Did House Impeachment Managers Make Their Case?
Most agree that it was good theater. But it's not clear what they've proven.
The Democratic Representatives presenting the case for impeaching former President Trump to the Senate have rested their case after two days of sensationalistic videos juxtaposing the terrifying events of January 6 with statements from Trump and his supporters. Was it enough?
Certainly, as expected, it didn’t persuade enough Republican Senators to vote to convict. Many, indeed, are dodging the question altogether, hiding behind a dubious technicality.
The Hill (“GOP senators praise impeachment managers but say Trump will be acquitted“):
Senate Republicans on Thursday were complimentary of the two-day presentation from House impeachment managers, but signaled that it won’t change the ultimate outcome of the trial: former President Trump’s acquittal.
The House team, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), wrapped on Thursday afternoon, after hours of opening arguments that included a detailed timeline of Jan. 6 events and new video footage of the attack on the Capitol that day.
Republicans acknowledged that they thought the presentation was effective, while adding that they didn’t think it changed many minds and nowhere near the number needed to make Trump the first U.S. president to be convicted.
“I think they did a good job. I don’t believe the facts are largely in dispute about what happened that day or the nature of what happened,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent,” Rubio added.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has said he believes the impeachment trial is unconstitutional, said he thought the House managers “put forward a good case.”
“Obviously, it was their side, their perspective,” he said.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said that he thought Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-Calif.) line about being concerned not about Trump running again and winning but Trump running again and losing was “a very powerful statement.”
“I know I wrote that down. I know a number of my colleagues did. But once again, the issue for most of us is: Are you asking us to do something that we simply don’t have the capability of doing because the Constitution does not give us that tool with regard to a private citizen?” Rounds said.
Democrats on Thursday emphasized their belief that unless the Senate convicts Trump, he could go on to incite future violence.
Over the past two days, they repeatedly argued that Trump was the primary driver of the deadly mob that stormed the Capitol.
Senators were visibly shaken on Jan. 6 and several Republicans fumed at Trump in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which required senators to evacuate the chamber and shelter in place for hours.
But since then it’s become apparent that there is not enough support within the Senate to convict Trump.
Only a handful of GOP senators are viewed as potential “yes” votes on convicting Trump. None have announced that they will, as they wait for Trump’s team to present its opening argument Friday.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who surprised his colleagues when he voted this week to proceed with the trial, said he wanted to hear from Trump’s lawyers.
But, he noted that he thought the House impeachment managers had “done very well.”
“I think that’s generally conceded,” Cassidy said.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another potential swing vote, urged Trump’s legal team to match the detailed presentation of the House impeachment managers.
“I hope they’ll be as specific as the House managers were — who went through the evidence, provided legal arguments and gave a very thorough presentation,” Collins said.
But even if every Democrat votes to find Trump guilty, it would still take 17 GOP senators to convict him. If the Senate successfully convicted him, it would only a simple majority in a subsequent vote to bar him from holding office again.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he didn’t think the House impeachment managers changed minds among Republicans who have already decided to vote to acquit.
“You know, I don’t think so. I think that when you have two votes that preceded the one we’re going to make, there’s a lot within that that tells you kind of where we’re going to be,” Braun said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said the House impeachment managers didn’t change his mind on the trial being unconstitutional.
“Well, my view is unchanged as to whether or not we have the authority to do this, and I’m certainly not bound by the fact that, you know … 56 people think we do. I get to cast my vote and my view is that you can’t impeach a former president,” he said on Thursday.
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who was part of a group of GOP senators who met with Trump’s legal team Thursday, predicted that the trial will end in Trump’s acquittal.
“I think the end result of this impeachment trial is crystal clear to everybody … Donald Trump will be acquitted,” he said. “And every person in the senate chamber understands there are not the votes to convict him.”
While I’m sympathetic to the argument that impeachment is a tool for sitting officials only, I see little merit in the idea that the trial for an impeached sitting official can’t proceed because the Senate intentionally recessed to let the clock run out. Beyond that, with a majority of the Senate having already voted that the trial may proceed, it strikes me that dodging a vote on this basis is cowardly. After all, a convicted Trump could take the matter up with the courts.
As to the merits of the case, it’s not obvious to me who was supposed to be persuaded by it that wasn’t already on board.
I believed on January 6 and continue to believe that Trump’s repeated attempts to overturn the legitimate vote, urging of various officials to commit crimes to keep him in office, and repeated fanning of the flames of illegitimacy with his supporters warranted his impeachment, removal from office, and bar from future office. But the sensationalism of the impeachment managers’ presentation actually detracted, in my judgment, from the notion that Trump incited the riot.
Indeed, they reinforced my view that the storming of the Capitol on January 6 was not, as it appeared in real time, simply a bunch of zealous Trump supporters pushed over the edge by a speech that morning but rather multiple, overlapping events—including pre-planned terrorism by various Patriot Militia and white supremacist extremist groups that were clearly operating independently from Trump.
Indeed, were this a criminal trial about incitement rather than a political verdict on a President’s duty to the Constitution, I would likely judge that the impeachment managers had failed to make their case. Even aside from the extremely high bar the Supreme Court has placed on criminalizing incitement, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Trump was not urging people to literally break into the Capitol, let alone commit acts of violence against people.
Yet, beyond all the distractions, they made the more important case that Trump’s high crime wasn’t simply a single speech that may or may not by itself have incited a riot. Rather, as WaPo’s Aaron Blake summarizes it, the real crime was a years-long process.
This is hardly the first time people have tied Trump’s comments to real or potential violence. It happened throughout his presidency. It happened to the point where even many Republicans now allied with Trump — who are playing down the need for his impeachment — warned about a situation similar to this, including former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.).
Raskin referred to many of these instances, including Trump jokingly praising a Montana politician for assaulting a reporter, suggesting that there were good people on “both sides” of the racist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, and his repeated suggestions both at his 2016 rallies and since that his supporters might get violent. Trump also endorsed a clip from a supporter saying “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” — before that supporter was arrested for his part in the Capitol riot.
Perhaps most compellingly, Raskin noted Trump’s tweet to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in April. It came two weeks before armed protesters flooded the state Capitol there. Trump suggested approval for their show of force and, in response, urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to negotiate with them on the coronavirus restrictions Trump had criticized. Two weeks later, protesters returned with more violent rhetoric. Then an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer surfaced — a plot in which the alleged perpetrators echoed Trump’s rhetoric.
“This Trump-inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you,” Raskin said of the initial scenes at the state Capitol. “Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo Army gear — just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on Jan. 6. The siege of the Michigan Capitol was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S. Capitol that Trump incited on January 6th.”
Trump’s defenders have focused narrowly on his speech Jan. 6, which they argue was unremarkable, and which they note included one line that those marching to the Capitol should “peacefully” protest. They have even argued that revelations about planning by some Capitol rioters suggest that they couldn’t have been incited.
That ignores everything that preceded Jan. 6, and Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The fact is that there had been all kinds of suggestions that Trump’s rhetoric could lead to what we saw. Trump often did far less than his critics said he should to prevent or condemn such scenes.
Moreover, while it doesn’t directly go to the “incitement” charge, Blake’s colleagues Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey lay out a rather persuasive case in “Mounting evidence suggests Trump knew of danger to Pence when he attacked him as lacking ‘courage’ amid Capitol siege” of gross malfeasance of presidential failure to Take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.
Mounting evidence emerging as former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate this week indicates Trump may have been personally informed that Vice President Mike Pence was in physical danger during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, just moments before denigrating him on Twitter.
Trump’s decision to tweet that Pence lacked “courage” — a missive sent shortly after the vice president had been rushed off the Senate floor — underscores how he delayed taking action to stop his supporters as they ransacked the Capitol.
Many of them were intent on doing harm to Pence, whom Trump had singled out at a rally earlier in the day, falsely claiming the vice president had the power to stop Congress from formalizing Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
Trump’s tweet came at 2:24 p.m. that day — only 11 minutes after live television coverage showed Pence being hustled from the Senate floor because rioters were streaming into the building one floor below. The Senate then abruptly went into recess.
rump was watching news coverage of the session after he returned from his rally at the Ellipse, according to a person familiar with the events of the day who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe what was happening behind the scenes.
The White House was typically immediately informed by Pence’s Secret Service detail about any significant movements involving the vice president, according to another person with knowledge of the security protocols.
In addition, Trump heard directly about the vice president’s movements from a GOP senator. Shortly after Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) spoke to Trump on the phone and told him about Pence’s hasty exit, Tuberville told reporters Thursday.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took our vice president out, they’re getting ready to drag me out of here. I got to go,’ ” Tuberville said he told Trump during the brief call.
The exact time of their conversation is unknown, but Pence was pulled from the room by the Secret Service at 2:13 p.m. and senators had fully evacuated the chamber around 2:30.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump had spent days leading up to Jan. 6 publicly and privately pressuring Pence to use his ceremonial role as the presiding officer of the joint session of Congress to overturn the election results. Pence had warned Trump that he did not believe the Constitution gave him that power.
Former administration officials have said Trump was enraged early that day when Pence privately informed the president that he had made a final decision: He would not interfere with the process.
Still, Trump attacked Pence repeatedly in his midday speech to thousands of supporters gathered at the Ellipse. Though Trump knew of Pence’s plans, he led the crowd to believe that the vice president’s actions remained an open question — elevating the suspense and eventual shock among his supporters at Pence’s perceived betrayal when the session opened.
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country,” Trump said. “And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.”
Before Trump finished speaking, Pence issued a lengthy statement announcing publicly that he would not reject Biden’s electoral college votes.
People familiar with Trump’s activities said he returned to the White House seething with anger at his vice president. One said Trump had considered tweeting about his anger earlier in the day — but decided to hold off until after Pence had formally opened the proceedings at 1 p.m.
During this week’s Senate trial, House impeachment managers have zeroed in on Trump’s treatment of his vice president, showing how the mob specifically targeted Pence, hunting him in the Capitol, chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” and calling him a “traitor.”
The Trump tweet about Pence came more than an hour after police reported that metal barricades outside the Capitol had been overwhelmed by the angry mob and about 12 minutes after the rioters had made it inside the building.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution . . . USA demands the truth!” Trump tweeted.
On Thursday, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), a House impeachment manager, emphasized that Trump did nothing to try to stop the mob as rioters stormed the building, hunting for Pence.
“What did President Trump do?” he asked. “He attacked him more. He singled him out by name. It’s honestly hard to fathom.”
Again, none of that is evidence of incitement but there are multiple impeachable offenses in that sequence and, certainly, ample evidence that Trump is unfit to hold the office of President or any other office of responsibility in the future.
As noted in previous posts, I’d be surprised if the six Republicans who voted to allow the trial to proceed all voted to convict Trump of incitement, and positively shocked if another eleven joined them to get the required two-thirds to convict. So, really, this is a show for the public. And I doubt many minds were changed.
Most obviously, people are still self-segregated into news silos, getting their information filtered through their preferred ideological/cultural/tribal lenses. One imagines Fox, much less NewsMax and OAN, are presenting a much less compelling case against Trump than CNN, much less MSNBC.
Even beyond that, though, while long video montages may well be good theater, they’re really hard to boil down into 30-second bites. So, I have no idea how even the relatively neutral networks are covering this.
And, of course, those of us getting our news from multiple elite outlets almost certainly made up our minds on all of this on January 6—if not years before that.
As I’ve repeatedly called and told my Senators (Cruz and Cornyn), this impeachment trial is really a test of their character and their duty to honor their oath of office. Not that they care. Or understand what that means.
To me, the most significant thing Trump said was on the call when he was trying to browbeat Raffensberger for votes. He mentioned that they had another means to overturn the election but he didn’t want to use it. I think too many people, even on the anti-Trump side, thinks this was just a chain of events spurred by Trump’s impulsivity and and anger. I firmly believe that there were planners and Trump was part of that. It will eventually come out.
To answer your question about how it was covered; any network with a real news department (i.e.: not Fox or either of the two propaganda networks) pre-empted their regular network programming and showed it live and in real time. Let me correct myself a bit…Fox was showing it until the first video and cut right when it started and never returned.
And, don’t worry, the craven cowards you would still be supporting if it wasn’t for Trump, will be the same craven cowards they were for the past four, and more, years.
I’m not convinced it wasn’t all just venting from a mentally-impaired, petulant man-child. Regardless, no conspiracy has been charged, much less demonstrated.
Sure. But most of us have jobs.
@MarkedMan: This x 1000. Everything points to Trump setting this idea up for months and setting this particular event up for weeks. The incitement is causal thing you can almost measure because of the temporal proximity, but the overall effort to overturn the election is the central impeachable offense and it is galling in the nth degree that the Republicans are essentially calling it unimpeachable for the single reason that it failed.
Incitement is certainly part of the equation, and I disagree – I think the split-screen shots are compelling. Showing what was actually happening while Trump tweeted allowed the House managers to make the other part of the case which was about negligence (at best) and cheering on the violence (more likely).
Trump’s failure to act, and his deliberate hand-tying of others who tried to act to put down the insurrection, shows clearly his intent was to allow the events to play out, allow whoever gets killed to get killed, and ultimately to prevent the certification of his election loss.
I found the case compelling, and I found myself brought back to the anger I felt that day watching events unfold.
On a side note, it remains curious to me that Republicans wouldn’t seize this opportunity to be rid of Trump once and for all.
If you tell someone you know is a hitman that’s very angry about something that you know who did it and they’re right over there, can you claim ignorance when the hitman goes and does his thing based on your words? Can you claim to have nothing to do with the ensuing violence even though you knew who you were talking to and their stated interest in harming said person because you are too dumb to get what just happened?
That’s what the GOP is saying: POTUS claim stupidity in siccing a bloodthirsty mob on his political rivals but that somehow doesn’t affect his ability to be POTUS. He knew what he was doing but he also didn’t – Schrodinger’s douchebag writ large. If you are so stupid or ignorant you don’t understand telling people who are chanting “Hang Pence” to go see Pence down the street, you cannot do your duty as POTUS effectively. Cause and effect are VERY clear here and if he couldn’t understand that, he’s unfit for his job and the impeachment is valid. Two branches of gov were threatened by his actions so it takes a LOT of willful ignorance to let this one go.
The GOP’s fig leaf to let their cult’s leader go free is full of holes. They’re going to acquit not because the impeachment team didn’t make the case but because they’re OK with what happened or are too afraid of the tiger they got by the tail.
I concede that, which is why it is only my belief. But I believe someone will talk, some day, or some trail will emerge. These people are inept and they will turn on each other in a heartbeat.
And Henry II was blameless in the assignation of Thomas Becket (‘will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest’) because there is no video/audio evidence that Henry ordered the murder.
That seems to be the standard you are applying.
Mafia Dons rejoice at your construction
I went over to The American Conservative and read a Dreher column (The riot was bad and that will give the Radical Left the excuse they need to make us all have sex change operations) and went to the comments section. I saw something interesting and I wonder if this comes from Fox: That the riot and storming of the Capitol started before Trump spoke, i.e. that Trump couldn’t have triggered it because it was already going on. Of course, that is nonsense. Trump spoke first and told them to march on the capitol and then they did. But I wonder if the Fox-verse is just rewriting history?
It’s their best chance but alas – it require sacrifice they’re not willing to make. Whomever votes to convict will fall to the MAGA crowd and lose their jobs and funding at best. A lot of someone’s are going to have to fall on their swords (11+ to be precise) and everyone else is going to have to brace for the unpleasant aftermath. They’re right to fear their constituents; I mean, this whole thing is about them storming the building on Trump’s behest trying to hurt and kill them!
No one in the GOP is going to willing to do that, let alone the needed dozen. We’re asking self-centered people who have no interest in short-term loss for long-term gain to take a massive hit. Not gonna happen.
@MarkedMan: I should have also added, in impeachment “belief” in guilt is non-trivial. In any organization or government office an executive can be removed because they have lost the confidence of the organization. A crime does not have to be proved. This is essential, and it’s why Trump should have been convicted the first time.
Even a low level employee can be removed, at least temporarily, without evidence. If a parent calls the school superintendent and reports that he saw the school bus driver coming out of a tavern in the middle of the afternoon, the superintendent stops that driver from picking up the kids. You have to weigh the potential harm.
That scenario does not apply so much in this trial, but it most certainly applied in the first.
My Take: They’re going to acquit not because the impeachment team didn’t make the case but because “they are protecting their brand, their tribe.
@Tony W: Since Gingrich at least, any Republican with a backbone has been driven from office. Those that remain are quivering blobs of jelly.
That’s buying into the false rightwing spin that the incitement was merely Trump’s speech on he 6th. The incitement was the months of lies that Trump spewed about how the only way he could lose was by fraud, about how perfectly legal voting methods were fraudulent, and after the vote about his insane conspiracy theories.
We know that the militias you describe as independent of Trump actually claimed to be waiting for his go ahead to conduct attacks.
This, MarkedMan, is the defense of the tiny aperture. It sets up the straw man that Trump’s January 6 speech is the only action at issue and, if you can’t prove that speech, standing alone and out of context, all but forced the insurrection, that Trump should walk away.
But, even looking just at the speech, I am reminded of a young 20-something man sitting in federal custody in central Illinois for “inciting” a riot by inviting people on Facebook in town to congregate at the local mall, where both congregation and looting ensued – the young man was also one of the looters. If an otherwise no-name 20 year old can score an incitement charge a FB post, how is the January 6 speech not an incitement?
IMO the audience the impeachment managers intend to reach is the country at large, especially those interested in watching the proceedings, not the intimidated “jurors” in the Senate.
Trump’s team isn’t even trying that hard. If I were in their place, and acquittal were the only concern, I’d do this: “You know there aren’t enough votes to convict. The defense rests.” But then, I suffer from streaks of brutal honesty, and have no tolerance of moral pantomime.
It’s perfectly clear to me. They’ve proven that the GQP is a morally bankrupt, antidemocratic party dedicated to the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many, who will use any means at their disposal to achieve their ends no matter the cost.
Oh, wait a minute, you thought this was about impeaching trump? That was never going to happen.
Donald Trump and his love for the spotlight made the case. The video evidence is a clear montage of incitement. The managers simply made it impossible to find in his favor and still have dignity. As far as the issue of him being tried after his term, this has no bearing on the task at hand, trying his behavior. As it has already been asked and answered by the current body. It is now a different battle, for a later time.
“Indeed, they reinforced my view that the storming of the Capitol on January 6 was not, as it appeared in real time, simply a bunch of zealous Trump supporters pushed over the edge by a speech that morning but rather multiple, overlapping events—including pre-planned terrorism by various Patriot Militia and white supremacist extremist groups that were clearly operating independently from Trump.”
I had, and continue to hold the same viewpoint. I find it particularly damning to the ex-president, rather than in anyway mitigating.
Everyone was operating independently from Trump, he was merely the instigator, and they his deluded soldiers.
There’s already a term for what Trump did, and its result: stochastic insurrection. Former assistant secretary of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem wrote the following in the aftermath of the El Paso Walmart mass shooting, but it fits Trump’s actions equally well:
What happened January 6 was the culmination of months–really, years–of Trump engaging in “the demonization of groups through mass media and other propaganda that can result in a violent act because listeners interpret it as promoting targeted violence.” He spent a long time setting the kindling, and on January 6 he dropped a match.
Trump is guilty of what the article of impeachment specifies and he should be convicted and barred from ever holding office again, but we all know that won’t happen because the GOP has been entirely consumed by the Trump cult.
Sherlock: We must find the culprit behind the Capitol insurrection!
Watson: The rioters carried Trump banners. Maybe that’s a clue.
Sherlock: But we need actual evidence if we are to find the culprit.
Watson: Trump said to march on the Capitol.
Watson: The insurgents shouted “Trump sent us!”
Sherlock: It remains a quandary, Watson.
Exactly. None so blind as those who will not see. Like those who work in Washington, have no career prospects likely to be advanced by Democrats and need to do backflips to find an accommodation with criminals, seditionists and traitors.
This is why I would have liked a second charge — dereliction of duty, to cover the time between the riot and the statement by the President many hours later.
Some people are going to be willfully obtuse, and refuse to believe anything that requires intent. But hours of doing nothing to calm the situation he created is pretty hard to ignore. Some will manage it, certainly, but it’s harder.
Here’s what the House impeachment managers showed:
1. The Big Lie about the election was stirring up MAGA followers for months, starting even before the election.
2. He was increasingly desperate in his efforts to overturn the election, including pressuring and threatening public officials.
3. Trump knew the potential for violence (the Proud Boys street fights and vandalism on 1/5, the militant occupations of state capitol buildings, the violent online rhetoric, FBI warnings, etc.).
4. Even if the crowd had remained peaceful, he was asking them and others for weeks to interfere with a Constitutional process.
5. He wound up the MAGA crowd and pointed them at the Capitol Building.
6. While the attack on the Capitol unfolded, he did nothing to stop it. Even if he had, it was already too late.
7. Instead of stopping it, his priority was to continue pressuring legislators to undermine the election, and to attack people like his own Vice President for their presumed disloyalty to Trump himself the MAGA version of the Führerprinzip. The two hours of inaction speaks to his state of mind.
I don’t know, if you watched the prosecution’s presentations fully, what there is to argue. Trump’s stated motives, intent, and actions led directly to the attack on the Capitol. He has no grounds to claim he was surprised by what happened. And again, even if it had not been violent, it would have been legally and Constitutionally wrong, wrong, wrong.
And, as others have pointed out, the demonization of the opposition (i.e., anyone who disagreed with him on any point) is the deeper, undeniable context.
@Kingdaddy: Indeed. All of which strikes me as more than adequate to say that he should not be allowed to hold further office.
I thought they made a very powerful case, in fact.
I really don’t understand the point of this post. Dr. Joyner concedes that Trump committed several impeachable acts but isn’t convinced the House managers proved the impeachment charges. He acknowledges that an impeachment proceeding is different from a criminal proceeding (it is FUNDAMENTALLY different) but continues to conflate the two when evaluating the evidence so far presented. He characterizes that evidence as “sensationalistic” although he doesn’t claim that the actual videos were in any way misleading. He claims implicitly that “incitement” has to be instantaneous and ignores the history of Trump’s incitement of his base repeatedly over the last few years. That is like arguing that the arsonist acts on impulse and not with a plan to gather the fuel and then have the requisite ignition sources ready to go. Trump conducted a trial run with regard to his encouragement of Michigan militia activities.
What is the point of this post?
The impeachment evidence dramatically shows the venality of Trump (and his enablers) to the public. If they weren’t watching during the day or ignored the multiple opportunities to view the proceedings later, it speaks more about them than the House managers.
I think, James, you’re applying criminal court standards to a non-judicial process. The question before the Senate is not, “Should we send this man to jail for incitement?” They have no power to do that. The question is, “Is this man fit to hold his office?”, or in this case, “Is this man fit to hold office anytime in the future?”. Innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and to the absolute letter of the law, is not the appropriate standard. This, incidentally, is why we Dems were not ready to remove Clinton from office. The charges had nothing to do with his fitness for office. At least fitness for office is supposed to be the standard.
In the real world the question is one Republican senators care about much more deeply, “Is his unfitness for office sufficiently manifest to my primary voters to remove any risk to my career if I vote to convict?” The answer for almost all the GOPs is going to be, “No.”
The job of Trump’s lawyers is to provide cover for the GOP Senators. So far, they’re failing. So the Senators will be forced to fall back on claiming the proceeding is unconstitutional. It’s all they’ve got. Well, that and banging on the table.
And everyone knew going in that the GOPs wouldn’t convict. After all, they acquitted before, despite there being no legitimate doubt Trump solicited a bribe from Ukraine. So, as with Ukraine, what is the House to do? Ignore a clear impeachable offense or proceed knowing they’ll fail to convict? If they proceed, at least they’re seen as fighting, which Ds need to do. And if they present the case with an eye to the public, maybe they can peel off a few more of those famous “educated suburban” voters.
It was known going in that there were not 17 Republicans who would be open to persuasion even after taking an oath swearing to impartiality before God. (You know, the God that sits in ultimate judgement of them!) So, of course you are right, the impeachment managers were making the case to the public.
And as a case for the public and, critically, for the public record, the impeachment managers did everything they could have possibly done. WSJ editors have declared Trump’s legacy as “forever stained” and that stain will bleed onto every Republican who continues to support him. That won’t matter in the coming weeks because GOP leadership is so cowardly and corrupt, but what little persuadable electorate there is has been ceded to the Democrats in the next cycle. The campaign videos have already been made.
And perchance their God will smite them for their false piety.
“I’m not convinced it wasn’t all just venting from a mentally-impaired, petulant man-child. Regardless, no conspiracy has been charged, much less demonstrated”
Erasing the lines connecting all the dots, is admittingly less convincing of a conspiracy, but as you noted it hasn’t been charged. Noting that he has been inciting his followers prior to the 6th would be an odd defensive strategy. (“Ive yelled fire in several crowded theaters, and the standard is THEATER, not THEATERS”). Clever, but unconvincing.
I believe the standard for mental incapacity, is the absolute inability to know right from wrong, not pathological narcissism, a state of mind responsible for most crimes that have victims.
As I noted in this post and others, I came into the proceedings believing Trump guilty and should be precluded from holding future office. I don’t think he’s blameless.
But a medieval king’s wishes are different than those of a modern President speaking to his supporters.
Convicting Mafia Dons is notoriously difficult, precisely because the standard of proof is high.
Aside from the irrelevant fact that he isn’t guilty of incitement under our criminal code, I agree. The question is whether the presentation persuaded anyone who didn’t already believe Trump had committed impeachable malfeasance going in.
Conviction in an impeachment trial is inherently a matter of politics. All 100 Senators knew that Bill Clinton perjured himself; none of the Democrats thought that merited his removal from office.
I don’t think so. Again, I think Trump should be convicted here. I just think that the impeachment managers presented an inflammatory case rather than a logical one with regard to incitement, the actual charge. I think they do a better case of establishing a pattern of malicious speech that helped create the environment.
“I firmly believe that there were planners and Trump was part of that.”
Of this I have no doubt. It is no coincidence that a prosecutor who made his bones in New York with organized crime cases, and Trump who would never let slide anything remotely unflattering, were not pulling a Vinny “the chin” Gigante style play as a defensive strategy.
They had a plan and they played it out for the world to see.
“It will eventually come out.”
It already is out. It might not ever get prosecuted, conspiracy cases are hard to prove
but it is plainly visible to any that would see. They are not protected by any secrets, only 5th amendment protections.
Sure, but “lying about getting a blowjob is not impeachable” is a much easier to argument to make than “attempting to violently overthrow the government is why pencils have erasers!”
Looking at this from Machiavellian point of view (and if we are not in that world I don’t know what would be), the House managers are on a quest to convince about a dozen of the 44 they would collectively and individually be better off without Trump as a candidate in 2024 than they would be with him. It is naive to view it as a criminal trial to prove incitement, to prove beyond some standard of “reasonable doubt” any of the high crimes and/or misdemeanors. By giving them a preview of the opposition ads in the next rodeo they acted wisely, and they did it about as well as could be done. They might have made the mistake of pointing out they are held in thrall by Trump’s ruthless vindictiveness but they abstained from scolding. Strong defensive knee-jerks are, in the self-enthralled, the rule.
“Matters of politics”are divorced from all considerations of justice, moral equivalence, and proportionality only when We the People let them be so. There’s no reason this political matter has to take place in a vacuum.
I guess you didn’t listen to CSPAN call-ins. I usually can’t listen because the deeply partisan comments that remind me of how deeply divided our country is. But the House managers’ defense seems to be uniting people of both parties in the belief that Trump was a propelling force in the planning and execution of the insurrection. I’m reminded of Princess Diana’s statement that she wanted to be the queen of peoples’ hearts. I think that the impeachment and trial helped make Trump the queen of spades of peoples’ hearts.
I would say by any standard, including that of “beyond all reasonable doubt”, the impeachment managers proved their case. But as others have noted here, proving the case is irrelevant to whether Trump will be convicted. The Senators don’t care about proof, they are only looking for a fig leaf however small to provide them cover for their vote of acquittal. In this case it will be the argument of unconstitutionality of trying a president who is out of office. This will be, what’s called in the trade, as a jury nullification. The jury knows the case is proven but will acquit , knowing there is no appeal.
I do have to give a shoutout out to Rep. Joe Neguse. Having tried hundreds of cases in the last forty plus years, I’ve never seen a more effective summation.
The House didn’t transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate until after Trump left office. Also, the House waited a week before bringing up and voting on the articles to begin with. Many people – including me – thought the House should have impeached Trump immediately. Everyone understood that a Senate trial would take time in the best of circumstances. It was questionable whether the Senate would be able to finish a trial even if the House acted immediately. But when the House failed to act immediately, it ensured that the trial would occur after Trump left office.
So it seems to me that any lack of urgency to act before Trump left office is falls on the House.
To echo others, I think the 2nd impeachment trial is great because it is not intended to change the minds of the Senate who have already promised Trump he will not be convicted, rather it is to remind the public of the cowardice of the GOP in pushing back against the MAGA crowd that literally wanted to kill them on January 06th, 2021.
Also, the trial might be slightly more effective than it would have been in convincing the general public that some of the folks they sent to Congress are cowards because if Trump was live tweeting during the video presentation showing the storming of the Capitol all you would see are tweets that say no proof I actually said the words go attack the Capitol and Congress, and Antifa, Antifa, Antifa, and BLM stormed the Capitol not my very loyal and patriotic MAGA members, it was all Antifa and BLM and Pelosi is trying to distract you from that fact.
And you know what, the general public would see Trump’s tweets and let that act as the final word as to whether or not they felt Trump did anything wrong. It really cannot be overstated how big a deal it was when Trump was de-platformed from Twitter, it really made the world a better place.
Another big deal about Trump not being on twitter is that any Senators or Reps who want his blessing to run for President in 2024 (like Josh Hawley and Kevin McCarthy) cannot simply rely on Trump saying on Twitter hey folks, I met with Hawley today, great guy…go out and vote for him, MAGA! That tweet would have been enough to get the MAGA crowd on Hawley’s side and assure him they have no plans to threaten to Primary him.
Without twitter Hawley, McCarthy, Cruz, etc., will now need to actually make the trek to Mar A Lago, and there will need to be video with audio of their having met with Trump and received his blessing to run for President. The MAGA crowd might even need to see Trump’s ring being kissed like he is a Mafia Don or the Pope (I am less than half-kidding when I say this).
And if you are Josh Hawley, you have to hope that one act of debasement will be enough to get the votes and support you need from the MAGA crowd, imagine if you had to make monthly treks to kiss the Don’s ring.
Hawley wanted the MAGA crowd’s support without doing much work such as having to constantly bend over to kiss Donald’s ring, but now the MAGA crowd sees a lot of folks in DC that are taking actions that they feel betrays their main guy TRUMP, and disses the MAGA movement, and while a lot of the GOP still supports Trump and the MAGA crowd, the MAGA folks just generally see Congress as betraying them by going after Trump, so they will want to see proof that Senator’s and Reps stood in front of Trump and received his stamp of approval.
I suspect that McConnell is thinking to himself, well played Pelosi, well played, you get to make a lot of us look like cowards and you are forcing folks to be seen on camera kissing Trump’s ring if they want his support. I suspect that McConnell can appreciate what Pelosi accomplished with the second trial even if it looks like nothing will have been accomplished by the trial as Trump will still be holed up in Mar A Lago enjoying his time off from having to convince the American public he was actually working for them.
By that standard, you have a point, as they are all unpersuadable. But I think that objectively the evidence presented was quite solid.
Because “Trump shouldn’t be impeached because he’s already out of office” is a much more legitimate argument than the “Trump shouldn’t be impeached because he will be out of office in a matter of days” argument we’d have gotten from the Republicans had the House acted with greater urgency? Yeah, right.
The Republican Senate will acquit him, Trump will claim exoneration, and it will be the Democrats’ fault, because only Democrats have agency.
@Steven L. Taylor:
It’s impossible to reason someone out of something he or she wasn’t reasoned into. [Swift]
That issue was covered in Neguse’s summation. It is worth the time to check that out, like Country Lawyer said.
@Steven L. Taylor:
“My mind is already made up. Don’t try to confuse me with facts.” A large majority of GOP senators.
If you can’t blame Democrats for the behavior of Republicans, what’s the point of even *having* political parties?
I was only commenting on the timing and sequence of events in this impeachment. And the facts of that are that the House didn’t pass the articles for a week and didn’t transmit them to the Senate until after Trump left office. While I’ve consistently said that I think the House should have impeached Trump immediately, I think you both may be interpreting my comments as saying something other or beyond that.
Watching the Republicans present their rebuttal, it’s clear that the the case has been made to them as well . The whatabouism shows that his words were indeed inciting, if more subdued versions of similar speech by prominent democrats were also bad. Of course there needs to be an actual insurrection to of to be guilty, and Trump is all by himself in that minor detail.
Again, it needs to be noted that the House has to follow its own parliamentary rules. And those rules made it effectively impossible to do this (need to find the rules on this, but essentially the Republicans would have been easily able to procedurally block it moving forward). Holding this against the process is much like complaining that Green Lantern Presidenting should work.
Not questionable, essentially impossible as McConnell stated that there would need to be a unanimous vote to reconvene the Senate to hear the trial.
If, and that’s a big “if”, that is true, it also explains why Fox News carried very little of the House managers’ arguements.
How else should one interpret “I think the House should have impeached Trump immediately” than to infer that, had the House done as you say they should have, it would have materially changed even a single facet of the outcome?
The House could have worked through the night to draft the article of impeachment and voted on it in the early hours of January 7th. They could have immediately transmitted the article to the Senate, then tied Mitch McConnell to a chair in his Senate office until he relented to starting the trial as soon as practicable. The impeachment managers could have prepped their case through the weekend, so they could start their presentations first thing Monday morning, January 11th.
The Republicans of the Senate would have shifted their constitutionality argument to a “he’s already deposed” or a “this is a rush to judgement” argument that would be just as spurious. (They were arguing these very points contemporaneously as it is.)
After all the urgency the Democrats could possible summon, ignoring parliamentary rules in the name of justice, the Republican Senate would still acquit him, Trump would still claim exoneration, and it would still have been the Democrats’ fault, because apparently only Democrats have agency.
Indeed. I’d add vile, venal, and corrupt. But again, these are features of the modern GOP, not bugs.
The point of this exercise has never been for the Republicans in the Senate to convict Trump. It is for them to convict themselves, and that is what is going to happen.
I find that the arguments that the Republican Senators are offering have the same overall feel that I got talking to one of my adult students during the Korean Presidential Election when he said
I’m getting the same message from the GOP at large and the Senate in particular.
I don’t think I’d be furrowing my brow about this very much if I were her. Wrinkles become more and more of a problem and one gets older, and we already know how much damage brow furrowing can do. She’ll be better off just complacently accepting that it’s not happening.
@Scott: Yeah. But they also probably also hear you talking about duty, honor, and character and realize that you aren’t the kind of voter that will vote for them anyway, so what point would there be in considering what you think?
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
and even more importantly, he’s OUR strong orange buffoon.
I liked the way the House managers framed it, it slyly leads them towards the epiphany there has never been and may never be a better chance to be rid of Trump and re-gain control of their own fates.
I am not 100% convinced there aren’t 11 more Senators who won’t carp that diem though, the presentation was that good. Must be some planning on not running again, may be a few who aren’t up for re-election for 4 more years and will gamble that all this will have blown over by then. Senators need not fear a small rabid minority primarying them, not in the way Representatives in deep red “safe” districts must. Must be some interesting conversations going on right now.
@mattbernius: This is not the show for me, and I didn’t faithfully watch gavel to gavel coverage, but I will still note that at the irregular hours I was at the gym–I didn’t go the same time every day–Fox News Channel was covering exactly what CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates were covering. Every. Day. Each. Hour. No matter when I came. “Fox News carried very little of the House managers’ arguements” does not appear to me to be the case.
I will note that the Fox network affiliate station for my area was not always presenting the Fox News feed, though. Perhaps this is what you meant.
If the attack on the Capital was a serious as is claimed, and the threat of Trump continuing as President was as serious as claimed, then rules can be changed or temporarily rescinded to deal with a crisis situation. The House, after all, makes its own rules and the Democrats have the majority, and changing the rules only requires a majority. Is that correct?
Secondly, I’ve searched and have not found any evidence of Speaker Pelosi or any House leadership making the argument you are making – that they desired to impeach Trump immediately but were stymied by House rules and that there was no other option but to recess the House for most of a week before voting on impeachment. What rules, specifically, prevent the House from impeaching Trump on the 6th or 7th? What, specifically, prevented the House from altering or rescinding the rules for what Democrats and many others believed was a crisis? If you have something, I would honestly be very interested in seeing it.
Perhaps you should stop inferring and assuming and simply ask next time? It’s the polite thing to do.
As it stands, your inference is not correct. Given political realities and how impeachment works, I was never assured of anything, but as a matter of tactics and utilizing the most effective approach, it seems obvious (to me at least), that the greatest chance for success in an impeachment, in this case, was to act quickly, while the wounds were still raw, and put the onus on the Senate to act. The chances of success were simply much better. I think it was obvious at the time that waiting to act would decrease any opportunity for conviction in the Senate – at the same time I acknowledge that even then the chances were still slim.
Does that clear things up for you?
The point is that Democrats didn’t summon any urgency – which is what I wanted them to do. That you interpret that as a claim that “Democrats don’t have agency” is…strange. I don’t have a charitable interpretation for how you got to that conclusion, but if you can explain your logic, then feel free. My point is, in reality, quite the opposite – Democrats in the House had agency and chose not to exercise it in a timely manner.
A theme I bring up here time and again is the difference between words and actions. Democrats, especially Speaker Pelosi, spoke as if Trump was an immediate and direct threat to the nation. She asked the cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment. She put out a memo stating she spoke with CJCS Miley about Trump and the nuclear football which stated in part:
“Everything we can do” – Except for impeachment, we have to wait a week for that. Because reasons.
” This is why I would have liked a second charge — dereliction of duty, to cover the time between the riot and the statement by the President many hours later.”
Good call . From CNN this evening;
“In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.
McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump’s supporters and begged Trump to call them off”.
Which of course he didn’t, as the historical record reflects. Derelict in his duty, is the best possible description of his actions on the 6th.
The only other choices are cowardice, or instigator.
Really? (according to legend) a medieval king speaking to his knights, is really so different than a modern day president speaking to his Proud Boise or Oath Keeper supporters? You really find a distinction there?
Therein is a huge difference. Mafia Dons veiled instructions (“But I never uttered the words ‘Go kill Sammy the Snitch'”) are put to a legal test of ordering an execution. So yes, notoriously difficult to prove in a judicial proceeding. OTOH, an impeachment trial is not a judicial proceeding, it is a political proceeding. Consequently the standards of proof are not the same. The standards of proof are whatever the Senate accepts. Similarily, the jurisdiction (or constitutionality) of the Senate impeachment trial is whatever the Senate decides it is.
That simple concept seems to have eluded the former president’s attorneys, because they keep coming back to the same concept – that the jurisdiction of the Senate is bound by the same rules of civil and criminal procedure. & that the elements of incitement needed in a criminal trial must be identical to that in an impeachment trial. They also seem to hold to the belief that the president has to be guilty of a crime, in order to be found guilty by an Senate impeachment trial.
Consider this: The President has certain powers that (appear) to be absolute. The president has absolute power to declassify National Security documents. Ergo, the president, in a fit of anger or could declassify and actually hand over to nation-state adversaries thousands of such documents. Would such an action be illegal? Arguably no. OTOH, would the Congress impeach a president for having done so? Would the Senate convict a president for having done so?
Moreover, should a president be immune to impeachment for such legal – but destructive actions?
I would think not.