Nate Jackson / January 22, 2020

Impeachment Trial Kicks Off

The two sides fight over rules and witnesses and begin to make their respective cases.

The Senate kicked off its impeachment trial yesterday with votes on rules for the proceedings and opening statements from President Donald Trump’s legal team and his Democrat accusers. Chief Justice John Roberts presided and had to rein in a few tempers. “I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts admonished. “Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.” Though this is only the third time in our nation’s history that a president has stood for an impeachment trial, the proceedings were remarkably — and predictably — unserious. And yet, somehow, that’s quite fitting.

House Democrats failed to make a compelling case for impeachment in their rush to vote before Christmas. They claim to have “overwhelming” evidence for impeachment, while simultaneously hollering about a Republican “coverup” to obstruct the evidence they need. House Democrats want the Senate to aid them by extending the investigation, including calling more witnesses that they didn’t bother calling (John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, for example. Anyone but Hunter Biden or the whistleblower!). That’s not the Senate’s job, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is playing it all about as well as he can.

“Democrats really don’t want to hear more witnesses,” surmises The Wall Street Journal editorial board. “They merely want to pretend they do, get Republicans to vote against witnesses, and use that as an issue in November. Perhaps Republicans should call them on it.”

While the question of calling witnesses didn’t receive a vote yesterday, McConnell conceded to one more day for each side to present its case and to allow all House evidence without a Senate vote to admit it. The rules were officially adopted in a 53-47 party-line vote at 1:40 a.m.

Those who portray McConnell as having “caved” to moderates on those rules are either unfamiliar with Trump’s Art of the Deal or are willing to attribute such strategic moves only to Trump himself. McConnell has a strategy that provides political cover for Republicans in tough reelection battles like Susan Collins, Martha McSally, and Cory Gardner. As a bonus, he can point to having compromised with Democrats in order to be as fair as possible. Of course, that won’t stop Democrats from caterwauling about a “rigged” trial all the way until Election Day.

But did we mention that Democrats like Chuck Schumer have taken the opposite position on rules they took in the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton? We can’t quite put our finger on what’s different now…

Some highlights of the cases made by each side:

“The president is on trial in the Senate, but the Senate is on trial in the eyes of the American people,” pronounced Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He slammed Republicans for balking at more witnesses because “only guilty people try to hide evidence.” Except Nadler insisted just last week that testimony from either Hunter or Joe Biden would not be “relevant” because he had a “mountain of evidence” that was perfectly sufficient to impeach and remove Trump.

“Let me be very blunt,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. “Right now a great many, perhaps even most, Americans do not believe there will be a fair trial. They don’t believe that the Senate will be impartial. They believe that the result is pre-cooked, the president will be acquitted.” Funny, but Schiff pre-cooked the impeachment inquiry in the House. Schiff also alleged that Trump’s conduct was “a betrayal of his sacred oath of office.” As we have frequently noted during this charade, it is laughable whenever a Democrat talks about the Constitution or abiding by their oath to support and defend the same.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, on the other hand, was right on the mark. Democrats have “no case” against Trump. But never mind that, he said; “They’re not here to steal one election, they’re here to steal two elections.”

(Updated.)

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