Sat Feb 1st, 2020 at 04:59:25 AM EST
The House impeaches, the Senate tries the case, per the US Constitution. If only it were that simple. At the moment all hangs in uncertainty. Tonight it appears certain that at least 51 Republican senators will vote not hear additional witnesses and to acquit Donald J. Trump of the charges in the House Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. This is despite the fact that retiring Senator Lamar Alexander conceded that the House Impeachment Managers had proven their case.
WASHINGTON -- As he weighed the evidence against President Trump, Senator Lamar Alexander reached an unavoidable conclusion: Mr. Trump had done what he was accused of, pressuring a foreign power to investigate his political rival. But however inappropriate his conduct, another conviction overrode the first: Americans would not tolerate the Senate stepping in to substitute its own judgment for that of the voters fewer than 10 months before the next election.
"The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time," Mr. Alexander said Friday during an interview in his Capitol office. "For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn't be on it, the country probably wouldn't accept that. It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there."
With that logic, Mr. Alexander delivered a victory to Mr. Trump -- and to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, with whom Mr. Alexander has been friends for more than a half-century. In announcing he would vote to block witnesses at Mr. Trump's impeachment trial, he set Mr. Trump on a quick course to his inevitable acquittal.
But this national crisis will not be resolved with the acquittal of Trump. In effect, for reasons listed below, this trial was a mistrial.
Great summary of the state of play - Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
There is, of course, no passage in the Constitution that defines what grounds there are for a mistrial in a Senate trial of a House Impeachment, but the current Senate trial of Trump will be, in effect, a mistrial on three immediately obvious grounds:
First, the Senate refused to pass resolutions to summon known first hand witnesses of material fact damaging to the President such as John Bolton, Nick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and some of their aides and to summon relevant documents to support the case.
Second, by their own words several Senators, including Senate Majority Leader John McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander, clearly violated their oaths to render impartial justice. McConnell, Graham and others announced their decisions long before the Articles of Impeachment even reached the Senate.
Third, Pat Cipollone, White House Counsel and lead defense attorney for Trump during the proceedings,(the combination of roles itself being a violation of the duties the White House Counsel swore to uphold), has been outed by John Bolton as having been present at meetings when the Ukraine investigation via Guiliani was coordinated by Trump. This makes Cipollone a fact witness in the trial in which he is serving as the lead defense counsel. He will almost certainly face sanctions from the Bars of the States in which he is licensed to practice. This alone would cause a mistrial in state and federal courts.
Thus critics of the actions of the Republican majority have plenty of ammunition to use in their fight to turn public opinion against these actions and to cement in place the view that the trial was illegitimate. And the duty of the House of Representatives to perform oversight of the Administration will not end with Trump's acquittal. Now that the Senate has refused to call Bolton and others as witnesses the House can do so in further hearings. Bolton's book goes on sale in March and the galleys could become available sooner - unless the White House can block it on national security grounds. The abuse of classification by the White House has already been alleged. And, in any case Bolton can always testify under oath to his claims and leaks can continue. Lev Parnas will likely also get his star turn on the witness stand of the House Intelligence Committee.
Donald Trump thinks that a Senate acquittal will end the affair. But it will only really be decided in November. The survival of even a semblance of democracy in the USA will be on the ballot.
Despite his admiration for authoritarian leaders such as Putin, Kim, Erdogan, Bolsonaro etc., his incitement of racial and ethnic hatred and his belief that he has no constraints on his power a President Trump is no Hitler. He is far from Hitler's competence, at least compared to the Hitler of 1933. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Marx wrote: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Donald Trump is too damaged and his ego is too vulnerable for him to be able to do what Hitler did - thankfully. Trump's US Presidency is the farce of Hitler's Nazi regime. But he has shown just how vulnerable the USA is to fascist demagogues.