It’s one-thirty in the morning, and I’m still watching this sham impeachment trial. It’s depressing, which almost seems a naive reaction, really, given that it’s going just exactly the way we all knew it would. There was an early surprise, when it turned out that McConnell lost an argument within his own caucus about the trial rules, and backed off imposing an especially abbreviated schedule, and a vote on whether to even admit the evidence already gathered in the House – never mind new evidence, Mitch was scheming to exclude even the stuff that led to the impeachment. This was a bridge too far, apparently.
On what everybody thought would be the actual questions, particularly whether there will be any subpoenas for the documents that Trump has thus far unlawfully refused to produce, or any testimony from key witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney, Mitch is holding fast. There will be a vote on that, but only after arguments have concluded. In other words, we’ll vote on the admissibility of evidence only once the trial is effectively over. Those are Mitch’s rules. We’ll talk evidence after the trial finishes.
Sure. That’s how it usually works in trials, right? (I’m reminded of the Python courtroom skit in which the judge regards an obviously badly beaten and abused prisoner in the dock and asks “what are the charges?”, to which the bewigged and nonplussed Crown Attorney responds “Is that strictly necessary, your honour?”).
All day long the Democrats’ impeachment managers have been proposing amendments to McConnell’s rules, which would allow for documents and witness testimony to come in while the trial is still going on – imagine that! This has gone on hour after dreary hour, interminably, and hour after hour it’s been a straight partisan vote to reject the proposals. 53-47. Again and again.
I’m watching the brilliant Adam Schiff arguing right now for a final amendment that gives up on trying to get evidence admitted before the trial concludes, and would simply allow the presiding judge, Chief Justice Roberts, to make rulings on the relevance of proposed witnesses if the time ever comes that they can be called. They’re actually voting on that as I type. Mitch is opposed, of course, because the upshot would be that if, by some miracle, witnesses are ever allowed, a neutral arbiter with actual legal knowledge would decide whether, say, Hunter Biden, who knows nothing relevant, is really someone who should appear. The proposed amendment wouldn’t remove the Senate’s inherent power to overrule any such decision by the Chief Justice, but Mitch knows that it would look awful for the Republicans to vote down a ruling by the highest judge in the land, and a Republican appointee with known conservative sympathies to boot, so nope, Mitch wants the amendment tabled – that is, deferred to later, thus effectively killed.
Wait for it…Yup, 53-47, and the Yeas have it that the motion should be tabled. One more dead soldier. Mitch is good at this sort of thing, isn’t he? Give him something to kill, and by gum, he’ll kill it just as dead as it can be. He’s such a calm and happy fellow as he mops up the detritus, too. The undertaker smiles quietly to himself, ignoring the wailing widows and orphans as he measures ’em all out for their caskets.
In arguing every motion of amendment, for fully thirteen hours the Democrats, Schiff particularly, made highly effective submissions about why evidence and witnesses are relevant and necessary, and why the trial is no trial at all in their absence. In effect, they turned dry procedural arguments into a much broader case for removing Trump from office, just by describing what they expected the desired evidence to show, and why the refusal to allow it displays consciousness of guilt.
By contrast, the President’s defence staff, mainly Sekulow and Cippollone today – looks like we’ll be treated to Dershowitz later, God save us – had no principled rebuttal, made a bunch of irrelevant rhetorical talking points for the goofs on Fox News, and generally looked like a bunch of clueless, unprepared bumblers. Cippollone actually lied during his presentation, claiming, as if it even mattered at this point, that Republican committee members had been shut out of closed impeachment hearings in the House (it’s not fairrrrrrrrrrr), an absurd and easily refuted falsehood. Nice move for a lawyer arguing the most important case of the past several decades, if not the last century, right there in front of the Chief Justice of SCOTUS. If I had anything to say about it, he’d find himself disbarred when this is over.
To anyone persuadable and paying attention, the Democrats took a weak hand, played it brilliantly, and won the day despite losing at every turn. By forcing the Republicans to vote again and again to suppress evidence and thwart any semblance of a fair trial, they exposed the brazen cover-up in progress.
Do you suppose anybody persuadable was paying attention? Mitch bets no.
I don’t think I’ll be watching much of the rest of this shit show. I’m depressed enough. That said, there was one moment of high humour today, when Chief Justice Roberts admonished the participants to keep civil tongues in their heads, and remember they were making submissions to “the world’s greatest deliberative body”. Hyuk! Good one, your honour! No, wait – that was serious? Really, judge? You’re still peddling that old sing-songy soft soap? And this greatest of deliberative bodies – does it, perchance, sit upon the highest crest within that shining city on a hill?