Guilty As Sin
“I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “Let’s all move one place on.”
For once, the Gang of 500 scorecard is actually spot on.
There might be one article of impeachment, but there are really five accusations, with verdicts that are now apparent:
* On the charge of lying repeatedly about the results of the election in a manner that misled and provoked millions of Americans: GUILTY
*On the charge of improperly contacting Mike Pence, election administrators, and other government officials in a crooked attempt to influence the election outcome: GUILTY
* On the charge of convening a gathering of supporters in Washington and inflaming them: GUILTY
* On the charge of failing to use the full power of his office to stop the storming of the Capitol once it was underway: GUILTY
* On the charge of inciting the invasion of the Capitol and its violence: MORALLY/POLITICALLY BUT NOT NECESSARILY LEGALLY GUILTY
Yesterday, we all saw American history documented via a unique and painful shared national experience from the Capitol. We will have more of this on Thursday.
In my weekly focus groups with four Biden voters and four Trump voters, I will often ask the participants to enact a version of the children’s game where each person contributes to telling a story by adding one sentence at a time. The stories they tell are about, say, the election outcome or the impeachment process.
The catch is that every sentence has to be judged factually true by all eight parties.
Jamie Raskin, with just some minor pruning of the impeachment managers’ actual case, could tell a version of Donald Trump’s conduct in this whole matter that would win the factual approval of Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and, even, Mike Lee.
To me, that is the biggest meaning of this trial.
There is literally nothing the president’s lawyers can do in rebuttal to match the emotion, intensity, impact, or truth of the House managers’ presentation.
To quote the Bard of Avon: “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.” (That is a Shakespeare/Twitter joke explained here.)
Donald Trump squandered whatever chance he had (had, at least, prior to Election Day) to get the kind of book deals, TV deals, paid speech deals, and, yes, real estate deals he dreamed of someday having in a post-presidential life.
His place in history will be (and should be) defined, to a far greater extent than MAGAville would like, by the events on and around January 6.
Those in the party (like Mitch McConnell) who don’t want Trump to pick the party’s 2022 nominees or be the party’s 2024 nominee now have a much better chance of getting their way, even with an acquittal.
Those in Blue who want future generations to conclusively believe that Donald Trump was a reckless, amoral man who put himself above those he was supposed to serve now have a much better chance of getting their way, even with an acquittal.
What is keeping there from being a verdict to match the sentence (in other words, 17 Republican Senate votes to convict) is three things:
1. The lack of a clear guilty verdict directly tying Trump’s words and actions to the violence at the Capitol.
2. The constitutional fig leaf on the question of an impeachment trial for a former president.
3. The fear that even retiring GOP Senators have of Trump loyalists.
As I suggested Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were right: they are going to get everything they wanted out of a truncated impeachment process, with the exception of a conviction – and, even there, they are going to get the ultimate, momentous example of the Republican Party going on record as being the Party of Trump with the Senate roll call vote.
The Trump spinners (including Senators) have a million and eight arguments to make about what’s going on, all intended to distract, including pointing to past fiery Democratic statements and past violence.
To an extent less than Republicans think (and/but to an extent more than Democrats would like to admit), these efforts at misdirection will get them through the night.
But when they wake up in the proverbial morning after the verdict, they will still have to face three realities:
* their grandchildren
* Donald Trump will still be, far and away, the most powerful force in the Republican Party
The list of unknown unknowns about our political future is vast; that one known known – that Trump will remain the king of the GOP hill after all this -- might trump all the unknown unknowns and known unknowns, as well as the other known knowns.
Biden to do list: put action behind the administration’s pitch-perfect Wednesday framing of the Sino-American relationship; tell the truth about school reopenings and vaccine distribution and then do what he promised; work on a pardon for Bruce; draft a post-acquittal statement to heal; infrastructure.
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