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.

Bizarro World

I mentioned to my wife a few nights ago that, along with all of the other political upheaval in the U.S. as we approach the 2020 election, things could still be worse: Ruth Bader Ginsburg could die before the election, giving Donald Trump a chance to quickly nominate her replacement, despite the refusal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016 to even give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing, much less a confirmation vote.

Well, that scenario is now not just possible, but likely, after Ginsburg’s death from cancer this evening at the age of 87.

It comes as no surprise at all that Mitch McConnell announced tonight, while also praising Ginsberg’s life, that if the president nominates her replacement this fall, that person would get a confirmation vote in the Senate.

Of course he’ll hold a vote, even if doing so would be incredibly hypocritical. That certainly has never stopped McConnell before. As Nancy LeTourneau pointed out last year, he doesn’t care what you think.

We learn about how government works in school, but it doesn’t seem to be much more than facts in a textbook that we had to memorize to pass a test or two. Every election is transactional; what can Politician A do for me that Politician B won’t? While we don’t usually see great variances from political norms from election to election, that’s more a function of the political elite protecting the status quo.

But we’re in Bizarro World right now. Trump and his supporters are willing – or even hoping – to burn it all down to maintain power and control. Expecting any outrage from those who make up the Republican Party today is a fool’s game. And like McConnell, they don’t care what you think, either.