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The Senate prepares for a mock Trump trial with a stacked deck of jurors

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Terry H. Schwadron
Terry H. Schwadron

Donald Trump now says he wants a public trial, an impeachment trial—so long as he has loaded dice among majority Republican senators.

Sure, and I want to go to Vegas with an iron-clad agreement to win at the gaming tables.

Trump called into a Fox & Friends airing to argue that a trial would clear him, of course, and allow the public airing of his grievances about 2016 election interference by Ukraine—the stuff of conspiracy theorists—and to bring the real villains, the Bidens, to account.

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I have questions.

Neither Republican nor Democratic senators have been holding back much on their opinions about the outcome of an impeachment trial unless they are Republicans facing a tough re-election in states less tomato-red than Kansas or Mississippi. And so, as the senators split exactly along party lines on the question of whether Trump should remain in office, we’re approaching the idea of an impartial jury trial as if we’re walking into the back room at Rick’s Casablanca bar.

Can you imagine any other jury members meeting with the accused perp before the trial begins?

Any minute now, we can expect that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will start begging futilely for various rule requests from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about how to conduct such a trial before Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Then McConnell can quote the very imperialism he and others saw in Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) running the House Intelligence Committee and simply sit on his hands—or his majority’s hands.

But by then, it almost assuredly will be too late, since key Republicans already have started meeting with Trump in the White House to discuss just what kind of an impeachment trial he would like to see. Can you imagine any other jury members meeting with the accused perp before the trial begins to determine who they would like to see as witnesses, to pre-determine how many days the trial will last, to see if their rules comport with the accused criminal’s idea of what he would like to see happen?

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In the Senate

The amazing thing is that the Senate seems to lack 51 votes to simply decide magically that the charges that Trump abused his office and obstructed justice in seeking to hold up a White House meeting and military aid for agreement by a vulnerably new Ukrainian president to commit publicly to open investigations for Trump’s personal political advancement. Republicans like Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joanie Ernst of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado apparently are making it known behind the scenes that they at least want the cover of an actual trial, making instant dismissal impossible.

Instead we will look forward to about two weeks of trial, according to Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), just long enough for Republicans to call and unmask the whistleblower, to confront Schiff for perceived, unduly aggressive handling of committee hearings and unfounded reports that he had met with the whistleblower and Joe Biden, whose candidacy for president was the target of Trump’s demand for Ukrainian investigation.

I’m waiting to hear Schumer at least try to challenge the impartiality of Senate jurors. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) may even be a witness for Trump, to report on meetings he had with Ukrainian leaders. How does he then sit as a juror on the validity of his own testimony? For that matter, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was in some of the same meetings, with the opposite takeaway, also sitting as a juror.

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Five senators are running to be the Democratic opponent to Trump. Do we truly expect that they will be impartial here?

Where’s the Outrage?

What is startling in these prospects for a circus trial is exactly the vehemence of the House Intelligence Committee Republicans who attacked that body’s attempt at fact-finding for failing to include their partisan efforts to unearth the whistleblower and call the Bidens. This is exactly the same, with a different majority rule—and now it is perfectly fine?

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Since the outcome of the trial is a foregone conclusion, should we already be focusing more on what happens to the underlying Constitutional principles here? Are the Republicans at all worried about the expanding power base of presidential reach and the diminution of Congressional oversight? Are they prepared to accept that when a Democrat wins next November?

Worse, are the rest of us ready for a Trump re-election with an impeachment victory under his belt to resist any questions about what his administrations do with policy or personnel appointments?

Oh, I know, the check here is that should Trump win re-election, he is sure to run afoul of the Constitution again—and become the first president to be impeached twice.

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