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.

This Really Is Breaking News

There’s talk about the impeachment trial ending this weekend, but that might not be possible. New accounts of what happened are appearing daily. In terms of the impeachment, this story is, to put it mildly, explosive. Maybe some Republicans in Congress want to give members of their party the courage to convict and disqualify the creep. That could result in the House managers calling witnesses. From CNN:

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.

McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump’s supporters and begged Trump to call them off.

Trump’s comment set off what Republican lawmakers familiar with the call described as a shouting match between the two men. A furious McCarthy told the President the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, “Who the f–k do you think you are talking to?” according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call.

The newly revealed details of the call, described to CNN by multiple Republicans briefed on it, provide critical insight into the President’s state of mind as rioters were overrunning the Capitol. The existence of the call and some of its details have been previously reported and discussed publicly by McCarthy.

The Republican members of Congress said the exchange showed Trump had no intention of calling off the rioters even as lawmakers were pleading with him to intervene. Several said it amounted to a dereliction of his presidential duty.

“He is not a blameless observer, he was rooting for them,” a Republican member of Congress said. “On January 13, Kevin McCarthy said on the floor of the House that the President bears responsibility and he does.”

Speaking to the President from inside the besieged Capitol, McCarthy pressed Trump to call off his supporters and engaged in a heated disagreement about who comprised the crowd. Trump’s comment about the would-be insurrectionists caring more about the election results than McCarthy did was first mentioned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington state, in a town hall earlier this week, and was confirmed to CNN by Herrera Beutler and other Republicans briefed on the conversation.

“You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at,” Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted last month to impeach Trump, told CNN. “That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn’t care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry.”

“We should never stand for that, for any reason, under any party flag,” she added, voicing her extreme frustration: “I’m trying really hard not to say the F-word.”

“I think it speaks to the former President’s mindset,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, an Ohio Republican who also voted to impeach Trump last month. “He was not sorry to see his unyieldingly loyal vice president or the Congress under attack by the mob he inspired. In fact, it seems he was happy about it or at the least enjoyed the scenes that were horrifying to most Americans across the country.”

As senators prepare to determine Trump’s fate, multiple Republicans thought the details of the call were important to the proceedings because they believe it paints a damning portrait of Trump’s lack of action during the attack. At least one of the sources who spoke to CNN took detailed notes of McCarthy’s recounting of the call.

Trump and McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment.

It took Trump several hours after the attack began to eventually encourage his supporters to “go home in peace” — a tweet that came at the urging of his top aides.

At Trump’s impeachment trial Friday, his lawyers argued that Trump did in fact try to calm the rioters with a series of tweets while the attack unfolded. But his lawyers cherry-picked his tweets, focusing on his request for supporters to “remain peaceful” without mentioning that he also attacked then-Vice President Mike Pence and waited hours to explicitly urge rioters to leave the Capitol.

It’s unclear to what extent these new details were known by the House Democratic impeachment managers or whether the team considered calling McCarthy as a witness. The managers have preserved the option to call witnesses in the ongoing impeachment trial, although that option remains unlikely as the trial winds down.

The House Republican leader had been forthcoming with his conference about details of his conversations with Trump on and after January 6.

Trump himself has not taken any responsibility in public. [Actually, he’s said his behavior was “totally appropriate”.]

They Should Try Voting with the Democrats

The first two things I read this morning were fun to read and made sense — with one big caveat. Both were columns by Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post:

PART 1: “None of These [Repugnant] Excuses Work”

After a day of horrifying, searing evidence from the House managers, [Repugnant] senators are increasingly desperate to figure out how to avoid rubber-stamping the ex-president’s incitement to riot, which injured scores, resulted in five deaths, defiled the Capitol and traumatized staff and lawmakers. (Hint: Vote guilty.) Their excuses are flimsy, even laughable.

“Not constitutional.” Sorry, the Senate voted otherwise on Tuesday after a devastating presentation of law, precedent and common sense showed that they most certainly can impeach an official while in office and convict afterward. Reportedly even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) admits the Senate could exercise jurisdiction. (He’d rather not, however.) [Note: He doesn’t want to run against you know who in 2024 and hopes other Repugnants will vote to convict and disqualify] . . . 

“First Amendment.” Nope. A president has every right to, say, march in a neo-Nazi parade and invite a foreign country to invade. But such conduct is still impeachable. It is not a question of his right to say what he wants, but whether he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (in this case, incitement to sedition). Moreover, as dozens of constitutional scholars have explained, incitement to riot is not protected speech.

“No evidence he incited the mob.” That one went out the window on Wednesday, when House managers masterfully took the Senate through weeks of the ex-president’s Big Lie, his “stop the steal” campaign and his call to “fight.” He sent supporters a “save the date” for protests in the capital, whipped them into a frenzy for weeks and timed his harangue just as the Congress was beginning to count the electoral college votes. They even played a video of a rioter reading aloud the disgraced president’s tweet vilifying Vice President Mike Pence as the crowd amassed outside the Capitol. The managers presented a mound of evidence showing the insurrectionists believed they were following the then-president’s orders.

“He made that video.” The one where he said “We love you” to the mob that terrorized the Capitol, came within feet of lawmakers, bludgeoned and killed police, and sought out the speaker and vice president to kill them? Well, that only came after hours of lawmakers, some in the Senate, pleading with him to call off the mob. And he never called in the National Guard to restore order.

“What a precedent!” Yes. If another president spends months trying to undermine an election, incites a riot and, as Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) put it, “left everyone in the Capitol for dead,” he too should be impeached.

“Let him be criminally prosecuted.” This was actually suggested by one of his own attorneys. (You get what you pay for.) The senators took an oath of office. They have an obligation to decide if he should be barred from serving future office. He is being investigated by a Georgia prosecutor for his attempt to strong-arm Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger, but that does not absolve them of the obligation to do their job. (How pathetic is it, by the way, to argue, “Other people can uphold their oaths, so we don’t have to”?) . . .

The unpleasant reality is that many [Repugnant] senators stoked the MAGA mob for weeks with the Big Lie. Some made spurious attempts to upend the election. It is therefore uncomfortable for them to convict the ex-president because his followers actually listened to him and lay siege to the Capitol. This discomfort compounds their constant aversion to standing up to the disgraced ex-president.

Senate [Repugnants] are desperate to avoid the impression they are spineless careerists lacking a modicum of the courage the police showed in saving their necks on Jan. 6. Instead of resorting to obviously silly arguments, they might actually uphold their oaths and vote to convict. Nah, anything but that.

PART 2: “Stop Trying to Save the [Grotesque Old Party]. It’s Hopeless”

The first three days of the impeachment trial have reminded us just how low the [Repugnant] Party has fallen. What should be open and shut — an airtight case of inciting an insurrection — has become yet another exercise in disingenuous denial. Most [Repugnant] senators have plainly decided to acquit the ex-president no matter what. No matter how dangerous and frivolous it would be to create a “January exception” for impeachable conduct, and despite overwhelming the evidence that he stoked the MAGA mob, they will let him walk.

This is a party that is immune to facts and bereft of decency. It has proved that it cannot function within the ground rules of our system — that candidates concede when they lose, that they respect a free press, that they stick to facts and embrace majority rule. Such a party cannot exist in our democracy.

The [Repugnants] who rally around a pathological demagogue are not a “fringe” in the party. The 10 House and six Senate [Repugnants] who have expressed the view that impeachment is not only constitutional but essential are the fringe. That is a mere 12 percent of Senate [Repugnants] and less than 5 percent of House [Repugnants]. Those people are the outliers.

We are not talking about a trivial difference over policy — or even a major one. It is a fundamental division over whether the party should become a right-wing populist cult willing to subvert democracy to keep power. That is too much for some to swallow, thank goodness. The two sides cannot coexist.

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein writes:

The truth is that a lot of [Repugnants] seem willing to let the party become more and more Trumpy. That means being comfortable playing footsie with white supremacist and other violent groups; eager to make voting more difficult and even to overturn election results when necessary; and generally less and less supportive of the rule of law and democracy. A party like that, with little aspiration to appeal to anyone beyond its strongest supporters, might still be competitive electorally thanks to the way two-party politics tends to work. And if it wins, it could put most of its efforts into tilting the rules more in its favor.

Pro-democratic (little-d) people cannot live with a party so enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another. That [Repugnant] Party is antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.

Could the 5 to 12 percent “take back their party”? It would be lovely. But I see no indication that is possible. Nor does the base seem ready to accept the 2020 election was legitimate. It has no apparent interest in moving on from the former president or living outside the right-wing media bubble. The minority of [Repugnants] who think otherwise might survive the next round of primaries, but they show no ability to move the 88 to 95 percent of the party out.

Bernstein asks what would happen if “a handful of [Repugnant] members of Congress — say, those who voted to impeach Trump and those who appear ready to vote to convict him — [broke] away from the party.” Well, even if they could, they would likely face a massive hurdle in getting on the ballot and winning as third-party or independent candidates. (There have been a handful of exceptions, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who won elections as an independent and a write-in candidate.)

Now, that would be a fine outcome for many Americans if it meant patriotic, honorable Democrats won more races. But if you think the country needs two parties that are both patriotic and committed to truth and democracy, you have not gotten where you need to go. The current, anti-democratic and intellectually dishonest [Repugnant] Party is an insurmountable barrier to the development of a viable alternative to the existing Democratic Party.

So by all means, decent politicians and patriotic voters should leave the [Grotesque Old Party]. Then they can work with the one remaining party [note: the one that prefers democracy] to demolish the cultish, right-wing populist party that is closer to fascistic European parties than to American political parties that traditionally have competed for votes. When the existing [Repugnant] Party has been reduced to political rubble, those who do not have a home in the Democratic Party can clear away the rubble, find a governing philosophy and develop a constituency. None of that happens so long as the party willing to harbor and defend a demagogue who threatens the republic stands in the way.


The big problem for any current Repugnants who want to work with the Democrats is that actually putting “Democrat” next to their names would cause most of them — maybe all of them — to lose their next elections. The folks back home consider Democrats to be their enemies, no matter what Democrats do. By all means, these relatively sensible Repugnants should vote much more often with the Democrats. Just ten of them in the Senate would give the Democratic Party a filibuster-proof majority. But doing so will labor them as traitors and almost certainly mean they’ll have to retire or find honest work in the private sector two, four or six years from now.

The Only Thing He Didn’t Say

It’s not a criminal trial and he isn’t charged with a crime. The legal requirement to prove somebody incited a riot isn’t relevant (although this case, beyond a reasonable doubt, meets that requirement). This is the formal evaluation of a leader who took an oath to faithfully execute his office. The senators are supposed to determine whether he lived up to that oath and should ever hold a similar office again.

Nor is he “some guy” who showed up at a demonstration and made a speech. Rep. Jamie Raskin explained today why the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech doesn’t apply to a government official, even a public school teacher, who says inflammatory things and as a result loses their job. It certainly doesn’t apply to a president of the United States who continuously lies about the result of an election and tells an angry crowd to go to the Capitol in a last ditch effort to stop the legitimate transfer of power.

The only thing going for the defense — aside from the fact that the jurors aren’t impartial and don’t get to cast secret ballots — is that the creep didn’t explicitly say something like “Now I want you to go to the Capitol and do whatever you can to get inside the building and stop the certification”, followed by “It’s crucial to the future of our country that you show no mercy”.

Mob bosses rarely give such explicit orders. Prosecutors don’t need a boss to have issued explicit instructions to rub somebody out if the boss said enough to get the job done. Bosses say things like “take care of it” or “you know what to do” or “he brought this on himself”. In this case, a leader told his followers to “stop the steal”, “fight like hell” and “be strong or you won’t have a country anymore”. This was at the very moment, a few blocks away, that Congress was doing something he’d fought against every way possible for months. 

So we can all take a break tomorrow when the creep’s lawyers spin their web of distraction and deceit. If you watch much of it, good luck and congratulations on your fortitude.

Two Questions for Those 44 Republican Senators

I’d love to ask 44 distinguished minority members of the U.S. Senate these questions:

After hearing the evidence that shows how much effort the former president put into changing the result of the election by repeatedly lying about winning; urging his followers to “fight like hell” to protect their country by keeping him in office; putting pressure on election officials, members of his administration and Congress; calling for his supporters to come to Washington at the same time Congress was meeting to certify the election; telling the crowd — some of whom had histories of violence and had discussed plans to storm the Capitol — to march to that very building, saying he would accompany them, it being his last chance to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election, do you think the president hoped or expected that he would keep his job because the angry crowd would arrive at the Capitol and “stop the steal” by peacefully protesting the transfer of power, or that they would do something more dramatic?

After hearing the evidence above, and knowing that the president watched the riot on television for hours while failing to intervene and failing to summon help, ignoring numerous pleas to do so, while wondering why other people at the White House weren’t as excited as he was; and that he eventually told the violent mob that they were “patriots” and “special people” whom he loved, after finally telling them to go home peacefully, but never once condemning the violence, do you think he should ever be allowed to become president again?

I don’t know how the 44 Republican senators who voted this week to stop the trial, based on an absurd reading of the Constitution, would answer these questions. I assume they’ll use that reading of the Constitution to say their hands are tied. They’ll claim the Constitution just won’t allow them to convict him and disqualify him from ever holding office again. That’s even though, after being exposed to all the evidence, they could accept the verdict of the Senate that the trial is perfectly appropriate or announce that they have reconsidered their earlier vote. They could do either of those things, because, yes, it’s so often easier to think the best of people rather than the worst.