Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Day 1 – Yes, It’s Constitutional

Via the Washington Post:

The Senate voted along mostly partisan lines Tuesday to pursue Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, after hours of arguments and the airing of a gripping documentary of the deadly Capitol riot that followed Trump’s inflammatory rally on Jan. 6.

Aided by the graphic 13-minute video that spliced violent images of the Capitol siege with Trump’s rhetoric, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) and other impeachment managers delivered an impassioned account of the physical and emotional trauma to lawmakers, police, staffers and local residents. They said there was no “January exception” in the Constitution — meaning that a president couldn’t escape accountability through impeachment just because he had left office before the trial.

“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” Raskin said of Trump’s behavior.

Trump’s lawyers countered that the trial — the first proceeding of its kind for an ex-president — would be unconstitutional because Trump was no longer in office, even if he was impeached by the House before leaving. One of the attorneys acknowledged that the former president lost the election, undercutting one baseless claim that Trump has spread since Nov. 3.

The Senate swiftly voted 56 to 44 against Trump. The proceedings will resume at noon Wednesday.

The Republicans who voted against the constitutional resolution is summed up succinctly by a cartoon by Adam Douglas Thompson in The New Yorker:

Charlie Pierce:

At the end of the first day of the Second Impeachment, the Senate took a vote in which its members decided, by a 56-44 count, to allow the trial to proceed. Mitch McConnell voted “no,” thereby giving up one of the Senate’s important constitutional prerogatives. Also voting for the trial to end were Senators Rob Portman, Richard Shelby, and Chuck Grassley, none of whom are running for re-election, and, therefore, have nothing at all to lose, but all of whom now leave office reckoned to be big piles of that out of which one cannot make chicken salad. Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, was the only surprise. Earlier, he had voted not to proceed with the trial. On Tuesday, he reversed himself and voted with the majority.

As for the legal beagling, it’s hard to compare the two teams of lawyers because they appeared to be arguing from separate dimensions. The House managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, opened up with a truly terrifying collage of videos made in the middle of the January 6 insurrection. (Observers in the Senate chamber noted that several Republican senators, including Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, pretty much ignored the presentation.) As a statement of what the Republicans are choosing to overlook in their abject cowardice, that video was more eloquent than any argument Raskin et al. could make. However, both he and Joe Neguse of Colorado, the latter of whom got to be the civics professor of the prosecution, were clear and cogent and drew clear lines from the riotous mob to the previous administration*, largely by pointing out that the violence came not from the speech the former president* delivered on January 6, but from a campaign against the election itself that the former president* had conducted beginning last summer. Not that any Republican cared to look, but the historical record is now irrefutable. The insurrection began long before the windows broke.

On the other side, we had Bruce Castor and David Schoen, who apparently beamed in from Dimension X. Castor started out trying to schmooze the senators and then went woolgathering all over the lot. If there was a theme to Castor’s presentation, it was pitched at a frequency that I couldn’t hear. Schoen at least was able to get from A to B to C without breaking his leg chasing butterflies. Schoen leaned hard into Tuesday’s fundamental question: whether this impeachment is illegitimate because the former president* is not president* anymore, although constitutional scholars from across the ideological divide have expressed the opinion that this is all hooey. He also was obviously tasked with being the defense team’s ambassador to The Base. (It was Schoen who got the phrase “cancel culture” into the record of the trial, for which he may get a prize.) But to sum up the defense case is to point out that the lawyers didn’t even address the events presented in the video. Their case was bloodless and incoherent. The riot was neither.

You cannot escape the images of the riot and insurrection even though I tried by turning to other channels or just turning off the TV. They are still there. Certainly Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio would rather talk about anything else.

Probably the most egregious was Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) who told the New York Times that Trump deserves a “mulligan” for exhorting the crowd to violence.

“Look, everyone makes mistakes, everyone is entitled to a mulligan once in a while,” he said. “And I would hope — I would expect that each of those individuals would take a mulligan on each of those statements.”

Seriously. And I am very sure that the other 43 Republicans who voted against the resolution think the same thing: that Trump and his cop-killer crowd should get a pass.

We can’t riot against them. But we can make sure that the next time there is an election, they won’t get a mulligan.