Impeachment Day Two Recap

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

The impeachment trial is hard for me to sit through because the evidence is so overwhelming and the corruption of Republicans so complete, that it’s just agonizing.

Suffice it to say, Democrats unleashed the flood.

One by one, the seven House impeachment prosecutors seeking President Donald Trump’s removal from office reconstructed a case against the president so dense — at times, head-scratchingly complex — that it was hard for senators new to the material to keep up.

hey decided to hammer senators with everything they had: an all-day torrent of intricate information, peppered with screenshots of deposition transcripts, emails, text messages and about 50 video clips — nearly three times more than House Republicans used during the entirety of their arguments in the 1999 Clinton trial.

It was a presentation that seemed designed to demonstrate what Democrats have long professed: that the facts of the Ukraine scandal threatening Trump’s presidency are so overwhelming as to be almost infallible. As Republicans harangued Democrats for failing to “do their homework,” the House managers were intent to emphasize just how much “homework” they did.

“We have some very long days yet to come,” Schiff warned the Senate as he kicked off the House’s arguments on Wednesday. He added, “Over the coming days, we will present to you and to the American people the extensive evidence collected in the House’s inquiry into the president’s abuse of power, overwhelming evidence … despite his unprecedented obstruction into that misconduct.”

What followed was a painstaking chronology of Democrats’ case that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and obstructed Congress’ investigation of the alleged scheme.

The Democrats included lengthy reconstructions of the April ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump’s associates viewed as an obstacle in their quest to launch the investigations. They picked apart Trump’s decision in May to cancel Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Ukraine, which Ukraine had sought as an important gesture of support.

The House lawmakers also dissected a two-week stretch in July during which administration officials agonized over Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine amid his call for investigations. And they recounted at length the turmoil this hold on aid provoked in the diplomatic corps in August and September.

To one Senate Republican, the firehose of evidence was an education in itself, for him and his colleagues.

“Nine out of 10 senators will tell you they haven’t read a full transcript of the proceedings in the House,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) quipped. “And the 10th senator who says he has is lying.”

Some Republicans even sounded envious of the Democrats’ use of multimedia during the trial and wished Trump’s defense team would follow suit. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s top defenders, said Democrats have been presenting their case to the public like it’s “cable news” — but lamented that the defense team’s case presented more like “an 8th grade book report.”

“Actually, no, I take that back,” he added, because an 8th grader would actually know how to use PowerPoint and iPads.

As Rep. Adam Schiff continued building his case against President Trump late into Wednesday evening, Trump fired off one angry Twitter missive after another, until he finally crossed the 140 mark, perhaps his most prolific day of tweeting and retweeting ever.

All those tweets, many of which amplified the preposterous claim that Trump did nothing whatsoever wrong, sent GOP senators and their staffers an unmistakable message: Trump is watching the proceedings very carefully. If you vote to allow new witnesses and evidence, there will be absolute hell to pay.

At one point, Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the team of House impeachment managers, asked GOP senators a question.

“The truth is going to come out,” Schiff said. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?”

The answer seems to be “no”. Republicans have apparently concluded that a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.

Yes, future revelations will stand as evidence of what GOP senators covered up. But that’s still politically less risky, from their perspective, than taking the chance that new evidence could be still more damning than what’s already known, and that they’d have to then acquit at that point.

New reporting from CNN’s Manu Raju underscores the point. As Raju reports, no GOP senator wants to be the 51st and decisive vote for new witnesses and evidence. So the only way we’ll get new evidence is if a larger bloc of GOP senators breaks toward this outcome, resulting in, say, 54 or 55 votes for it.

The House’s case might only get denser from here. When the trial resumes today, the House managers are expected to use their second of three days to outline the constitutional framework for impeachment and why they believe Trump’s alleged misconduct meets the threshold for removal from office.

“If impeachment and removal cannot hold him accountable,” Schiff said Wednesday afternoon, “then he truly is above the law.”

For me, the real interesting part begins with the defense taking the floor. Because they will have to (but probably won’t) provide answers to questions that Republicans in the Senate are sure to get from their constituents:

  • Senator, Republicans keep saying Trump couldn’t be impeached unless charged with a crime, but didn’t Republicans’ own expert lawyer, Jonathan Turley, say that was wrong? (“While I believe that articles of impeachment are ideally based on well-defined criminal conduct, I do not believe that the criminal code is the effective limit or scope of possible impeachable offenses.”)
  • Senator, can you really ask a foreign country to come up with dirt on a domestic rival? What if your opponent tried that in your election?
  • Why wouldn’t you allow witnesses and documents? How can that even be called a trial?
  • Senator, do you believe President Trump (who has kept his business going, steered business to his properties, allowed his children’s conflicts of interests to persist, indicated interest in repealing anti-bribery laws, hobnobbed with corrupt oligarchs) was just trying to root out corruption in Ukraine? Why did he only mention Burisma and the Bidens in his call with Ukraine’s president?
  • Holding back aid to Ukraine broke the law, according to an independent government agency. Why did you think this was no big deal?
  • Did the president do something wrong in holding up aid to Ukraine until he got political help from a foreign government? Should we just “get over it”?
  • Why was the “ask” from Ukraine an announcement of an investigation and not a real investigation? If the president thought something was wrong, why did he not go straight to the FBI?

Another thing Republicans will have to answer for? The flouting of Senate rules. Nodding off or not showing up. When one of the freshman House prosecutors stood to speak, many of the senator-jurors bolted for the cloak rooms, where their phones are stored.

Oh, Fox News coverage? Funny you should ask.