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Impeachment Follow-Up

Posted February 16, 2021

Tags: current events, politics

So the impeachment trial is over. That the result is completely expected doesn't make it any less disappointing. A 57-43 majority voted Guilty, but that wasn't enough to meet the two-thirds threshold needed to convict.

Before I get into that, I need to issue a correction. In my previous post, written before the trial ended, I wrote:

[Trump] made a phone call to Senator Tommy Tuberville to try to convince him to delay the certification. The call ended when the senators were evacuated. I can't find anything saying whether or not Tuberville expressly mentioned the storming or the evacuation, but Tuberville remembers saying, “they just took the vice president out.” According to Wikipedia's timeline of the assault, it was after this phone call, some eleven minutes after Pence was moved, that Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to” refuse to certify the results.

In fact, the then-current revision of Wikipedia's timeline didn't mention the phone call or Senator Tuberville (or senator Mike Lee, whose phone Trump actually called) at all. I got the eleven minutes figure from the time of Pence's evacuation, which I had assumed Tuberville told Trump about as it happened.

When I checked the timeline again, it had been updated to include the call, which in fact took place two minutes after the tweet: Pence was evacuated at 2:13, the tweet was eleven minutes later at 2:24, and the phone call was at 2:26.

This doesn't affect my conclusion about Trump, though: For one thing, the call took place nearly an hour after one mob forced the Capitol police in front of the steps to retreat at 1:30; nearly half an hour after a different mob overwhelmed the cops on the east side at 1:58, then reached the front door at 1:59; and fifteen minutes after an attacker broke a window at 2:11, allowing someone to get inside at 2:12 and open a door. That Trump could avoid hearing about this, without trying to, strains credulity even more than Trump and his lawyers usually do.

Besides, that's not the only thing Trump said during the attack that makes him look guilty. In a statement available in full on CNN's website and quoted in Wikipedia's article on the trial, Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler said:

In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he'd had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details: When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

Now, this statement looks to me like hearsay, but after Republicans threw a temper tantrum over the idea of calling witnesses, Republicans and Democrats agreed to enter this statement into the record instead.

I'm not exaggerating when I say "temper tantrum": CBS News reported that the Republicans were “furious.” After the initial vote to call witnesses, Trump's lead lawyer said he wanted to depose at least 100 people, including Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, at his office in Pennsylvania. As far as Republicans were concerned, though, it was the Democrats who were stalling. One of them threatened to render Congress non-functional, for years if necessary: “If [Democrats] want to make this into a 10 month ordeal or a two year ordeal, it'll be without a single piece of legislation getting passed.” Another said calling witnesses was a “tool of revenge.”

It's also worth noting that this makes two impeachments in a row during which Republicans cried crocodile tears about Trump not being allowed “due process” or a “fair trial” and then refused to allow the calling of witnesses, which is something that normally happens during fair trials.

What I find most galling, though, is that some Republicans, most notably Mitch McConnell, voted Not Guilty and then said Trump was guilty.

McConnell claimed that this was a constitutional issue: He says that it's unconstitutional to impeach a president who's left office, and the impeachment is an attempt by Democrats “to grab power the Constitution doesn't give us.” First of all, this is plainly wrong: As I mentioned last time, there have already been two cases of Congress impeaching and trying someone who was out of office, and the Senate had already spent the entire first day arguing the constitutional issue and voted to move forward with the trial. Second, as I'm probably the eight billionth person to point out, McConnell is directly responsible for creating this situation by refusing to hold the trial before Trump left office.

McConnel has a reputation as an expert at political maneuvering, and also as an unabashed hypocrite (e.g. saying February 13th of an election year is too close to the election to confirm Obama's judicial appointment but September 26th is plenty early enough to confirm Trump's despite being the closest to an election in American history). Given that, you'll of course forgive my skepticism that this was anything but intentional on McConnell's part.

Finally, I want to reiterate what I said in the last post: This trial is about sending a message. The message it needed to send is that what happened on January 6th can never happen again and will not be tolerated from anyone. The message it actually did send is that partisanship will always triumph, even over the most bipartisan impeachment effort in American history, and votes don't matter if you don't like the result. Whether it's a national election or a vote in the Senate, do whatever you want to subvert it or just ignore it. Members of your party may verbally condemn your behavior, if they have to, but they will pull every string they can to make sure you get away with it.