This post is, in part. an example of the power of media reports to enflame passions. I’d been thinking all along that it was a grave mistake for Democrats not to call witnesses. Every expert I admire felt the same way. I woke up late, to the notification of breaking news from Jeff Bezos and immediately had to update the post I began in the wee hours of last night/this morning:
I was glad the Democrats had decided to prove their case by using sworn, live testimony to demonstrate that the Trump defense team attacks on crucial evidence (e.g., their claim that Trump had no idea he was sentencing Pence to death by lynch mob when he tweeted to his followers to gently take care of him, that he was horrified by the violence he was enjoying on live TV and immediately tried to stop it, that the trial is not about Trump’s long, coordinated $54,000,000 Stop the Steal campaign but the meaning of the word “fight” on January 6, etc. ) were easily disprovable lies.
In a case where one side sticks to the facts and the other side keeps doubling down on lies, and calls the truthful presenters of evidence liars, a few strategic witnesses– Republicans who spoke to Trump during the riot, an aide instructed by Trump to stand down and stand by while Trump enjoyed the riot on TV, a member of the mob, a Capitol police officer, an aide in the room with Trump as he called people locked down in the Senate, pressuring them to block the certification while his crowd ran wild and he ignored repeated cries for help — is the only way correct the record, for history — if not to actually get 17 votes against the leader from his shameless cult of personality.
In hindsight I’m glad I missed the Democrats latest real-time display of spineless passivity (truly the principled Weimar Republic move, to back off when your unscrupulous enemy goes into a rage) and “sticking to the plan” no matter what strategy the enemy employs, no matter what the guaranteed outcome of not changing tactics.
I understand the Senate chamber became very ugly after the Democrats announced that Trump’s lawyers might miss their planes home, that they intended to continue fighting, with fact witnesses, to prove their case. Trump loves ugly, it’s as much his brand as fake gold. Ugly always plays to his advantage.
There was undoubtedly much outrage from Trump’s party of grievance, and no doubt more snarling, terrible threats to paralyze Joe Biden’s (and America’s) urgent agenda. Why not call Speaker of the House aspirant Kevin McCarthy as a hostile witness to deny under oath that Trump told him to fuck off during a shouting match when McCarthy called to ask Trump to call off the rioters? There would be nobody to block his subpoena the way Trump did for witnesses whose testimony could prove inconvenient, 130 times during his run. In time, the Supreme Court may rule that it was illegal for Trump to have done that, but why split hairs?
Instead, here you go, the end of the strong evidence-based fight and final surrender to the anti-fact party, sticking to the opinion that Trump won in a landslide, in the name of not dragging things out. Put this in the history books as an illustration, one screen of Bezos updates a few hours ago. It was this snapshot of apparent spineless capitulation by Democratic shot-callers that made my blood boil (read bottom to top):
To paraphrase Michelle Obama: when they go low, we make a strong, principled objection and then they lynch us, the bastards! We’ll repeat all of our strong, fact-based arguments again in closing, the ones that were all denounced as partisan lies by Trump’s hastily assembled legal team, and let the Senate vote as it will.
The truth, of course, was not all contained in the snapshot above, this article captures much more of the nuance of the debate within Democratic ranks. (again, sorry for Bezos’s pay wall).
The remainder of this post is from late last night/early this morning, when I still had a shred of hope the Democrats would actually fight like hell (Trump claims they always fight to the death, the truth is, he is the only one willing to have his followers fight to their deaths):
In the name of trying to save what was left of my sanity in these final days of American democracy, I decided to sit out Trump’s lawyers’ arguments yesterday. Their job today was simply to give a fig-leaf of cover to at least 35 Republicans to vote to acquit Donald J. Trump of orchestrating the riot at the Capitol to Stop the Steal. I knew they’d make desperate arguments, was fairly certain they would resort to lies and name-calling.
To be fair, Trump’s hastily assembled legal team have an impossible job actually countering the strong case presented that Donald Trump, after spending months, (and $50,000,000 in ad buys), claiming the rigged election he won in a landslide was stolen from him, after repeatedly calling for his followers to assemble on January 6, for a “wild” rally he funded with another $3,500,000 of donated funds , on the day the vote total would become official and binding, and fired them up with 70 minutes of outrage about the stolen sacred landslide victory, sent them to the Capitol to fight to Stop the Steal, then did nothing for hours as they rampaged, attacked police, killing one and wounding 140 others, and vandalized the Capitol as they called for traitors’ blood, including the obsequious Mike Pence’s.
I figured I’d let Mehdi Hasan, Glenn Kirschner, Heather Cox Richardson and the late night comedians give me the selected highlights and lowlights after the defense rested.
Then in the car with Sekhnet late in the afternoon, I heard some of the questions and “answers” provided by Trump’s crack legal team, to give cover to Republicans so they could acquit their disgraced leader with a clear conscience. I think these five minutes sum Trump’s defense up pretty well.
Freshman Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, graduate of prestigious Stanford University and then Yale Law School, submitted a question so brilliant, I am still not sure exactly what it means. He posed a Zen koan of a puzzler:
If the Senate’s power to disqualify is not derivative of the power to remove a convicted president from office, could the Senate disqualify a sitting president but not remove him or her from office?
(as his office Senate website notes, he and his wife are “the proud parents of two young children, Elijah, Blaise, and Abigail.”)
The president’s feisty new lead attorney, Michael van der Veen, was all over that clever, key question with his answer:
One more of van der Veen’s answers, responding to whether the ex-president’s claim that he’d won re-election in a landslide was a Big Lie, surely also greatly pleased his new boss, Mr. Trump. It is worth hearing in its entirety. Van der Veen reframed the question and told the nasty questioner in no uncertain terms what the real question was.
It won’t surprise you to learn that, according to Mr. van der Veen, the real perpetrators of the Big Lie are the impeachment managers, who claim, with zero evidence, that the Mr. Trump is a big liar with very deep pockets who organized, funded and whipped up an angry crowd with classic First Amendment speech. The riot had nothing to do with anything Mr. Trump said, in any way. And that’s the real issue before the Senate, zero evidence presented that anything the president said on January 6 was inciteful (which sounds just like “insightful”) of anything bad. It was pre-planned, as Democrats admit, so how could Trump’s protected free speech have had anything to do with it? Plus, he pointed out, the Democrats are the liars and cheaters who famously contest virtually every election, like they did in 2016. He did everything in his two and a half minutes but answer the question.
I’m glad I didn’t listen to the rest of this shit, most of it produced for dissemination to the faithful on Fox, Breitbart, OANN, Newsmax, Der Sturmer and so forth. But, as always, historian Heather Cox Richardson had the day’s best take on what happened in American politics — her report last night had some wild twists and turns and a few great surprises.
Subpoena Kevin McCarthy as a hostile witness, to verify, under oath, his screaming match with the ex-president during the riot, as Trump focused on stopping the steal and McCarthy snapped at him that he had to end the fucking riot, people were getting killed?
The statement explained: “When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’ ” (Her italics.)source
McCarthy indeed, shortly after Biden was inaugurated, made an urgent pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago days later to kiss his boss’s ring and so on, but on the day in question, he tried to do the right thing. Make him admit that, during the riot, Trump told him “well, Kevin, I guess there are people much more upset about this stolen election than you are” .
Or, take what you imagine is the high road in a fight to the death where your determined enemy delights in the thought of drinking your blood. And has demonstrated its taste for it.
Tip of the hat to Nancy and Chuck Chuck Bo-Buck.
People involved in organizing the January 6 “Stop the Steal” protests that led to a deadly riot at the Capitol building received more than $3.5 million from the Trump campaign and its associated fundraising committees, a Wednesday report from the Center for Responsive Politics found.
… BIG NUMBER: $771 million. That’s how much the Trump Make America Great Again Committee spent through a shell company called American Made Media Consultants LLC, OpenSecrets found. The New York Times noted in December that the LLC, which at one point counted Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior campaign advisor Lara Trump among its board members, has been criticized for deliberately concealing the recipients of campaign funds. Last summer, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the Trump campaign violated campaign finance laws by “laundering” money through firms run by campaign officials.source