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As impeachment trial begins, it’s hard to see many senators being open to persuasion

Just a quick metaphorical or allegorical reaction to the first hour of the Senate impeachment “process” this morning.

The metaphor/allegory that comes to mind is this: Imagine a debate between a group of fundamentalist Christians and a group of atheists on the question of whether God exists. Facts might be mentioned and arguments made, but they would be irrelevant. Might there perhaps be one believer and one unbeliever on each side who is open to persuasion? Maybe, but no more than one or two and not enough to make much difference. The rest might as well have their hands over their ears when someone from the other side is speaking.

I know which side I’m on. President Donald Trump is guilty of everything with which he’s been charged, and more. It’s not even close.

The question of whether the particular crimes and misdemeanors rise to the level sufficient to justify removal of a president is tougher, and probably it inevitably has something to do with how one feels about the general fitness of the individual in question to be president. 

I know which side I’m on on that one too, but I have friends who are more pro-Trump than I, who are smart and honest and whose arguments might move me a little closer to the line, or at least remind me that the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” is sufficiently ambiguous to admit of different interpretations.

And there may be a senator or two or three who will honestly struggle with the present case on that basis. But not nearly enough to change my long-held expectation that Trump will not be convicted and removed.

At the moment, as I write this, the question of whether enough Republicans will break ranks so as to allow some witnesses is slightly open. But, witnesses or no, it borders on unimaginable that the necessary number of Republicans senators can be assembled to convict Trump, no matter what witnesses testify and what they  might say.

This is sad, but, at least according to me, this where we are. I fear for the future of our system and our republic. But this is where are.

Comments (37)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/21/2020 - 02:11 pm.

    Trump’s own defense seems to be based mainly on the (questionable) assumption that executive privilege allows the President to do anything that he wants to, with the possible exception of those crimes specifically defined in the Constitution.
    In other words: So I did it — so what?

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2020 - 02:20 pm.

    I don’t think very many people thought Trump would be removed from office. In a very real sense what Democrats have managed to do it put Senate Republicans on trial, as well as the Republican Party in general.

    I don’t think any reasonable person expects any integrity or fairness from Republicans, but their lack of integrity and corrupt nature is in full display as of now. McConnell’s performance of outright lies upon lies (claiming that his rules merely duplicate those followed in 1999) are now exhibit #1 in the public trial. In many ways McConnell and the Republicans just impeached themselves along with Trump. McConnell and Trump are making it nearly impossible for a lot of Republicans to head into the 2020 elections with any honor or integrity intact. The real outcome of this impeachment will probably be the loss of the Senate in 2020 as well as the loss of the White House.

  3. Submitted by Erik Granse on 01/21/2020 - 02:22 pm.

    I’m less concerned about whether he’s convicted and removed than whether the Senate is capable of a good-faith effort to carry out its duties.

    My view being what it is, I’d question the sanity of any senator who honestly believed the President’s actions weren’t wrong, but at least I’d trust that the system was intact. As it is, I’m sure there are a lot of senators going along with the charade of a quick move to acquit who privately know he’s guilty.

    The fact that they’re willing to go along with it for the cynical reason that they want to be in power, our system of government be damned is what really worries me.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 01/21/2020 - 03:07 pm.

    I too watched the opening statements and can agree on the small likelihood of a decision to remove from office.

    I did find Schiff’s statements on the most important point within all of this is simply to uphold the oath that was taken: Do impartial justice. Doing that and still acquitting Trump on all charges certainly gives these R Senators cover on all sides:

    “He’s innocent!”

    “I gave the House Manager everything they asked for and they still failed to convince me (us).”

    Schiff was correct in stating that every document and witness will eventually be known in near entirety through books, media, film, subsequent investigations. Everything they try to suppress now may prove to be an embarrassment later.

    Of course we can see in the Lindsey Graham’s of the world embarrassment is a concept beyond their comprehension…

    • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 01/21/2020 - 04:53 pm.

      Any casual observer could take Shiff’s word and point out, if that is so, we should surely hear from the whistleblower, and everyone associated with him, including Brennan and Shiff.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/22/2020 - 10:22 am.

        I have no idea why one would need to hear from the whistle blower. Why would you not want to hear from the folks on the call? Seems this argument is intended to say, see all you have is 2nd hand information you don’t have any first hand. 2ndly, the whistle blower is protected by law from disclosure, so we change the laws to protect guilty people? Seems you want them outed so you can make patriots into traitors for calling out corruption, seems your objective is to keep corruption hidden and out of site to secure the destruction of a fair and equitable government and the rise of a dictatorship. Kind of like, get all the cops off the streets and make sure you out anyone and everyone involved in investigations!

        • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 01/22/2020 - 11:08 am.

          Because he is CIA, I don’t trust the CIA, he worked for Biden and Brennan, and there is serious speculation that he had untoward coordination with Shift, which makes the whistleblower complaint like a coordinated takedown.

          Besides, what law again, protects him, but not the whistleblowers Obama put in jail?

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 01/22/2020 - 08:57 am.

      I don’t think there is a single United States Senator who actually intends to be impartial in this trial.

      Yet they all took a sworn oath to be impartial. In my mind, they all perjured themselves – a true and accurate reflection of the level of Integrity in the Senate as a whole.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/25/2020 - 10:57 pm.

        I must agree. It seems hard to be impartial when the person on trial is the person you hope to defeat in the next Presidential election.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/21/2020 - 03:16 pm.

    You know, I am not a senator, and I am not a big fan of Trump, but after significant self reflection, I truly believe I am open to persuasion on issues related to Trump’s guilt on these matters at leas.

    Maybe corruption was what Trump was concerned about. Why not? If that were the case, I would think there would be a lot of evidence supporting that view, both from witnesses and from documentation. I am waiting to hear it, and to be quite frank about it, not a lot of evidence would be required for me to give the president on the issue. But the president has refused to provide that evidence, which means that I and the rest of us have to base our conclusions based on the evidence, couple with the entirely reasonable inference that the reason the president isn’t providing access to more evidence is that evidence would tend to prove his guilt.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/21/2020 - 04:38 pm.

      It’s been a long time since I practiced criminal law, but I seem to remember that it was regarded as a bad idea to withhold evidence that would prove your client is innocent.

      • Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 01/23/2020 - 08:36 am.

        I’ve never practiced criminal law, but I do recall that well known legal bromide “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to”.

        It follows one should never call witnesses one has no clue what they may testify to.

        If Schiff et al get their wish, the GOP will call Hunter Biden and the “whistleblower”. We all have a real good idea what they will be forced to admit; it won’t be pretty for the Democrats; Schiff most especially.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2020 - 01:15 pm.

          Okay, so let the Republicans call them. Who’s stopping them? They control the process, at the direction of the White House. Go for it, boys!

          Or are they concerned that they would then have to justify not letting the Democrats call witnesses? Are they afraid of what those witnesses might say?

          Innocent people don’t try to hide the evidence that vindicates them. For that matter, they don’t brag about the incriminating evidence they’re hiding.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/21/2020 - 08:36 pm.

      If the democrats insist on witnesses that would violate the executive privilege, then the republicans will insist on one witness that would support the claim that Trump’s motive for investigating Burista was to expose the Biden family corruption. If Hunter Biden tells the truth under oath, he would open up a can of worms regarding corrupt deals that paid him millions while his father was Vice President. The relevancy of calling Hunter Biden as a witness, of course, is that Trump is on record as saying he didn’t want to give $400 million of taxpayer money to a corrupt Ukrainian government that fired the prosecutor, at Joe Biden’s insistence, who was looking into the Burisma payoffs to Hunter Biden while his father was in charge of Ukrainian policy.

      Bottom line, Biden supporters for president, and maybe the entire democrat party, will rue the day they went down this path to get Trump because it will backfire. Looks like Hillary’s planning to come in at the brokered convention to save the day.

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/22/2020 - 08:48 am.

        “Trump…didn’t want to give $400 million…”

        You seem not to know that this foreign aid was duly enacted by Congress and Trump had absolutely no legal basis to withhold it, as the GAO recently ruled. Trump is the president, not a CEO. Do illegal acts by the executive really not concern you?

        “entire democrat party will rue the day..”

        Perhaps it might be best to let actual Democrats worry about that….

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/22/2020 - 10:08 am.

          After Trump was told, indeed is not the CEO, and had to release the money to the Ukrainians, the money was released. He’s new to this government bureaucracy business.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2020 - 10:46 am.

            He had been President for over two years, and presumably he had advisers who could give him the correct advice.,

            The “lighten up – he was new” defnese is one even Alan Dershowitz would blush to put on.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2020 - 09:38 am.

        “The relevancy of calling Hunter Biden as a witness, of course, is that Trump is on record as saying he didn’t want to give $400 million of taxpayer money to a corrupt Ukrainian government that fired the prosecutor, at Joe Biden’s insistence, who was looking into the Burisma payoffs to Hunter Biden while his father was in charge of Ukrainian policy.”

        What does Hunter Biden have to do with that? And how would his testimony be “relevant” to anything other than an attempt to embarrass Democrats?

        The substance of F. R. Evid. 401 does not seem to have changed since I learned it so many years ago:

        Evidence is relevant if:

        (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and

        (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/22/2020 - 10:02 am.

          The democrats claim that Trump’s motive for an investigation was personal in nature (even though he said “do US a favor” in the phone call) while he has claimed it was to ensure that the new Ukrainian president would deliver on his campaign promise to end corruption.

          Establishing that Hunter Biden received $83,000 a month in an industry he knew nothing about and didn’t even speak the language, would be proof of the type of corruption Trump was trying to get stopped.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2020 - 10:44 am.

            All well and good, but Trump had no justification for withholding appropriated funds for any reason. The President can’t do that and, in case you were wondering, Republican Presidents have to follow the law, too.

          • Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/22/2020 - 05:53 pm.

            It’s quite remarkable how Trump was unable to even remotely explain this rationale to Zelensky during the call, no? But then, Trump hardly speaks English any better than Biden Jr speaks Russian….

            And a Ukrainian gas company overpaying a board member with dubious credentials is hardly public corruption, since it is standard operating procedure in most American corporations.

            All in all, you are merely repeating a (completely unpersuasive) post hoc rationalization that never entered Trump’s mind at the time of his shakedown. The idea that a professional conman like Trump cares about public corruption anywhere in the world is ludicrous on its face.

  6. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 01/21/2020 - 04:48 pm.

    “The metaphor/allegory that comes to mind is this: Imagine a debate between a group of fundamentalist Christians and a group of atheists on the question of whether God exists.”

    To continue with this metaphor/allegory, there are at least as many of us “pagans” who see the House leadership in this process as corrupt, dogmatic, condescending and dismissive as Republican leadership generally and Trump. We are otherwise appalled at the delusion on both “sides” dragging the Republic into ruin.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/21/2020 - 04:56 pm.

    Well, guess I am not open! The argument goes, the house rushed the impeachment through W/O enough time to get all the witness’s and documentation to support the case (especially the stuff Trump held under criminal privilege, now when we have the time, we don’t want to get those witness’s and documents, especially the ones the criminal wants to protect! Can’t make this stuff up. So much for: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” Seems more like we throw it all on the dung heap for the promotion of corruption, protection of party criminals and destruction of our constitution and form of governemnt.

  8. Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/21/2020 - 05:17 pm.

    With the Repub majority’s party-line vote to willfully blind themselves to the documentary evidence that the executive is illegally hiding, I think It’s safe to say that they had no intentional of legitimately following their oaths to “do impartial justice”, and they certainly cannot be said to want to get to the bottom of the matter (i.e. determine the truth).

    It appears Moscow Mitch’s Repubs have decided that conducting a sham proceeding is less dangerous to their power than actually letting the country see (and hear) the evidence against the criminal (Repub) executive, and then watching senate Repubs vote en masse to acquit.

    Far better to run McConnell’s Sham than let the country see the truth and the Repub majority’s abdication of their constitutional duty.

    It is also certainly the case that this sham “trial” by marks the end of the Impeachment clauses and that this backstop means of protecting the country from a criminal president no longer exists. Another feather in the cap of the Gravedigger of Democracy, McConnnell.

  9. Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/21/2020 - 11:27 pm.

    The part I can’t understand in all of this is that of ol’ Milquetoast himself, one Willard Romney. Is it possible that he is so inept a political strategist that he cannot fathom the opportunity at hand? As conspiracy theory goes, it’s not even that complicated. He holds no sway now as a voice of reason (in his mind anyway) in an increasingly incomprehensible party, but all it would take is the promise of power to what’s the number, 15 or so, colleagues, nothing requiring actual moral conviction or patriotic altruism. Just let McConnell play at his machinations, go along with a speedy “acquittal”, and vote “convict” at the 11th hour. With Pence as the laughable attempt to hold the Trump coalition together, Willard the White Knight rises from the ashes of Republican chaos to pull the party back together. Hell, he can even pull a Faustian deal with the Democrats to kick Mitch out after. The RNC is covered on account of it’s being in family hands. It certainly plays to his self congratulatory preening after all. Surely he understands that cults rarely survive the loss of the figurehead? Seems like a pretty obvious play to me, anyway, but maybe there just aren’t enough Republicans left whose personal greed for influence overcomes their fear of the mythical “Trump base”.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/22/2020 - 06:19 am.

    There was an article in the Washington Post claiming that Democrats were hoping that Bolton would incriminate the president. In the hurly burly of the rhetoric of our 24 hour news cycle that’s the kind of claim that gets implicitly accepted because no one has the time to challenge it. But no, I am a Democrat, one of the yellow dog variety, and I really and truly and absolutely, hope that the president of the United States isn’t a crook. That simply isn’t something I hope for.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/22/2020 - 09:06 am.

      Just the evidence the House was able to obtain (despite Trump’s unconstitutional stonewalling) makes clear we are far beyond the “hoping” stage.

      The facts have already been proven far beyond any reasonable doubt, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/22/2020 - 10:10 am.

      You know I agree, a stain on one of us is a stain on all of us. I used to travel extensively internationally, America was the shinning star of what other countries could “hope” to become, now we look like Panama under Noriega, or the Philipines under Marcos or Duerte, Bananas! Lying & Corruption are not my values or virtuers.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2020 - 10:23 am.

      The problem with “yellow dog” Democrats is that they’ve been empowering Republicans for decades by putting more and more ineffectual and incompetent candidates on the ballots. Were it not the for the that these Republicans have been sliding into Fascism maybe this wouldn’t such a disaster for the nation… but alas we now have a Fascist in the White House.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2020 - 10:35 am.

      I’m sorry Hiram but it you still think it’s possible that Trump has done nothing wrong, or actually deserves to retain his position in the White House, you’re not a Democrat “yellow” or otherwise, you are just a Republican.

      Trump hasn’t been impeached because someone “hopes” he’s guilty. Your reticence regarding Trump’s guilt may not be the example of impartiality you think it is… it might just be good old fashioned denial. What that denial reveals if anything, is up to you to decide.

      No one is rejoicing at the prospect of a corrupt and criminal president, but some of us ARE finding a little solace in the fact that our Constitution is still functioning to some degree.

  11. Submitted by cory johnson on 01/22/2020 - 08:28 am.

    It’s hard to take this impeachment seriously when the Democrats have been planning for it since November of 2016. They have zero credibility and most of the country can see impeachment as the partisan exercise it is.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 01/22/2020 - 08:58 am.

      “most of the country can see impeachment as the partisan exercise it is.”

      Yes, that is why the most recent polling shows substantial majorities want to see all relevant documents produced and witnesses at the senate trial, and why some polls have 51% of the country already convinced that Trump should be removed from office.

      So wanting to believe something does not make it so, Cory.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/22/2020 - 08:43 am.

    Having read Eric’s brief piece, as well as all the comments up to this point, and having watched the opening hour or so, plus 15-minute snippets at other points during the day (thus catching some Democrats speaking, then some Republicans) on Tuesday, my 2¢ is that Paul Udstrand and Paul Brandon’s response to Udstrand’s comment have, in combination, pretty much nailed it.

    Few minds will be changed, if any, by what they see and hear on the Senate floor, but beyond the current disgraceful occupier of the Oval Office, it’s Senate Republicans who have put themselves on trial, and repeated 53-47 votes to exclude documents and exclude witnesses are all that reasonable people should need to see that the Republican Party, at least in its Senate iteration, is corrupt to its very core, much like its titular leader. People who know a lot more about 18th-century France than I do will recognize the Palace Court and its sycophants, the vain and ridiculous figure of Louis XIV, the pitiful strivers kissing the…um…boots of the monarch in hopes of gaining his favor, etc. By those 53-47 votes, Republican Senators are publicly endorsing the view – Donald Trump’s view – that the President (as long as that President is named Trump) can literally and figuratively do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and if the rest of us don’t like it, well… we can suck it.

    Or, if you prefer, political power comes not from the electorate, or the public in general, which would be something resembling “democracy,” and imply a flow of power from the bottom up, but instead flows from the Oval Office through various unelected aides and assistants, through members of the Senate and House who belong to the proper political group, to your local officials, which is authoritarianism (it takes several names), and implies a flow of power from the top down. Donald Trump and his party are proving themselves to be traitors to the founding ideals of the country. Speaking as a former Republican, it’s a tragic spectacle to watch.

  13. Submitted by Misty Martin on 01/22/2020 - 11:32 am.


    I know which side I’m on too. Love your third paragraph, btw. To all the evangelicals still supporting President Trump – I am still waiting for that “Damascus Road” experience that transformed Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle. Hasn’t happened yet. Is Trump still your poster boy of choice? Really?!? As in the video that The Lincoln Project recently made: if this is the best that Republicans/Conservatives can do, then “God help us!”

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/25/2020 - 10:40 am.

      “I am still waiting for that “Damascus Road” experience that transformed Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle.”

      You can stop waiting Ms. Martin, that’s transformation is never going to happen.

  14. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/25/2020 - 11:04 pm.

    Fairness continues today after 3 days of wall to wall live coverage on NPR of the Senate hearings NPR returns to their regularly scheduled programming (although it is a Saturday). It has been tiring listening to the same thing over and over and over for three days, at least this side’s version will be shorter.

    And never forget, no person has to prove that they are innocent.

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