HORIST: What can we expect if the Senate conducts an impeachment trial Trump?
It seems more and more likely – almost certain — that the House Democrats are going to impeach President Trump.
We do not have to be in any of those shadowy closed-door meetings to know what the Articles of Impeachment will look like. They are already well developed in the heads of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the six committee chairmen she appointed as the enforcers – the most prominent of which is ethically-challenged Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
The main accusations will center on abuse of power, obstruction of justice, of course, and violation of the Emoluments Clause. In support of those claims, we will hear more about (1) the phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, (2) the investigation of the Bidens, (3) the activities of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, (4) the White House refusal to respond to subpoenas and to turn over documents and (5) anything else that can be piled on to strengthen the Democrats largely specious case for impeachment.
It really does not matter what it says in the Articles of Impeachment because a President can be impeached for nothing more than the desire of a majority party in the House of Representatives to impeach a President. For sure, the Constitution says impeachment should be based on “Treason, Bribery or Other High Crimes and Misdemeanors” – but that does not matter in this highly politicized faux impeachment process.
The case against Trump is so weak that it could be well argued that it is the Democrats in Congress who are abusing their power. When there is a question of abuse of power, the judgment belongs to the Supreme Court. But the Democrats are circumventing that process by refusing to take the issues to the Court. Instead, they are summarily declaring that the President’s assertion of Executive Privilege is null and void.
Impeachment was crafted as a political process – not a legal process. That means that there are no judicial rules – such as hearsay testimony, the right of counsel, the right to confront accusers, the right of cross examination, the right to call witnesses, the right to see all exculpatory evidence and all the other protections under our rule-of -law.
Though impeachment is political, this particular effort is more stridently political than any previous impeachment hearings in American history. Under the rules established by the Democrats, Republican members cannot subpoena witnesses, cannot take notes or have access without permission to documents in the possession of the Democrats. Republicans will have no input into the drafting of the Articles of Impeachment.
The first Bills of Impeachment were entered by Democrats in the earliest days of the Trump presidency – long before the Mueller Report, the Michael Cohen testimony and the phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When Democrats took control of the House, bills of impeachment were again entered.
President Trump is likely to be impeached in one of the most unfair and ruthlessly partisan undertakings in American history — with the possible exception of President Franklin Roosevelt’s corrupt New Deal programs.
While Democrats can run the table in the impeachment process – and with the help of their media supports create a powerful – albeit dishonest – narrative against Trump. The Senate, however, is controlled by the Republicans – and led by one of the most skilled political operatives in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has already alerted his members to prepare for a Senate trial.
By the best estimates, the actual impeachment vote will happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means a trial in the first quarter of 2020. It will be the highest profile event during much of the presidential campaign season – distracting from the Democrat presidential campaigns as they weave their way through the gauntlet of primary election.
The first order of business for McConnell upon receiving the Articles of Impeachment is to put the House Democrats on trial as part of the process. McConnell might say:
“In accepting these Articles of Impeachment, I am obliged to note that never in the history of this great nation has the House of Representatives ever presented the Senate with a more maliciously partisan piece of legislation. The three examples of impeachment that we have experienced as a nation, were conducted in a fairer and more bipartisan nature. In this document, we see the work of obsessed Democrats working through a series of secret hearings devoid of every protection and right traditionally provided to an accused person.
As is our obligation in the Senate, we will take up this matter in accordance to the Constitution of the United States, respectful of the rights of the accused and with appreciation for the disgraceful manner by which these Articles of Impeachment have been developed.”
Criticism of the House methods and procedures should then be a constant thread of comment as the trial proceeds. The credibility of the Articles needs to be addressed as much as the specific points they raise.
With Republicans in control, the Senate can then subpoena knowledgeable witnesses blocked from testimony by the House Democrats. Rather than relying on leaked interpretations of testimony, the Senate can cross-examine witnesses who appeared in those secret closed-door sessions. President Trump’s lawyers will have access to all alleged evidence – something they were denied in the House hearings.
While Democrats seem to have decided to NOT call the whistleblowers to testify – making the ludicrous claim that they are protecting their identity for safety reasons. More like, they know that the whistleblowers may have serious credibility problems and their testimony could play better for team Trump. However, I would bet that the whistleblowers will be subpoenaed by the Senate and be required to testify in open hearing.
Republicans will have a communications advantage because the trial will result in more people watching the actual hearings – as opposed to having them interpreted by partisan Democrats and a biased media. They also have the advantage of the last word.
In a typical trial, the one-sided argument of the prosecution is often very convincing. But when the defense presents its facts and explanation, perceptions can change drastically. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, one can predict that the indictment presented by the Democrats will appear less convincing when the defense gets its opportunity. That could result in a lessening of public fervor for removing Trump from office.
It is likely that a good enough case will be made that the Senate will not vote to remove the President. If that is the outcome, Trump will declare vindication and be stronger than ever. Conversely, Democrats – who came out looking very bad after their two-year accusations of Russian collusion by the Trump campaign came crashing down – may suffer a similar fate when the dust has settled in the Senate on their almost four-year effort to impeach and oust Trump.
Yes, the Democrats are winning the war of words in the court-of-public-opinion at the moment, but it may be a whole different thing when impeachment hits the Senate.
So, there ‘tis.