Editorial: What’s Different about Trump’s Second Impeachment?

Did we ever think we’d hear the words, “Second impeachment of the president of the United States”? 

One impeachment should be more than enough for any president. If Donald Trump had been re-elected, it’s almost certain he’d be facing a third impeachment at some point. Perhaps a fourth impeachment; after all, he achieved two in just one term. If the Senate had kept its Republican majority, and judging from how his first impeachment went, Donald Trump most likely would remain in office following any subsequent impeachments. But Trump wasn’t re-elected, and circumstances are different. 

It seems that when he incited a violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, Donald Trump may finally have gone too far, even for some of his staunch supporters.

Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has signaled that he thinks Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses, and that he may (or may not) vote to convict Trump when the Senate conducts its proceedings. This is the opposite of the way he kept Senate Republicans in lockstep behind Trump during Trump’s first impeachment. 

During the House impeachment proceedings, a record 10 Republican lawmakers voted to impeach. This is in contrast to the zero Republicans who voted “yes” during Trump’s last impeachment trial. 

Major Republican donors have reportedly told Mitch McConnell that they believe Trump had crossed a line when he incited the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building last week, for which he was impeached. According to a GOP strategist, McConnell has told the donors that he is “finished with Trump.”

McConnell has indicated that he sees this impeachment as an opportunity for the Republican party to distance itself from divisive, chaotic Donald Trump. Might as well…He’s on his way out the door, anyway, and he’s clearly not a good look for the GOP if they want donations.

With McConnell signaling “permission,” several Republican senators, including Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have indicated that they might vote to convict. In today’s Republican Congress, where lawmakers have absurdly excused Trump for the most corrupt, dangerous deeds, this is extraordinary.

As major party donors have suspended giving, and as some GOP senators are finding their courage to take the non-sycophantic route and vote their conscience against Trump, corporate America is distancing itself from Donald Trump, as well as from his Republican allies. Companies such as Goldman-Sachs, Comcast, Ford, Coca Cola, and Hallmark have suspended political contributions, following last week’s rioting at the Capitol.  

“The U.S. business community has interests fully in alignment with the American public and not with Trump’s autocratic bigoted wing of the GOP,” says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, of Yale University’s management school. 

“…It also signals that companies are growing skittish about lawmakers who backed Trump’s false claims of election fraud, possibly depriving Republicans of public backing from business groups who until recently were the heart of the GOP’s political brand,” write Josh Boak, Brian Slodysko, and Tom Krisher of the Associated Press.

One might wonder what took them so long.

In his last days in office, Donald Trump appears to be the Incredible Shrinking President, with dwindling clout, plummeting public esteem, and, reportedly, failing finances. It even appears that his days outside a prison cell may be numbered. 

Nevertheless, we should not assume for a moment that Trump’s influence will just fade away. 

Trump’s ardent followers—including those who showed up to desecrate the U.S. Capitol building and “stop the government”— are not going anywhere (except, perhaps, prison for awhile). No one has convinced them that Donald Trump will not remain president, or that the conspiracy theories about the election and the “deep state” are false. No one whom they trust is willing to insist on the truth. 

The 139 Republican Representatives and eight senators who voted to overturn the election results in favor of Donald Trump did so after the Trump-incited mob attack on the Capitol and on Congress. Many of them still refuse to say out loud that the election was not stolen.

The QAnon conspiracy theory has now slithered into a couple of seats in Congress. Two known QAnon believers, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, were elected to the House of Representatives this year. Among other things, QAnon supporters believe that Donald Trump has come to vanquish the Democrats and the Hollywood elite, and abolish their satanic ring of pedophiles. 

Though not all Trump supporters buy into the fallacies of Q, or would stage an insurrection, they have shown their cult-like adherence to Trumpism, and their allegiance to Trump as their savior. Cult behavior doesn’t just disappear. 

Nevertheless, in five days, Donald Trump, the instigator-in-chief and the spreader of dangerous lies and conspiracy theories… Donald Trump, for whom Republican lawmakers became cowardly clowns… Donald Trump, impeachment record holder and widely considered the worst president the United States has ever had, will no longer hold the most powerful position in the free world.

McConnell Joins GOP Representatives in Agreeing With Impeachment |
Bloomberg Quicktake: Now [2021-01-13]

Trump becomes 1st president impeached twice, Senate trial up next | ABC News WNT [2021-01-13]

Bolton Willing to Testify; GOP Doesn’t Care, Continues with Trump Non-Defense

The U.S. presidential election is only 276 days away. Americans have no way of knowing how secure the ballot boxes will be. This is because as of Friday morning, January 31, it looks as if the Senate, during its impeachment trial, will acquit Donald J. Trump, who is accused of behavior that threatens the integrity of U.S. presidential elections.

The articles of impeachment against Trump are based on charges that Trump put pressure on Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter, by withholding $391 million in already approved military aid.

The week started with revelations from the manuscript of former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. According to The New York Times, the manuscript contains details of President Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy. Bolton has said that Trump told him directly that he was placing a hold on the aid until Zelenskiy announced the investigation Trump requested.

During the earlier impeachment hearings that took place in the House, Bolton had not shown up for a requested deposition before the House Intelligence Committee. If the House issued him a subpoena, Bolton said, he would take the matter to court. In early January, however, Bolton said that he’d be willing to give testimony in the Senate impeachment trial, if requested.

The question and answer phase of the impeachment trial has taken place this week, with Senators submitting questions for either side (in lieu of questioning actual witnesses and without benefit of relevant documents), to be read aloud by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The questions seemed largely aimed at restating the positions of those asking them, rather than discovering information.

Avoiding, or unable, to produce a substantial defense for the president, Trump’s defense team has turned instead to using distraction techniques, including focusing on such topics as Joe and Hunter Biden’s activities; the debunked myth that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who interfered with the 2016 election; and the “great economy under Trump.” Finally, they settled on the position that even if Trump did do what he’s accused of, he did nothing wrong, because he’s the president. Or, at the very least, he shouldn’t be impeached because it would be “too disruptive.”

Alan Dershowitz, a member of the Trump defense team, put forth an argument that many interpreted as saying that the law gives the president nearly unchallenged presidential power.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said.

But what politician doesn’t think that being elected is in the public interest? One can draw one’s own conclusions about how far a politician could go to get elected if he or she could do anything without being kept in check.

On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether to call witnesses. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out that the Trump defense team was making the case for calling witnesses with its argument that there was not sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to remove the president from office. And as of Thursday, it appeared that the defense had enough votes to block witnesses.

Republicans are united in their efforts to support Trump by blocking witnesses and documents pertinent to the trial, ostensibly to “wrap it up” quickly (“for the sake of the American people”).

Meanwhile, the White House has reviewed Bolton’s manuscript and issued a formal threat to Bolton in an effort to prevent him from publishing his book, saying that some of the information was classified at “top secret” level, could cause grave harm to national security, and “may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”

One has to wonder why the White House is scrambling to protect this information as a “security threat,” when the president, through his public actions, words, disclosures, and tweets, regularly threatens national security.

As expected, Trump has begun his Twitter attacks on Bolton’s credibility, integrity, and reputation. Among his most notable was this:

“For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, “begged” me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying “Don’t do it, sir,” takes the job, mistakenly says “Libyan Model” on T.V., and…

” ….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?”

Trump’s attacks are reminiscent of other attacks and threats he has made toward those he sees as having crossed him. These include former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, both of whom gave testimony during the House impeachment hearings; the whistleblower who first reported the troubling content of Trump’s call to Ukraine; former FBI director James Comey; and others.

If the Senate votes on Friday to hear witnesses, Trump has said he may try to invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying. Legal experts, however, are saying that Trump may have undermined executive privilege with his tweets describing his conversations with Bolton regarding Ukraine.

Despite the fact that 75 percent of voters want the Senate to call witnesses, Republicans appear eager to eschew any new evidence that could change someone’s mind, and keep repeating, “Let the American people decide at the voting booths.” And this, we must be sure to do.

President Trump’s Impeachment Trial Has 16-Hour Q&A |
Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon [2020-01-30]

EXCLUSIVE: House Impeachment managers make their case on HillTV |
The Hill [2020-01-30]