Impeachment Trial, Day 2: A Few Observations

6 mins read
Photo by Martin Falbisoner. US Capitol at dusk as seen from the eastern side.

It was reported Wednesday morning that McConnell was trying to rally his fellow Republican senators to exclude witnesses and documents:

If so, it seems to me that McConnell is making a political calculation, essentially asking which would be more devastating for the Republicans:

  • more facts coming out through witness testimony, or
  • blocking the witnesses.

McConnell knows the majority of voters want the testimony. If he still wants to block the testimony, it can only mean he knows the testimony will be devastating.

People understand a coverup. My teenager likes to rolls his eyes when I speak (followed by a long groan). Yesterday I said, “Only guilty people hide evidence.” He perked up and said, “That’s true!”

People get it.

Nah, this is different. Evidence will keep coming out. In the 2020 election, the Republican Party will be accused of a coverup. McConnell’s own approval ratings in Kentucky are tanking. He is ranked as the least popular Senator, with 34% approval ratingSusan Collins has a 35% approval and 56 % disapproval.

Senators like Susan Collins can see they are in trouble. Meanwhile 71% of Republicans want to see the evidence. McConnell and Collins are not stupid. They must know that concealing the evidence—going agains the wishes of 71% of their party—is worse than allowing the full truth to emerge.

Concealing Evidence

The evidence presented Wednesday (among other things) made clear that Trump and pals applied an enormous amount of pressure on Zelensky as they pushed for him to announce an investigation into the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

During the trial, Trump tweeted this:

Schiff brilliantly explained that, if Trump wants to challenge the facts being presented, he must stop hiding the documents.

In other words, Trump can’t challenge the facts and conceal evidence. This isn’t allowed in any court of law. If there are records or documents relevant to the case, the court is entitled to access.

“Everyone was in the loop”

House Manager Val Demings reminded the Senators that (according to Sondland’s testimony), “Everyone was in the loop.”

It seems to me that is precisely why the GOP needs to bury the evidence. If everyone was in the loop of a corrupt enterprise, and the evidence comes out, it will blow up the whole party. You can’t just pluck out the corrupt strand. If you tug on one thread, it will all unravel.

Schiff, while emphasizing how much of the evidence is being concealed by the president, asked the Senators, “Don’t you want to know how deep the corruption goes?”

It’s very possible that this is precisely what the Republican senators don’t want to know is how deep the corruption goes.

Cynicism

House Manager Hakeem Jeffries spoke about how Trump is embraced the Russian lie that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

Trump’s defense team, in their trial brief submitted Monday, said this:

In other words, Trump’s rebuttal is that both Ukraine and Russia could have interfered.

The problem with this is a subtle one. Professor Timothy Snyder (Yale history professor), explains how Russian propaganda works: The Russian government doesn’t deny that it is corrupt. They say all governments are corrupt. (“Sure we’re corrupt; we look out for our own interests, but governments in democracies are just as bad.”)

If everyone is corrupt—if everyone is guilty— nobody is any worse than anyone else, so there’s no point complaining or hoping for anything better.

This is the heart of whataboutism, and why, when Republicans are confronted with their own corruption or misdeeds, they say “What about Obama?” or “what about Hillary?”

If all leaders are corrupt, you may as well embrace your own instead of the enemy. (This leads to tribalism, or “us v. them” politics.)

The argument goes like this: “Trump is no choir boy, but the Democrats are no better.” Or: “He’s a lying thief, but he’s our lying thief. We prefer our lying thief to the enemy lying thief.”

That’s how the Trump rebuttal that “Ukraine did it too” feeds right into Russian propaganda.

Yup, it’s the height of cynicism. “Obama did it, too,” is a morally bankrupt argument. “He did something bad, so I can, too,” is only uttered by those without principles.

Combine “Obama did it, too,” with the fact that Obama and Hillary didn’t actually do any of what they are accused of, and you see the method:

  • Accuse innocent people of what you are doing.
  • Persuade voters that all politicians are corrupt.
  • Get away with corruption because people think your opponents are just as bad.

It’s also easy to see how cynicism can kill democracy. The antidote is to hold on to your principles.

Originally posted on Musing about Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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