Senate Republicans: Do Your Job!

The wonderful Yiddish word chutzpah defies easy translation into English. Like many Yiddish words, it is best defined by a story. And, the classic chutzpah story is about the boy who kills both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso

The classic definition, that is, until Republicans came up with a novel approach to the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Republican senators complained frequently that House managers presented nothing new. “They’re really not bringing forth new information,” said Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. “I’ve  not heard anything new,” commented Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott.

That is, to say the least, a bit rich. Barrasso and Scott — along with the other 51 Republican senators — voted multiple times so far to block new evidence and witness testimony, guaranteeing that the House managers would not be able to present any new information. It is chutzpah to deny prosecutors the right to bring new information, then turn around and excoriate the prosecutors for not bringing new information.

John Bolton, former national security adviser

The ban on witnesses appearing in the Senate trial may change with the stunning leak to The New York Times of damaging information from a draft of a book by John Bolton, the former national security adviser. According to the manuscript, Trump told Bolton that he wanted to freeze security assistance to Ukraine until that country announced investigations into the Bidens. Bolton’s description of Trump’s intentions undermines a key defense offered by Trump’s lawyers: The claim that stalling Ukrainian aid was separate from the president’s desire that Ukraine investigate alleged corruption by the Bidens. Bolton’s allegation also undercuts the argument made by House Republicans that Ukraine received the money in the end. Instead, Bolton’s assertion supports the contention of Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, that the administration released the Ukrainian funds only because it got caught. 

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, one of the few Republicans open to calling new witnesses

The Bolton bombshell puts additional pressure on Senate Republicans to change course and agree to call witnesses. Mitt Romney of Utah, always considered one of the few Republican senators who might vote for new testimony, says the dramatic new information makes it “increasingly likely” that the Senate will vote to call Bolton as a witness. Maine Republican Susan Collins tweeted a statement that reports of Bolton’s draft “strengthen the case for witnesses.” 

Senate Republicans have been loath to call new witnesses because all of the likely outcomes from new evidence are bad for Trump and the Republican Party. One possible but extremely unlikely result of new testimony is that it would be exculpatory. A second possible outcome is that witnesses confirm Trump’s guilt. Bolton’s testimony would have to corroborate his manuscript, which points to the president’s guilt. Bolton also names names, implicating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in either the plot to deny Ukraine aid or the subsequent coverup. If Bolton testifies and cites them, the Senate would have to subpoena Pompeo, Barr, and Mulvaney. They would either confirm what he wrote or choose to perjure themselves. That is a serious crime, so taking one for the boss is not likely in this scenario. New witness testimony logically points to a yes vote on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. Finally, a Senate vote to call witnesses probably would lead to administration stonewalling, setting up a fight between the executive and legislative branches of government. If the administration loses all challenges to congressional subpoenas, which is what should happen, but then refuses to allow its officials to testify, senators would have no choice but to vote yes on article two, obstruction of Congress. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Republicans may continue to deny the obvious and either vote to hear new testimony and ignore it or refuse to even hear it. That would lead to the outcome Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been maneuvering toward all along: A quick vote to acquit. Such a head-in-the-sand decision by the GOP would be a short-run victory but a long-run nightmare. More information like Bolton’s will be revealed in coming days, weeks, and months, which will embarrass Republicans who vote to acquit a guilty president. 

Truth is a tricky thing to squelch in a democracy. As Schiff told the Senate last week, “The truth is going to come out. Indeed, the truth has already come out. But more and more of it will…. And the only question is, do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?… You should want the whole truth to come out. You should want to know about every player in this sordid business…. [And] I think the public has a right to know.” The evidence — already more than compelling — will continue to pile up and every senator who votes to exonerate will be asked for the rest of his or her career to explain that vote. Here is hoping those careers are short.

Republicans may use one more ploy to exonerate the president. They may retreat to the argument that this is an election year, so let the voters decide. That is ludicrous since Trump’s attempt to manipulate the results of the coming election is the whole point of his strong-arming Ukraine. Also, the notion that lawmakers should not speak for the voters is absurd. Speaking for the voters is precisely what lawmakers are elected to do. It is their job. It does not stop being their job in an election year. The Framers did not place a time limit on impeachment. They did not put in the Constitution a clause stipulating that Congress can impeach in years one, two, and three of a presidency but not in year four. 

So, again: Senators stop the chutzpah. Listen to the evidence and follow where it takes you, which is toward only one conclusion: The removal of Donald Trump from office. Do your job!

Posted January 28, 2020

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