict or acquit.

HWSNLBN will also be facing numerous actual criminal and civil trials, perhaps fairly soon, now that he’s a private citizen and not president of the United States. Remember, the Department of Justice advice is that a sitting president can’t be brought to trial, but it doesn’t excuse any potential criminal acts that occurred while in office. Otherwise, there would be, as a point of law, no way to hold a president accountable for anything they do during their term. HWSNLBN may face quite a few charges, starting with possible tax fraud and evasion and potentially ending with liability in the deaths of the Capitol Police officer during the attack on the Capitol. Not to mention plenty of creditors, including Deutsche Bank, who are likely going to want to discuss repayment with a man whose primary business is already facing difficulty and whose brand is toxic to all but the unscrupulous and gullible.

Putting him on trial after he’s already left office – which hasn’t been definitively determined is even constitutional – accomplishes little, and might even give his supporters a weapon to wield against other criminal and civil actions against the former president. “You already tried him in the Senate,” they will bellow, “what more do you want?” (I’m sure they’ll use the key words “unity” and “healing” a lot, too, but I paraphrased my imagined quote from them.)

Let’s turn him over to federal and state prosecutors, who can potentially put him behind bars if that punishment fits the crime, and his creditors, who will put a whole other world of hurt on him. The symbolism of the impeachment trial is strong, I’ll admit, but I’d prefer to see us moving forward with real legislation and leave the repercussions of HWSNLBN’s tragic presidency to those who know how to build real cases and then get convictions.