President Donald Trump is right. Impeachment was a hoax and a sham. The impeachment trial, that is.
Who ever heard of a trial with no witnesses, and a jury where the foreman announced ahead of time that he would work with the accused’s legal team toward acquittal?
Wednesday, Feb. 5, is a day that will live in infamy. It’s the day when 52 U.S. senators voted that it’s OK for a president to do as he pleases — that as long as he has a majority of support in the Senate, he won’t be held accountable for abusing his authority.
They chose partisanship over patriotism.
But there is one shining star in the madness. Though U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff warned that any senator who dared to vote for conviction could risk having his “head on a pike,” there was one senator who had the courage to uphold his oath and vote for conviction on the first article of impeachment.
History will look kindly on U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also the former governor of Massachusetts.
In an emotional speech before Wednesday’s vote, Romney called Trump’s actions “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of oath of office that I can imagine.”
He called out Trump for abusing his office in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, who is running for president in the Democratic primaries.
“The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said. “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.”
Romney said he was guided by his faith and conscience. “Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?” Romney said during his speech.
And, as Schiff predicted, Trump and his supporters pounced, calling Romney a RINO and a Democratic operative. At a prayer breakfast of all places, Trump mocked Romney’s reasoning.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said.
It’s silly, of course, given that Romney was once the Republican nominee who lost a presidential bid to Barack Obama.
Facts and evidence aren’t something Trump or Republicans put much stock in these days. They prefer “alternative facts,” as Kellyanne Conway put it. We call them lies and distortions.
Laurence Tribe, the respected Harvard professor, wrote of Romney’s vote, “His calm, convincing explanation should put many fellow Republicans to shame, although he was careful to diss none of them.”
Romney’s vote was a glimmer of hope on an otherwise dreary February afternoon. There are some politicians with a moral compass stronger than their party.
History won’t be so kind to the other Republican senators and, particularly, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who some thought might cross party lines. Collins said she thought Trump would “learn a lesson” from the impeachment proceedings.
That lesson is that he truly can get away with anything. Unlike President Bill Clinton, who apologized to the American people after he was acquitted at his impeachment trial, Trump has taken a victory lap with no remorse. On the contrary, he removed a decorated military veteran from his White House duties for testifying at the impeachment proceedings in the House. Clear retribution to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. He also removed Gordon Sondland, his own crony-choice of ambassador to the European Union. And on Tuesday, the Department of Justice undermined the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone, leading four federal prosecutors to resign in protest.
And while Trump has called the Senate votes a “total acquittal,” there is this interesting perspective from Vox.com.
“On the surface, President Donald Trump can claim popular vindication after Wednesday’s impeachment vote. Senators voted 52-48 to acquit him on charges that he abused power, and 53-47 to acquit him on obstruction of Congress charges,” the website wrote. “The reality, though, is that the only reason a majority of the Senate voted to keep Trump in office is that the body is configured in a way that systemically advantages Republicans. The blue state of California has 68 times as many people as the red state of Wyoming, for example, but both states still receive two senators.”
The Democratic-controlled seats in the Senate actually represent the most populous states. “This means that overall, the current Republican Senate ‘majority’ represents about 15 million fewer people than the Democratic ‘minority,’” Vox reported.
Sound familiar? It’s like the Electoral College all over again. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, but lost on the number of electoral votes.
Structural distortions aside, the common explanation for spineless Republican support for Trump is that the members of both houses are afraid of Trump’s great power to punish them, in Congress and at the ballot box. This power in the end, though, is not “taken” by Trump: Rather it is heedlessly and willingly given up by narcissistic politicians who delude themselves into thinking that their personal persistence in office is actually of any value to any of us. Susan Collins is the only one who cares about Susan Collins’ re-election woes. And on and on. Consider this: What would happen to Trump’s power over Congress if Congress actually voted for what they know is right rather than what Trump bullies them into? We’d all see the undressed emperor for what he is, and we’d get closer to the shared leadership we need and the Constitution called for.
Which gets us to our final point on impeachment. There is still a way to show this president that his actions are inexcusable and intolerable, but it’s going to take the Democrats getting their act together after the Iowa debacle, choosing a candidate that the entire party can get behind, and convincing the nation’s independent voters to join in defeating Donald Trump.
It can be done. It must be done.