Barring a lightning strike or some other miraculous event, the impeachment process is all done but for the final, predictable votes.
It has been a cringe-worthy process that almost certainly has deepened deep divisions in the country, and that has showcased a Republican Senate majority willing to follow party loyalty right out the window, throwing out a truckload of traditional American values. Do we believe in fairness, in truth, in fact?
It has been a process that put forth zany legal arguments seemingly spun of whole cloth to protect Donald Trump, even at the expense of radical reinterpretation of the Constitution's division of governmental responsibilities and the simple understanding that doing bad is something to be excised and punished. Do we really accept that a president, particularly Trump, who has made self-aggrandizement a feature of his presidency, can do anything toward reelection because he thinks it is "in the public interest," as outlined by presidential defender Alan Dershowitz?
It has been a process that often bordered more on personal rudeness and chest-bumping between the feuding lawyers than on any understandable search for what happened between Trump and Ukraine. It became a trial turning its back on witnesses, even as we are hearing from leaks to journalists about the John Bolton's new book or more tapes and emails from Rudy Giuliani's henchmen acting on behalf of Trump, and on stopping obstruction of Congress.
Team Trump's arguments
Finally, after days of presentation, followed by two days of Senate questions, we reached the bottom line in the arguments of Team Trump's lawyers:
- There are no limits on Trump's powers, he does not need to meet requests, demands, even subpoenas from Congress. At the same time, there apparently is no reason to settle any of these refusals to acknowledge Congress in the courts, where Team Trump is arguing that the appropriate response to access complaints incongruously is impeachment.
- There is nothing impeachable about anything that a president does in pursuit of re-election because seeking reelection might be "in the public interest" and including seeking "information" from foreign countries, because "information" has no value.
- And, apparently, there is nothing wrong with running a rogue campaign to trade military aid for dirt on Joe Biden, as a prime political opponent. Per Team Trump, there was no quid pro quo, unless there was, in which case, it was perfectly reasonable either because Trump cared so deeply about corruption in Ukraine over years or because it was in the public interest rather than his own.
- The House managers relied on law, for the most part; by contrast, Team Trump's arguments were largely political. Along the way, Democratic prosecutors made enough mistakes to leave themselves vulnerable to counter-arguments, however illogical.
Listening to the proceedings was often difficult. The twisted logic of the president's team was outdone only by its disdain for anything I would associate with truth-finding. As I have said all along, I can understand a debate over whether these acts rise to the level of impeachment; but treating American voters like chumps who are blind and deaf to the outpouring of information about Trump's wrong-doing is simply dismissive.
It is difficult to pick out the worst of what we have heard, and where it leaves us.
- We have been moving steadily since November 2016, toward a presidency that undercuts democracy, hastened by Democratic advances in 2018 elections that have prompted Trump into making more and more policy through executive order, the refusal to cooperate with Congress over general government oversight as well as impeachment, and now, in big gulps of power-swallowing toward an autocratic, authoritarian government.
- The evidence that was collected, mostly from the mouths of Trump appointees in diplomatic and national security service, showed that we are willing to host a government replete with Cabinet members and departmental overseers who are willing to bend budget, justice, environment, education and energy safeguards upside-down to make Trump look good. Despite the 200 Senate questions, there are piles of head-scratchers out there that were never asked: Why was Giuliani ever dispatched to Ukraine rather than the State Department, if this was in the public interest? What are we to make of the unasked questions about the roles of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Atty. Gen. William P. Barr, former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, the White House lawyers who stuck the Ukraine phone tapes in a White House secure, classified safe?
- As soon as the Senate votes against impeachment, we can expect Trump to come out in full boast, having learned nothing of anything close to humility. Instead, we can predict a full volley of vindictive behaviors personally aimed at anyone with the audacity of questioning the new American monarch.
L'etat, c'est Trump.