Though there is no doubt that he did it—even he admits it—I was not surprised that the United States Senate declined to convict President Trump on the articles of impeachment today. Disappointed, yes; and still unable to really understand all the whys and hows behind the decisions of the senators, yet not surprised. Such is the cognitive fog many fight through trying to make sense of things these days, and I am one of them.
The conventional wisdom was right, of course: no way would enough Republican senators go against their party and vote to remove this Republican president from office, even as they acknowledged Trump should not have withheld Congressionally-approved American foreign aid from Ukraine to try to coerce that country to take action designed to help Trump’s re-election effort. And they wouldn’t vote to remove him even over his open and clear obstruction of Congress’ investigation of the administration, symbolically raising their arms to shrug “but what can we do?” in response to Trump’s refusal to provide any documents to investigators and his order to most government officials not to cooperate—a figurative flipping the bird at the quaint concept of co-equal branches of government and of Congressional oversight of the Executive.
There wasn’t any foreshadowing in the early chapters of this story to signal that a tidy resolution was coming, but the happily-ever-after in me was still waiting for the big surprise in the final act: for all the patriots to stand up and be counted, for the Never Trumpers and the whole Republican caucus to realize that if they would just all act together they could get rid of this troublesome interloper now, then execute a campaign (they’d have to have one, right?) to strategically release inside information that would make the MAGA crowd see the truth. Sponsoring tens off thousands of screenings of “A Face in the Crowd” would be a good start.
But that didn’t happen: Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to convict on abuse of power (but not obstruction of Congress). Not even the members who are retiring at the end of this year, and who agreed that the House managers proved the accusations, could be persuaded to speak truth to power. The most persuasive reason I’ve heard offered to explain that: they want to avoid having their retirement spoiled by threats from strangers, or retaliation from a former president who never forgets a slight and can’t even imagine, apparently, that everyone doesn’t share his own high opinion of His Huuuugeness. Really? Don’t they fear the ruin of their reputation in history for pretending that the emperor does have clothes?
What’s next? Well, there’s the election. Trump defenders argued that it’s too close to the 2020 election to remove a president via impeachment, that it was more proper to simply let the voters pass judgement at the polls. And so we shall. Remember, though, Adam Schiff warned that we’re dealing with a candidate who seems OK with bringing on foreign governments to influence the outcome of our elections, and I find that argument persuasive. (Dear Democrats, please don’t screw the pooch on this like last time and nominate a candidate who will inspire who-knows-how-many voters to decide “anybody but HIM!”)
More House impeachment proceedings? Sure, why not. There’s no rule against it, the Democrats still control the chamber, and there’s plenty of material for them to work with…you could start with all the tidy piles of evidence just sitting there in the Mueller Report, plus don’t forget the easy-to-understand illegally profiting from public office offenses—that stuff gets mayors and county commissioners booted out all the time. There will probably be more inside information pretty soon: think John Bolton’s book might have some pertinent truths? Might other former insiders also decide, finally, to tell what they know? Jim Mattis; Rex Tillerson; John Kelly; others whose names we don’t even know—yeah, I’m talking to you.
There’s one more source of information, and inspiration, on this subject that shouldn’t be discounted: Trump himself. Because you just know that the big fella is feeling pretty confident right about now, thinking he’s got the green light to do whatever he wants since he thinks the Constitution says a president can do whatever he wants to do (it doesn’t say that, of course) and he finally found an attorney general who acts like the Don’s consigliere rather than the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. I have high confidence that new impeachable conduct is right around the corner, if not back there just a block or two. Probably both.
My high school biology teacher was also our football coach. On Mondays in the fall he started every class by offering everyone a chance to comment “on the events of last weekend” before we moved on with new business. I didn’t understood the value of that offer back then as much as I do today…the comments are open.