Senate Impeachment Trial: Day 3

Thursday in “Impeachment Ville:” What a day!

There are a plethora of things to mention about the activities that occurred in the Senate Chamber on Day 3 of the Senate Impeachment Trial. Sadly, though, none of those things we will say have anything to do with any evidence of President Trump’s wrongdoing (or alleged wrongdoing) that supposedly are responsible for bringing us to this place.

House Management Leader Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took center-stage most of the day as he has for the first two days of the trial. He consumed almost all of the time allotted for House Democrats to present their case to the Senators who will vote later on the removal of President Trump from office. But they also “danced the dance of politics” before the television cameras that beamed their impeachment charade to all Americans who think enough about the impeachment trial to take time from their busy lives to look-in.

Thursday’s Democrat presentation bordered on a story wrapped in desperation. No one knows better than the House Managers that their lack of evidence places them in a spot of almost inevitable failure in their impeachment attempts. To their credit, however, they attempted to stay on point: except for Mr. Schiff. He wandered all around the world, speculating that “we must take care of Ukraine so they will continue to help us defeat the Russians over there so that we will never need to defeat the Russians over here.” Huh?

Several times that desperation became really obvious — so evident because they actually journeyed back to the Mueller Report to cherrypick a few salient points that although they were part of Mr. Mueller’s exoneration of President Trump for allegedly colluding with the Russians in 2016, Mr. Schiff felt there was still enough damning information in the report to fuel an impeachment.

Points from the Mueller Report rang on mostly deaf ears in the Senate.

Let’s look at the Day 3 bullet points, and then I’ll share a significant letter with you.

Bullet Points: Day 3

  • House Managers recalled the testimony in the House Judiciary Committee hearing of Harvard law professor Noah Feldman. You may remember that in that hearing, Feldman (as did others) gave a passionate list of justifications for the impeachment of President Trump, none of which were based on any factual information or data. Each was exhaustive, too. More importantly, each was strictly his opinion. Schiff, as usual, drew on those Feldman justifications even though they were entirely unfactual and opinion.
  • Many wondered if there would be any pushback from House Manager’s aggressive and often angry Senate presentations. The first sign of a backlash among that critical group came Thursday when Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) a moderate member of the conference, said she was offended by House manager Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s assertion that GOP members voting against allowing new testimony and evidence were engaged in a “cover-up.” “I took it as offensive,” she told reporters. “As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended.”
  • Content if the trial on Thursday became so benign that House Manager Hakeem Jeffries at one point told a story of one American who approached him upset about something that Jeffries thought he wanted Democrats to investigate regarding the Trump trial. Instead, the man said, “Someone voted against Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot.” Former New York Yankees great Derek Jeter was one of three baseball players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame recently. Jeter’s election was one vote short of being unanimous. (That had a lot to do with impeachment, right?)
  • Wednesday before leaving Davos, Switzerland, for his return to Washington, President Trump was asked by a reporter if he had considered attending the impeachment trial as a visitor. The President replied that he might do that, but he was certain his defense team would frown on his doing so. Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) reached out to the President and asked the President to be the Senator’s guest in the visitor gallery.
  • Rep. Val Demings takes the stand to discuss the U.S. obligation to provide Ukraine with aid to “counter Russian aggression and shorten the war in the East.” Fifteen thousand people have been killed and 1.4 million displaced as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, according to Demings. She says the U.S. has provided $1.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014 and another $1.5 billion in other assistance. What she did NOT mention was that the Obama Administration routinely held foreign aid (as does EVERY president) in negotiations for those countries’ actions. Obama withheld aid:Pakistan — $800 million; Colombia — $450 million; Phillipines — $433 million; Egypt — $260 million; Honduras — $30 million; Mexico — $26 million. Of course, Obama’s VP “threatened” to withhold $1 billion of aid to Ukraine. House managers failed to mention any of these.
  • House managers have used just 16 of their agreed-to 24 hours to present their impeachment case. Therefore, the floor is theirs again Friday. The President’s legal team is currently scheduled to begin their defense on Saturday. However, there is some conversation about waiting through the weekend and starting on Monday.

Summary

In closing, I am going to read a letter written regarding impeachment. It’s incredible in content, its spirit, and its call to action. It’s a letter you “Need” to hear.

I’ll tell you who wrote the letter after I complete its reading.

“Mr. President, this is a day of solemnity and awe. I rise humbled that we are participating in a process that was mapped out more than 200 years ago by the Founding Fathers and that the words we say today will be looked upon by historians and future Congresses for guidance. That is quite a responsibility.

Growing up, our country and its government seemed like a mighty oak — strong, rooted, permanent, and grand.

It has shaken me that we stand at the brink of removing a President — not because of a popular groundswell to remove him and not because of the magnitude of the wrongs he’s committed — but because conditions in America has made it possible for a small group of people who hate the President and hate his policies to very cleverly and very doggedly exploit the institutions of freedom that we hold dear and almost succeed in undoing him.

Most troubling to me are the conditions that allowed this to happen, and the small group who precipitated them.

It is the small group of lawyers and zealots who decided that they would invest time and money to exploit a weakness that people knew the President had, find a case to air it publicly, and use it to bring him down.

What is so profoundly disturbing is not that this small group of haters hatched this plan. It’s that this group — or any group equally dogmatic and cunning — came so close to succeeding.

If you had asked me one year ago if people like this with such obvious political motives could use our courts, play the media and tantalize the legislative branch to achieve their ends of bringing down the President, I would have said “not a chance — that doesn’t happen in America.”But it almost happened. And in the future it could be a left wing zealous organization or right wing group or some other group with strong narrow beliefs.

We’ve got to understand how we’ve reached the point where any small group could have so much power.

The President is an extraordinary but flawed individual. But so are many other revered leaders, including other presidents. And when we knew about their flaws or suspected as much, we didn’t make that a cause celebre — not because we condoned whatever flaw they might possess, but because we realize that none of us are superhuman.

We are all flawed. “Let him without sin cast the first stone” is no more a cliche today than it was almost 2,000 years ago.

This democracy would not exist if only the perfect among us were allowed to contribute.

There are many of us in politics and many in the media who carry on and opine as if we and they are perfect.

We’re not.

Maybe we’re seeking an impossible duality. We demand, as we should, that our elected leaders be held to the highest standard. And then we shine the brightest light imaginable to expose those who don’t measure up.

But, of course, no one can meet that standard, particularly under the blinding bright glare of  21st century light.

There is a fundamental question our society must address — how do we keep our standards high but at the same time accept, as the Founding Fathers did, that our leaders are only human.

Related to this is a second underlying cause that has allowed this small group of zealots to almost undo the President.

It seems we have lost the ability to forcefully advocate for our position without trying to criminalize or at least dishonor our adversaries — often over matters having nothing to do with the public trust. And it is hurting the country; it is marginalizing and polarizing the Congress.

In today’s environment, it would be easy, but wrong, to lay the blame for this predicament simply on a narrow band of zealots out to destroy this President.

It would be easy, but wrong, to say that the only reason the President survived this scandal is a strong economy.

What began with Watergate as a solemn and necessary process to force a President to adhere to the rule of law, has grown beyond our control so that now we are routinely using criminal accusations and scandal to win the political battles and ideological differences we cannot settle at the ballot box.

Both parties are to blame.

In conclusion, we have all been shaken by these last six months, but there are two glowing beacons of optimism — two strong oaks that still stand mightily.

The first is the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Every year I live, and every year I serve I am ever increasingly amazed at their wisdom and genius.

They didn’t know there would be political parties, but a simple mathematical fraction — two-thirds — a two-thirds majority in the “cooling saucer of the Senate” meant that removal of a President from office would have to involve more than the whims of a narrow band of politicians.

We walked up to the abyss and it was simply the elegant mathematics of the Founding Fathers that kept us from going over.

They have pulled America back from the brink of future chaos that might occur if we remove this President. God bless the Founding Fathers.

The second oak is the American people. They are not necessarily as informed as we are on the intricate particularities of this case. They didn’t follow every twist and turn.

But they know that any President’s wrongdoing reflects human frailty rather than malevolence or any abuse of power or duty. They know from their common sense wisdom that this does not rise to the level of impeachment and removal either as defined by the Constitution or as defined by their common sense of justice, fairness, and right and wrong. They know that if they were in the President’s shoes, they aren’t sure how they would react.

Many of my colleagues excoriate any mention of the polls. But my colleagues on this side of the aisle have cited the polls not as politicians putting their fingers in the wind, but as a measure of what the American people feel.

In the eyes of the Founding Fathers, that is a legitimate consideration in deciding whether a President should be removed. And for six months, the American people in every segment of the country have been unwavering in their view that the President should not be removed.

They remain unshakable in their belief that the Congress, the Courts, and the press had gone too far. They are the only, truly rational actor in the whole drama. God bless them.

The people and the founders are the twin oaks that stand tall amidst this sad episode of American history. But if the cycle of political recrimination and scandalizing continues, the American people will become more alienated and cynical and shaken by the political process and they, too, will lose faith in the great instrument the Founding Fathers have given us.

If it gets to the point where the American people become too cynical we could lose it all.

After this is over let’s end the recriminations. Let’s not blame each other. Let’s instead think about what brought us to this point.

Let us shake hands and say we are now going to forego bringing down people for political gain. Let us understand that our leaders have foibles, and though we must be held to a higher standard, let us not make it a sport to expose those weaknesses.

The American people have saved us from ourselves. Let’s not ask them to do it too many more times.”

The letter was written in 1999 by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton!

Amazing similarities to that trial and this one, right? Very different attitudes though!

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