President Donald Trump will not be removed from office following his impeachment by the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told colleagues they have the votes to finish things this week.
Whether the senators put the trial out of its misery this week or drag it on for months, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Here are the eight big reasons why Trump won impeachment.
It’s an obvious point, but the most important point.
Impeaching President Trump has been the stated goal of the Resistance since his inauguration. The main effort toward impeachment was through the investigation of a false and dangerous theory of treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election.
Even with a limitless special counsel appointed to achieve that end, the Russia collusion hoax ended with not a single American found to have colluded with Russia, not to mention anyone close to Trump, or Trump himself. A mini-effort to get impeachment going — on the special counsel’s murky near-findings that Trump had objected too strenuously to being falsely accused of treason — also fell apart.
Other impeachment efforts for, among other things, mean tweets, went nowhere. With time running out, the Resistance cobbled together what was always a weak theory regarding a phone call with the Ukrainian president.
At first the alleged crime was supposed to be a campaign finance violation, then bribery, then extortion. It ended with two articles of impeachment, neither ofor an actual crime, and one a more or less laughable claim that the president can’t use courts to defend his rights.
The other was a complicated argument regarding abuse of power that required not just hiding all exonerating evidence but the worst possible construction on what remained. It was such a weak argument that not a single Republican in the House fell for it and three Democrats declined to go along with their own party.
The range of opinion outside the Resistance about the phone call between world leaders ranges from it being, in Trump’s words, “perfect” to merely good or fine to not good. Resistance members tried to put forth the claim that the call was none of these things but impeachably bad. Even with the help of a compliant media, there is simply not enough consensus around this extreme viewpoint to justify even censure, much less bipartisan agreement toward impeachment, much less a removal from office.
Trump’s avoidance of a crime or any real break with public trust is the single biggest factor in his acquittal.
With a histrionic media and political base spending the last few years demanding impeachment, House Democrats surely had hoped that President Trump would do something justifying an impeachment inquiry. They undoubtedly were not pleased when the best they had to work with was Trump asking for help investigating Ukraine’s known 2016 election meddling or investigation into Biden family corruption in Ukraine.
So they started with a weak hand. But they failed to follow a good process. They didn’t have the House authorize an impeachment inquiry until late in the process. This decision made it unlikely that the many early subpoenas they sought would be deemed valid by a court of law if contested.
They refused to have courts validate their subpoenas, refused to let the GOP call their own witnesses, and suppressed information that was not helpful to their impeachment cause. Of the 78 days of the impeachment proceedings, they denied the president any right to counsel or due process for 71 days of them.
In general, the procedure was rushed and information that could have helped them seem more credible was never sought or acquired.
It is nothing short of amazing that not a single Republican member of Congress joined with Democrats in their impeachment effort. There are plenty of Republican members who either dislike or even loathe the president. But even they didn’t find the impeachment to be credible.
The Resistance was also failed by its NeverTrump wing. That wing had pushed Justin Amash to dramatically leave the Republican Party earlier last year. He published his op-ed as to why and promptly lost any sway with anyone other than the tiny NeverTrump movement.
NeverTrump has long demonstrated trouble with strategic thinking and impulse control, so following their advice and leaving the party in a snit was an unforced error. Had Amash stayed with the party, the Resistance in the media and Democratic Party would have been able to make much more use of him.
A main argument in favor of impeaching President Trump was that the situation, whatever it was supposed to be that day, was so dire that it required his immediate removal from office. The House Democrats couldn’t afford to wait a matter of months until a new election would be held and Americans could decide whether the “perfect” phone call was in fact so bad that it required the first removal from office of an American president in history.
Impeachment and removal had to happen immediately, they claimed. But then after voting to impeach the president, perhaps sensing the problems caused by a weak case and hoping for more information to come to light, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi inexplicably sat on the articles for a month. It killed whatever momentum the Resistance had and made a mockery of the whole process.
Instead of turning things over to the effective Republicans who had handled the impeachment process so well on the House side, President Trump instead opted to put together a powerhouse collection of attorneys uniquely suited to address an audience of senators and the American people.
Even among their class of politicians, senators have an extremely high view of themselves and their office. Every senator’s ego must be stroked. They don’t want to feel upstaged, spoken down to, or lectured.
Patrick Philbin, Trump’s deputy general counsel, exemplified the defense team’s deliberate choice to put in front of senators someone who had encyclopedic knowledge of the law and this particular case, someone not there to make a name for himself. Philbin’s humble and bookish demeanor was neither bombastic nor flamboyant as he calmly explained the facts of the case and their significance. The other members of the team were also well chosen to argue their points.
By contrast, House Democrats picked impeachment managers who seemed perfectly calibrated to annoy and grate on those handful of senators whose votes were up for grabs. Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler were the leaders of a group that repeated their highly partisan talking points and used hyperbolic and loaded language. The media loved it, but it went over like a lead balloon with the non-Resistance senators.
The House Democrats accused senators of being cowards who were complicit in a cover-up. They suggested that the senators were unable to vote properly because President Trump would put their heads on pikes if they didn’t vote to acquit. They refused to answer specific and direct questions about whether the whistleblower worked for Biden, was involved in any decisions regarding Burisma, or about his interaction with Schiff’s staff. Even the Washington Post — even the Washington Post — gave Schiff four Pinocchios for lying about his staff’s secret collusion with the whistleblower.
At some point, the difference between the competent and highly skilled attorneys on the White House team and the bumbling and somewhat mediocre team of House managers was so pronounced it was almost embarrassing. It was as if one side belonged in front of the Supreme Court and the other failed to make the finals at a middle school debate tournament.
Along with the delay of the articles of impeachment, the House managers deployed a slow drip of supposedly damaging information. First they put Lev Parnas out as a “bombshell” witness who would bring Trump down. Parnas is indicted for various crimes and is something of a hustler and influence peddler who worked his way through Washington and supposedly had some type of negative information about Trump.
While the argument that Rudy Guiliani shouldn’t have been working with him in any way has merit, it’s a difficult argument to make while walking hand-in-hand with the same individual. Senate Minority Leader went so far as to invite Parnas to be his guest at the trial, which made the scene look more like a circus than a deliberative effort.
Late this week, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel issued a press release saying that he had been given information from a disgruntled former employee of Trump’s in mid-September to look into the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, suggesting additional witnesses needed to be called. A good time to release this information — if it needed to be released, that is — would have been four months ago or during the House’s impeachment proceedings.
These tactics of deploying information late to create “bombshell” news stories are losing their effectiveness post-Kavanaugh. Republican senators — perhaps with the exception of Mitt Romney, who didn’t even learn this lesson after he was called a racist, hair-raping woman murderer during his presidential bid — are finally wising up to the operation played by the media and Democrats.
The media always owned this impeachment process. Pelosi did her best to avoid impeachment but the media all but forced her into it. They championed it every step of the way and provided help, including the blocking of arguments against it.
For instance, although it’s fairly standard to name whistleblowers and to do journalism figuring out who key players are, many in the media decided to help Democrats keep from having to answer questions about his role with the whistleblower. They steadfastly avoided looking into him and his motivations or how that might have affected the entire proceedings.
Each day provided evidence that the media didn’t just want Trump impeached and removed from office, but desperately wanted that. There are videos of scrums of reporters fighting with Republicans over their case, but none of them fighting with Democrats. Republican senators are hounded by reporters to pressure them to change their vote, but Democratic senators don’t receive the same treatment.
It didn’t help that in the midst of the circus, a CNN host and his panel were openly yukking it up about how Republicans are all stupid.