The Trial of Trump
“You will not hear any member of the team representing former Pres. Trump say anything but in the strongest possible way denounce the violence of the rioters,” — Bruce Castor, Junior. Defending Trump at the Senate trial.
“So go home. We love you. You’re very special.” — Trump, to those same rioters.
If the GOP had just 17 Senators with integrity, courage, and patriotism, Trump’s long criminal career would have died this morning. It remains to be seen if 1 in 3 Republicans has any personal decency left, but in the eyes of the public, the already deeply-unpopular ex-President took a fatal blow today.
The House managers prosecuting Trump began with a ten minute video of the riots, juxtaposed with Trump’s speech urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight to save our country.” If you’ve been in a cave and not seen it, you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtnBvOqEgbw&feature=youtu.be It’s extraordinary. It’s irrefutable proof of Trump’s complicity and guilt.
Jamie Raskin, leader of the House management team, followed it with what turned into a breaktakingly brilliant exposition of whether the trial was constitutional, and why it was so utterly necessary (diplomatically omitting the large possibility that a large majority of Republican Senators will rise to the absolute minimum of civic duty expected of every loyal citizen in this country) He began by saying, “You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”
“President Trump may not know much about the Framers, but they knew a lot about him,” Raskin explained how the founders, Hamilton in particular, realized that democracy would inevitable produce corrupt fools and thieves. Hamilton wrote, “”When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper . . . despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” Trump’s impeachment team were dryly aware of it, with one quipping that he was going to warn the Senate that they stood to reap the whirlwind, a biblical allusion, but discovered the phrase had “already been taken.” It stood out as the only witty or clever thing the Trump representatives had to say today.
Another House management member, Joe Neguse, observed that not only was there precedent for impeaching officials after they had left office, but coined an arresting phrase that is sure to stick in the public mind: “The January Exception.” The premise is that if you can’t try officials for high crimes and misdemeanors committed in the waning days of their terms, then any official will feel free to commit such misdeeds and then just run out the clock, knowing that once out of office, they couldn’t be punished.
David Cicilline then noted that Trump was continuing to insist the election was stolen after the riots, showing an utter lack of remorse for the violence and damage done in his name. One of the most memorable moments in his presentation came when he said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” Every time I read that tweet, it chills me to the core. The president of the United States sided with the insurrectionists.
Raskin then took over, recounting that the day before the assault on the Capitol, he had just buried his son. “the saddest day of my life.” Raskin had brought his young daughter with him to the Capitol to share her grief and loss, and after the frightening hours they were separated, told her, “it would not be like this again” when she returned.
Raskin, now crying, said his daughter told him, “Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.” It was one of the most profoundly moving moments I’ve ever seen in Congress. I was crying.
The Trump team seemed at a loss after that presentation. Bruce Castor argued that the trial was an attack on free speech, even though the trial is on incitement to riot, which has never been protected by the First Amendment. He made the truly bizarre statement that if the Senate really felt Trump had done that, they should arrest him. Something the Senate isn’t empowered to do. All they can do is try him—which Castor seemed to think was overstepping. His presentation was a bit of a mess, really. He reminded me of nothing so much as a schoolboy giving a book report on a book he had not read. Only where a kid might have to figure out how Captain Ahab met with a fishing accident for five minutes, Castor had to drone on for a full hour with nothing to say, which he said, over and over. Even Alan Dershowitz, a master of barristeric obfuscation, couldn’t make head nor tails of what Castor was saying. There’s an unconfirmed report that Trump, watching from Mir-A-Lago, was screaming in impotent rage at his performance. Rage and fear look good on the face of Donald J. Trump.
David Schoen then took the floor, arguing that convicting Trump would not unify the country, but could even lead to civil war. Apparently someone forgot to tell him that many of the clowns attacking the Capitol wore T-Shirts that said “Civil War II: January 6th, 2021”. He then proceeded to flat-out lie, saying that Nancy Pelosi had demanded the trial take place after Trump left office. I would have loved to see the expression on Mitch McConnell’s face when he said that.
Schoen, an observant Jew, had brought his religion to the forefront already, first demanding that the trial be recessed on Friday for his Sabbath, and when the Senate acceded, bizarrely backtracked and said it was ok to have the Friday session. During the session today, he put his hand on his head when sipping from a glass of water, observing his belief that the head must be covered when drinking. Normally it wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but combined with the weird backtracking and his performance today, it probably left a lot of Jews in the country wishing he hadn’t made his Judaism such a prominent feature in a trial that is bound to put him in a bad light.
He tried claiming the assault was a hoax, made by Hollywood to put Trump in a negative light. No, really.
Castor returned, continuing a policy of trying to defuse the interest in the case by being as soporifically incoherent as possible.
It was the most one-sided set of opening arguments since Godzilla vs. Bambi.
Donald Trump may be the defendant, but it’s the GOP who are really on trial.
Today did them no favors.