Democratic House managers methodically presented an airtight case against President Trump last week over the three days they were allotted for opening arguments in the U.S. Senate, proving beyond any doubt the president sought foreign help to cheat in the 2020 election and tried to cover it up.
Then the Senate impeachment hearing was rocked on Sunday night when a leaked manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book confirmed the Democrats’ charges.
“There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the president’s defense,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The evidence and book revelations have done undeniable damage to Trump’s prospects for re-election in November, especially with undecided and moderate Republican voters. In fact, a Fox News poll this week showed that 19% of independent voters want Trump convicted and removed from office.
Realizing they were at a disadvantage last Saturday morning, when there are few television viewers, the president’s lawyers limited their opening arguments to two hours. What they presented was a hodgepodge of disinformation about Trump’s concerns over corruption, “process,” the Mueller report, sharing the financial burden of supporting Ukraine with European countries, and questionable constitutional technicalities.
On Monday, without a lick of irony, Ken Starr, who prosecuted Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice, told the Senate jury obstruction of justice isn’t applicable in Trump’s case. Another attorney suggested that Trump remain in office for “the good of the country.”
Most all of the presentations repeated Trump’s “read the transcript” line. Except, what the White House released is an edited “read out” of the president’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president and not a word-for-word transcript. That’s been hidden away in a top secret server reserved for classified national security documents, according to witnesses.
Trump’s lawyers also accused Democrats of trying to overturn the 2016 election results and “interfering” in the this year’s election, as if the Founders didn’t provide impeachment in the Constitution as a remedy to remove a corrupt president.
The attorneys really couldn’t argue the facts of the case, so on Monday they resorted to smearing Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, a bunch of TV lawyers turning the hearing into a reality television campaign event. It was a travesty, a desperate effort to divert public attention away from the president’s wrongdoing central to the House’s two articles of impeachment.
Biden and his son Hunter are completely irrelevant to the impeachment proceedings against Trump and there is zero evidence either of them did anything wrong. Yet Trump attorney, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, made her presentation sound like it was the two Biden’s on trial, not the president.
“This is also one of the great master fantasies of the Trump campaign, make Hunter Biden a major issue in the 2020 election and Pam Bondi played to one audience, and that was Fox and Trump. That’s all they cared about,” GOP campaign operative Rick Wilson said. “(S)he goes way back with Donald Trump; left office under a cloud when she left the office of attorney general in Florida because she had taken basically a $25,000 bribe from Donald Trump about Trump University and dropped the lawsuit in Florida.”
Bolton reportedly wrote that Trump told him to withhold aid to Ukraine until the country’s new president announced an investigation of the Bidens, adding senior administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were well aware of his scheme. Trump was clearly after a 2020 version of his 2016 “Russia, if you’re listening,” and “Hillary’s e-mails” gambits, but former Trump chief of staff and four-star Marine General John Kelly called Bolton “a man of integrity” and added he believes his story.
Sen. Mitt Romney said Bolton “has relevant testimony” and it is “increasingly apparent it is important to hear” from him. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, facing a tough re-election campaign, declared Bolton’s book “strengthen the case for witnesses.” A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed 75% of Americans want witnesses called.
I suspect if Republicans could vote in secret, the result wouldn’t just be for witnesses and documents, but at least 20 would join with Democrats to dump Trump knowing they’d free themselves of a president holding a metaphorical gun to their heads. But there is no secrecy. Thus, if they don’t want their “heads on pikes,” as one Trump insider quaintly put it to CBS News, they’ll cower in the corner and vote to acquit the president.
In the months ahead, I expect a lot more about the president’s malfeasance will come to light, something many Republicans in Congress reportedly fear more than a Trump tweet; a continuous drip-drip-drip of credible evidence that Trump’s personality cult will reject, but Democrats will use as ammunition in the fall to take down the president and vulnerable House and Senate Republicans.