“Trials have witnesses. That’s what trials are all about … We need to know the facts from those who are in a position to know and from documents that accurately reflect them. So to engage in a trial without the facts coming out is to engage in a coverup.” This predicate to the proposition that Senate Republicans will abrogate their duty to conduct a Constitutionally fair trial of Donald Trump comes compliments of Senator Chuck Schumer.
On Sunday Schumer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his recommendations for witnesses to be called at Trump’s impeachment trial. Those witnesses include White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, senior adviser to the acting White House Chief of Staff Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey. At this writing McConnell’s answer has not been forthcoming. Or perhaps it has. Perhaps McConnell’s answer is contained in his contemptuous nonanswer.
McConnell and other Senators are in a unique position. Their choices in the coming weeks will signal to what extent they are willing to divide the country in the name of protecting the failed presidency of Donald Trump. Even so, McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham have already voiced their decision to vote for acquittal, in violation of the Constitutionally provisioned oath they must take to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.”
They will square their violation of this oath with the spurious claim that the Democrats have brought this action against Trump illegally, insisting that the original inquiry was flawed for their usual table-pounding reasons, namely that it was begun “in secret” and “in a basement” with Adam Schiff and a cabal of cohorts conspiring with the whistleblower in a partisan effort to bring Trump down. Now, I don’t know about them, but if I believed all of that the one thing I would want — would in fact insist on — would be that the trial be out in the open with all relevant witnesses called and all pertinent documents entered into evidence. The Republicans are hoping that their fans won’t reach this same conclusion, and so far they are right to think so. It is not in the nature of the low-information Trump supporter to think things through. It is in their nature to react and react violently.
It is a curious thing the Republicans are doing. It is in fact a mistake. They are in a position to appear bigger than the Democrats by cooperating fully. They could then coach their witnesses on what to say and, in the simple minds of their slack-jawed constituents, they could score a resounding victory by promoting their dishonest narrative. They wouldn’t even have to get their witnesses to perjure themselves. Innuendo goes a long way in the simpleton mind of the true Trump true believer, and they could spin their various conspiracy narratives forever after the trial, a trial that will almost certainly end in acquittal for Trump anyway.
But Senate Republicans have instead decided to take a very dangerous route, a route that could split the country in half, not unlike to the extent it was split in 1860. It will anger the liberal third of the country, not satisfy the ones in the middle and stir to a frenzy the addle-brained right. More is going on here than Schumer’s appraisal that McConnell and friends merely “have something to hide.” I think they have something to provoke, and in this deadly game of brinkmanship politics they may be provoking something far more dangerous than they are bargaining for.