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Trump's impeachment trial is an important win for America
The Democrats' case upholds democracy and exposes the corruption and pure evil of the GOP
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The first day of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was a powerful rebuke of all those who have defended Trump’s reckless, violence-inciting actions. And it defined the Democratic Party as one that is seeking justice amid the law-breaking, violence and chaos of the opposition party, where truth no longer matters. That’s an important message to drive home right now.
The House managers’ stunning video exhibit of the events of January 6th, opening the trial, and the riveting arguments by Congressman Jamie Raskin — which were grounded in the Constitution yet were deeply personal and emotional — blew out of the water any defense of Trump that would follow. That was largely because Raskin was both a prosecutor and a witness, meticulously retelling the harrowing events of the day as a congressman but also as a father who’d just buried his young son and who had his grieving daughter by his side throughout the horror.
But it was also true because Trump’s lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, were by all accounts awful, not simply because they’re not-so-good lawyers but because they have an abominable client to defend. The defense was bombastic, rambling, incoherent and ineffective at arguing the case at hand on day 1: whether impeaching a president after he left office is constitutional or not.
Castor even revealed that the House managers’ arguments jarred him, admitting during his own argument that his “plans changed” because the managers’ job was so “well-done.” When the defense is praising the prosecution it’s a bad sign for the defendant. Republican senators, Trump loyalists among them, were put on edge by the poor showing, with even Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham trashing Trump’s lawyers:
GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Castor “just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument.
Trump was apparently furious at his attorneys, and, according to CNN, was “screaming at the television.” In the end the Senate ruled by a 56-44 vote that the impeachment trial was indeed constitutional, with one more Republican vote than an identical vote taken last week in the Senate. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana joined five other Republicans and all Democrats yesterday, saying afterward that Trump’s lawyers did a “terrible job.”
In the context of things, this was a huge win as the trial now proceeds. The trial is going in the opposite direction than what Trump and his GOP enablers expected. Yesterday should really have been their best day, as it was easier to make a tighter argument on a process issue.
No, it doesn’t mean Trump is going to be convicted — which needs a two-thirds majority — nor even that Cassidy will stay with those he voted with yesterday. But Trump is already gone from office, so removal isn’t a goal. A bipartisan majority voting for conviction on the count of inciting an insurrection — likely at least 55 votes — sends a strong message, and would be a larger vote to convict than any impeachment trial in modern history, including Trump’s last one, in which less than 50 senators voted to convict him on two counts. (Bill Clinton had 50 senators voting to convict him on one count and only 45 voting to convict on a second count.)
More than that, it’s important for Americans to see the Democratic Party standing up for what is right. And even if Trump gets the likely headline that says he’s acquitted, it only shows how completely disintegrated and immoral the GOP is. It emboldens Democrats, who right now have the wind at their backs, with large majorities of Americans supporting their and President Joe Biden’s policies.
Mitch McConnell thought he was being savvy by leaking weeks ago that he might vote to convict Trump, all in an effort to help push off the impeachment trial. He likely thought Americans — and corporate donors, who were pulling money from Republicans who voted to overturn the election based on the Big Lie of massive election fraud — would have moved beyond the events of January 6th by now, which might be buried in the day-to-day squabbles of Washington.
But McConnell made the wrong bet. He thought he’d be a player in crafting Biden’s Covid relief bill, expecting Biden and Democrats to continually pare it down, falling into the trap of seeking bipartisan support that never comes, while progressives would be railing against Democrats for pandering to the GOP. The old “Dems in disarray” narrative.
And McConnell likely figured the impeachment trial would come smack in the middle of that battle, further muddying issues. It would both take attention away from the stimulus fight so McConnell could wreak havoc under the radar, and would seem forced, making Democrats look like they can’t move on, even drawing Biden into the quagmire.
Yet none of that happened. Democrats quickly dropped the GOP once it showed it was set on obstruction and moved to budget reconciliation on the Covid relief bill, not needing any Republicans. Biden sidelined McConnell on the bill, and also signed executive orders and laid out policies broadly popular with the American people. His approval numbers are soaring compared to Trump’s — and McConnell’s — and he’s staying out of the impeachment discussion entirely, letting Democrats in the House and Senate handle it.
Rather than bad timing as McConnell had planned, the impeachment trial, along with the stunning video and the impeachment managers’ focus on the GOP embrace of extremism, has arrived at the perfect time. It comes right after the vast majority of House GOP members voted last week to protect the toxic QAnon cultist, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, from losing her committee seats — something Democrats rightly moved forward on.
What better timing for the impeachment trial of a former president who incited people who were aiming to attack the Speaker of the House than a week after the leadership of the party bowing to that president embraced a House member who actually supported calls for the execution of that Speaker?
The impeachment trial further exposes the GOP as the violent, anti-democratic, authoritarian party it has become, laying the groundwork for Democrats in the 2022 mid-term elections, who will be running against a party now in the grip of QAnon in addition to Trump.
The same danger that we beat back in 2018 and in 2020 is still out there — and is actually more acute — and the impeachment trial puts it on full display. No matter what happens in the end, the trial is a wake-up call for America. It’s a win for all who believe in justice, and a reminder of how hard progressives have to work to make sure Democrats continue to stand firm, go big, pass important legislation, and keep the House and Senate in 2022.