Impeachment Absurdities
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Impeachment Absurdities

Trump’s Lawyers Turned the Senate Trial into a Bad Episode of the Twilight Zone

Terry H. Schwadron

It’s hard to pick out the best moment for Absurdity around the impeachment trial.  In this Twilight Zone-like courtroom reality, there are simply too many choices for Most Absurd.

Like the Oscars, the undramatic competition for the award leans unduly on older white men, particularly those with preordained decisions before any vote.

Certainly, the top three absurdities must include continuing claims by Republican senators that they have not learned anything new. They voted 11 times to deny the admission of new evidence or witnesses beyond the transcripts of the House committee hearings that led to the  impeachment vote.

Then there is Donald Trump who has been out of town to seem aloof from the fray. He boasted to reporters that prosecuting House managers have no documents, but he has them. Thus he doubled down on the exact obstruction of justice charge included in the impeachment itself.

If the president’s defense team is not going to see abuse of office as impeachable, it needs to name an action to be taken in cases of seriously bad behavior by a sitting president.

Another candidate for absurdity: The challenge facing Team Trump to rebut the Constitutional argument that dominated yesterday’s action.  The ostensible question is whether abuse of office, without a specific listed crime, is impeachable. But the House already indeed has voted to impeach him, making that question seem irrelevant.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow

If the president’s defense team is not going to see abuse of office as impeachable, it needs to name an action to be taken in cases of seriously bad behavior by a sitting president. But they would fight just as equally against a finding of censure because Trump wants total exoneration.

The constitutional debate really is a blind for the dominance of politics and re-election over the niceties of law. It is a blind for so expanding the powers of the presidency as to redefine the office as free of any oversight whatsoever and to dismiss the constitutional role of Congress.

Bored Senators

Redacted documents displayed by Rep. Adam Schiff

There has been plenty of news coverage reflecting the boredom being endured by senators. Republicans are outpacing Democrats sneaking off the floor. Then there has been coverage of who:

  • Drank milk — Tom Cotton [R-Ark.]
  • Illicitly smuggled in some yogurt –Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.]
  • Feel  asleep — Jim Risch [R-Idaho]
  • Had a berserk reaction to it all — Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.]

Who said he actually had learned something? John Kennedy [R-La.].

Still, the overall reaction is that Republicans have heard nothing that changes the predisposition to vote against impeachment and against hearing about any additional evidence or from any additional witnesses.

Organized lack of curiosity for those responsible for looking at excessiveness in presidential behavior always wins a gold star for Absurdity. The idea that documentation of emails about withholding money from Ukraine in a shakedown to win announcement of an investigation of Trump rival Joe Biden should not be allowed is Absurd. That the Senate would go through a full hearing of House-collected second-ear accounts without calling acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or former National Security Adviser John Bolton is simply Absurd.

Among all else, it is Absurd that the Trump White House wanted Ukraine to announce a probe of Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s a lucrative position at a Ukrainian energy company, and not an investigation by the FBI or other U.S. agency.

Presentations by the presidential defense team, which will follow in coming days, already seem to challenge the Absurdity awards. They seem to believe nothing unusual happened, there never was a campaign to get to the Bidens and, even if it happened, it was all within the bounds of the presidency.

It is all exhausting, redundant, and, well, often less than fascinating, mostly because the drama of the moment has been removed by people who already decided the result.

It all goes to show that Might does not produce Right, even in conditions that often touch on the Absurd.

Featured image: The New York Times commissioned artist Art Lien to capture the scene within the Senate chamber, where no photographers are allowed. This sketch shows Idaho Sen. Jim Risch sleeping during the proceedings.


January 24, 2020