This Morning’s Impeachment Developments

Two things happened.

The first was that the odious Senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Repugnant Minority Leader, sent an email to his colleagues. He made two assertions, neither of which make sense.

His email said “while a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction”. McConnell could have said impeachment’s “only” purpose is removal, but he didn’t, because that’s not true. According to the language of the Constitution, if presidents are impeached and convicted, they can’t be punished by anything except removal from office or disqualification from future office (they can’t be thrown in jail). Removal isn’t required. That’s why historical precedent, logic and 99% of constitutional scholars say a former president can be disqualified from future office.

So, instead, McConnell says the “primary” purpose of impeachment is removal. That implies that its secondary purpose is disqualification. Likewise, the primary purpose of TV is entertainment. A secondary purpose is education. That doesn’t mean you can only watch entertaining TV. It’s perfectly fine to watch educational television that isn’t entertaining, because being educated is one reason people have for watching TV, just like disqualification is one reason people have to convict somebody who’s been impeached. 

In short, McConnell is full of crap (as usual) when he says the Senate lacks jurisdiction. He’s simply giving himself and fellow Repugnants an excuse to ignore the evidence and not hold their party’s leader accountable.

The other thing that happened is that the House managers announced that they want to call at least one witness, primarily Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington. She reiterated last night that the former president ignored a plea to intervene during the riot, first claiming it was leftists who were causing the violence and then suggesting that the rioters were merely demonstrating their anger regarding the election. Rep. Beutler took notes when she was told what the president said, so the House managers want those notes too.

The House managers had never formally indicated they wouldn’t call witnesses, although that was most people’s expectation. Since this was the moment in the proceedings when the question of witnesses could be raised, the House managers used their opportunity. They want to show the former president’s lack of interest in stopping the assault. As someone said: if you’re an arsonist, you want to watch your fire burn, not put it out.

In response, the ex-president’s lawyer then huffed and puffed and said he now wants to call 100 witnesses!

The problem is that lawyers don’t get to subpoena whoever they want. Judges can overrule subpoenas if they’re irrelevant (if I sued my bank for some reason, I couldn’t subpoena Angelina Jolie, even though she seems like an interesting person). Having voted to allow witnesses, the Senate now has to vote on which witnesses to call and how to do it. They’re now having lunch and talking among themselves on how to proceed. 

So the trial will continue for a while, maybe weeks, as more evidence is gathered. Fortunately, the Democrats control the Senate agenda and they have plenty of other things to do, like approving President Biden’s nominees and voting on legislation to address a public health crisis made worse by the worst president in American history, the creep McConnell wants to protect.

Update — from The Guardian:

After congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s statement was added to the official record, both the House impeachment managers and Donald Trump’s defense lawyers declined to make any requests for more evidence.

That means the impeachment trial will have no witnesses, after a few hours of intense drama over who would be called to testify.

The trial has moved on to closing arguments from the managers and Trump’s lawyers, which will last up to four hours. The Senate will then move on to a final vote, meaning Trump will likely be acquitted later today.