For Republicans in Trump’s cover-up it wasn’t about ‘heads on pikes,’ it was all about the money

In the latest Daily Kos/Civiqs poll, fully 60% of Americans disapprove of how the U.S. Senate conducted Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The behavior of Senate Republicans following that trial probably won't get many cheers, either. The three most closely watched Republicans during the trial, those who pretended to be open-minded and committed to doing their jobs, have all popped up in the last few days with slathering praise for the Trump administration which let loose all the money once the trial was done. It turns out the issue wasn’t the threat of heads on pikes at all. It was all about the bribes.

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Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander tweeted to thank Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Trump for the investment of "$9 million in Tennessee to provide and improve high-speed broadband infrastructure projects for 3,744 rural households, 31 businesses and 41 farms."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski had Transportation Secretary and Moscow Mitch spouse Elaine Chao to thank for "a $20M Port Infrastructure Development Program grant to the Port of Alaska to help offset the 1st phase costs of the Port’s desperately-needed modernization program, enabling safe, cost-effective, & reliable Port operations." That's a whole 1% of the estimated cost for the port. Was it worth a vote to keep the worst president ever to sit in the Oval Office?

You know, of course, who else is getting in on the action:

Great news! 19 Housing Authorities in Maine have been awarded more than $9.5 million to preserve & modernize affordable housing units that serve individuals with disabilities & low-income individuals and families.https://t.co/9FzNcL197P

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) February 13, 2020

Could they be more blatant? No. The answer is no. 

Republicans know Trump did it, know it was wrong, know he’ll do it again, still don’t care

Somehow, Sen. Mitt Romney—that Mitt Romney—has become the conscience of the Republican Party. But despite the announcement that Donald Trump really does have an achievement all to himself, other Republicans have continued to keep up the most shallow pretense imaginable.

Not that Trump is innocent. They know he’s not. Not that this isn’t serious. They know it is.

They’re pretending that Trump is sorry. And they know he never will be.

Susan Collins had the first swing at Trump’s learning experience, when she told CBS News that Trump had learned a "pretty big lesson" from the whole processes of hearings and trial, and that she was sure he would be "much more cautious" about soliciting political slander from foreign governments in the future. "The president's call was wrong,” said Collins. “He should not have mentioned Joe Biden in it, despite his overall concern about corruption in Ukraine. The president of the United States should not be asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. That is just improper. It was far from a perfect call."

Once he heard of this, Trump was immediately so contrite that he … immediately dismissed the idea that he learned the first thing from his impeachment “lesson.” Instead, Trump showed that he had not moved a single inch from the place he started at the beginning of the whole scandal, calling his extortion “a perfect call.”

But of course, Collins wasn’t alone. Lamar Alexander was first on board the train of Republican senators acknowledging that the House managers had proven their case, and that Trump had in fact tried to force an ally into interfering in the 2020 election by withholding military assistance. Only Lamar! wasn’t about to do anything about it. Instead he’ll go back to Tennessee where people apparently say “Yep, that looks like murder,” and go on about their business.

Lisa Murkowski was also on board the Yes He Did Express. She defended her refusal to call witnesses by saying no witnesses were needed. Because, Trump’s behavior was “shameful and wrong.” But no so shameful that Murkowski would do anything, including allowing the public to hear the full case.

Those three, along with Romney, may have been the Republicans at the center of the will-they / won’t-they / of course they won’t when it came to witnesses, but they’re not the the only ones willing to admit that Trump did a little criming. There’s also Rob Portman. “I believe that some of the president’s actions in this case—including asking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid to Ukraine—were wrong and inappropriate, “ said Portman. Some of Trump’s actions in this case, happened to be every action that the House managers placed in their articles. Still, that doesn’t mean that Portman is going to do anything but collect his ticket to the after party.

Ben Sasse was one of the most Trump-supportive Republicans when it came to tossing softballs to Trump’s defense team. That didn’t stop him from declaring that, “delaying the aid was inappropriate and wrong and shouldn't have happened." Neither should his vote to sustain Trump. But it will.

And then there’s Republican majority leader John Thune. Following the lead of America’s most unpopular senator, Thune declared that Trump was just inexperienced and naive. He’ll be sure to mend his ways and be more careful going forward. Quick. Someone ask Trump about that one.

The truth behind the Republican position is the one that was made clear when Murkowski and Alexander teamed up with Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham on Team Lickspittle — they do not give a damn. And from the excuses they’re providing, they also don’t give a damn who knows it.

Here’s the most infuriating Republican excuse for deep-sixing witnesses at the Senate trial

Watching Republican senators take the unprecedented vote Friday to entirely exclude witness testimony from Donald Trump's impeachment trial was infuriating enough. But when Republicans made the rounds on Sunday morning to rationalize that vote, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee—who was key to sealing the sham trial—made clear that he was simply too much of a coward to be faced with more reality. 

"If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine?" Alexander said on Meet The Press. "I mean, the question for me was: Do I need more evidence to conclude that the president did what he did? And I concluded no."

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Alexander was among the first GOP senators to openly concede that he agreed with Democrats' House managers—Trump clearly did ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in 2016, and he withheld aid from the country to pressure its officials into doing what he wanted. But Alexander had also decided to vote against hearing from more witnesses anyway. So what he's really saying is: He didn't need any more people to testify to the miscarriage of justice he was about to deliver to the American people. He didn't need another person to make it any more difficult for him to look in the mirror when he gets up in the morning. Sure, Trump did it. Sure, it's wrong. And deep down, he knows it's an egregious affront to our democracy. But why dwell on what a craven vote he was about to cast? Especially when the person holding up that mirror—John Bolton—was among the most-trusted and well-regarded national security experts in GOP circles.

It's also worth remembering that Bolton’s testimony almost surely would have brought even more of Trump's damning betrayal of the country to light, making the GOP’s eventual acquittal vote even worse for Republicans like Alexander. Bolton’s testimony also clearly would have implicated Trump’s chief defense counsel, Pat Cipollone, in the scheme, which is exactly why Republicans couldn’t risk hearing from Bolton no matter what the cost.

In short, sorry, America, Alexander was feeling a little squeamish and was just too much of a coward to hear any more of Trump's abuses. 

Alexander ultimately told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he was leaving Trump’s fate up to “the people” to decide. What a terribly dishonest justification for abdicating your duty as an elected official and letting Trump off the hook. The whole reason Trump was impeached is because he’s trying to disenfranchise “the people” and rig the election in his favor. In other words, Trump is a proven threat to the sanctity of the very vote to which Alexander is purportedly deferring. Good luck with that morning look in the mirror, senator. 

Senate Republicans have no regrets over impeachment cover-up, even as White House hides key emails

News that the Trump White House is blocking the release of dozens of emails described in a court filing as “regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine” didn’t change the message from Senate Republicans on Sunday’s talk shows: They regret nothing and will continue to cover up for Donald Trump. Why, it’s almost like nothing Trump could have done would have lost him the support of members of his own party determined to protect their own political power.

Sen. Lindsey Graham even proposed a major program of revenge against Democrats—one that would continue Trump’s efforts to damage former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 election prospects.

Graham used his time on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures to call on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jim Risch to launch a major investigation of Biden, also targeting the whistleblower who launched the House’s Trump-Ukraine probe. “Jim, if you’re watching the show, I hope you are ... let’s call these people in. Eventually, we’ll get to Hunter Biden,” Graham said.  

“We’re not going to let it go. Jim Risch, you need to start it,” he pledged.

Sen. Lamar Alexander didn’t sketch out a revenge plan for Democrats daring to conduct oversight of Trump, but he stuck to his story that, sure, Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine into interfering in the U.S. elections were “wrong. Inappropriate was the way I’d say — improper, crossing the line,” but that doesn’t mean anyone should do anything about it. “I’m very concerned about any action that we could take that would establish a perpetual impeachment in the House of Representatives whenever the House was a different party than the president. That would immobilize the Senate.”

Gee, Lamar, maybe the issue isn’t just the House being held by a different party than the president—after all, as much as the Republican-controlled House from 2011 to 2016 would have looooved to impeach President Barack Obama, he didn’t give them even a shred of an excuse to do so—but all of Trump’s flagrant abuse of power.

Sen. Joni Ernst, facing re-election this November, couldn’t bring herself to condemn Trump’s actions as strongly as Alexander’s weak sauce. “Maybe not the perfect call,” Ernst said. “He did it maybe in the wrong manner.” Because apparently there’s a right manner for using the power of the presidency to get another country to launch sham investigations into a political rival.

It’s not just Trump. The Republican Party is rotten all the way through.

Lamar Alexander: Trump might be too dumb to know how to not commit crimes

It was soon-retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander who effectively ended the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, doing so with a statement that asserted House managers had indeed proven that Trump used U.S. military aid as bargaining chip for obtaining a smear of his election opponent, but that doing so was merely "improper", and not an impeachable offense. Alexander thus settled on the answer that would do the most injury to our democracy and the rule of law: the "president" did it, the "president" was caught doing it, and the "president" is now allowed to do it, going forward, with no repercussions other than facing a vote he is now allowed, by Senate decree, to rig.

Defending this extremist, cancerous nullification on Meet the Press, Alexander did himself no favors. Alexander said that what Trump should have done, if he was so "upset" about Joe Biden and Ukraine, “he should have called the attorney general, and told him that, and let the attorney general handle it the way they always handle cases involving public figures.”

Why didn't he, asked his host? “Maybe he didn't know to do it,” Alexander said, letting loose a small chuckle after tossing that turd on the table.

Chuck Todd pushed back on this notion that Trump, entering his fourth year of office, was "still new to this"; Alexander allowed that "the bottom line it's not an excuse. He shouldn't have done it."

Let's just savor that, for a moment, as Alexander's continued defense for why Trump cannot be held accountable to the same standards as every other public figure corrodes our Constitution. Alexander is suggesting here that maybe Dear Leader was, as Robert Mueller's team concluded of Dear Leader Jr., during the last attempt by the Trump family to further international corruption if it is on their behalf, simply Too Stupid To Not Crime.

Trump may have an entire administration behind him, the top ranks stuffed with Republican radicals all, and a kept attorney general of his own mold, but Donald Trump is a stupid, stupid, stupid man. In three years nobody has been able to explain to him how to not crime. Through nearly a year of Rudy Giuliani scheming and Trump inserting Giuliani and his allied criminals into the decision-making loops of the State Department, White House and Budget Office, none of the myriad involved officials were able to inform him of how an "investigation" of such corruption would actually be done. If he were serious about it. If he had non-criminal motives.

Is it possible for Trump to be that stupid? Perhaps. He still believes "stealth" aircraft are literally invisible, after three years; his absolute immunity to learning absolutely anything is so impressive that we surely will come out of this with a new brain disease being named after him. It is less possible for every single member of his staff, sans John Bolton and subordinates, to also have accidentally crimed out of ignorance. Not impossible, but not likely.

In any event, the Alexander pitch is, somehow, worse than before. Not only has it been proven that Trump extorted Ukraine in order to gain an election favor, and not only is he now allowed to do that, the alternative being some (any) form of Senate check on his new discovered power, but Trump is allowed to break our laws if he is or can claim to be so very stupid that he simply cannot remember or absorb them.

If that were not enough, Lamar gave away the last bit of the game at the end.

"Now I think it's up to the American people to decide, okay, good economy, lower taxes, conservative judges, behavior that I might not like, the call to Ukraine. Weigh that against Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders and pick a president.

He broke the law, but we got our "conservative judges." He may have violated the Constitution, his oath of office, the public trust and the very foundations of our democracy, with the eager help of the Senate and the "conservative" press, but it is either rank corruption or electing a Democrat so rank corruption, hints Lamar, it is.

x

Why Jonathan Turley isn’t just wrong about the House impeachment strategy, but dangerously wrong

As expected, both Twitter feeds and news analysis on Friday were littered with smug claims from those who wanted to nitpick every action taken by the House impeachment managers, both hearings and in the Senate trial, for what they had done “wrong.” And perhaps none of them were smugger than instant expert Jonathan Turley, the man elevated to “perhaps the greatest constitutional scholar” by House Republicans for the simple reason that he was the only person who they could find who would agree with them.

“Had they waited for a couple months as I advised,” said Turley following the vote on witnesses. “They could have gotten Bolton's testimony and other witnesses as well as key court orders. It was a rush to a failed impeachment.” But the guy who was that guy, before Alan Dershowitz was that guy, is not simply wrong; he’s making an argument that both ignores what really happened and papers over a gaping hole in American justice.

My original reply to Turley included calling him a “great thundering yutz.” There’s no need for that here. So I did it anyway.

But the important thing isn’t this weak-tea attempt to extend Turley’s fifteen minutes of fame long enough to land a few prime analysis spots on Fox. It’s that by perpetuating this view, he gives Monday morning quarterbacks a satisfying explanation to nod over: If only Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Jerry Nadler had done it this way, if only they had dotted this ‘i’ before crossing that ‘t’ and inserted tab A into slot B … If only they had done it the right way, all would have been fine.

That’s not just wrong. It’s ridiculously wrong. It’s dangerously wrong. It’s such a bassackwards* view of events and motives that it sets up infinite future failure. And it leaves the ship of state with a yawning wound, sinking not at all slowly during a deckchair positioning debate. 

What really happened was this:

Lamar! Alexander:  “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven.”

Marco Rubio: “New witnesses that would testify to the truth of the allegations are not needed.”

From the moment that Senators Lisa Murkowski and Lamar! Alexander teamed with Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz to direct a question to the Trump defense team, it was clear not only that the cause was lost, but why it was lost. It was not because there was a lack of Bolton's testimony, other witnesses, or documents. They accepted the case as proven. Proven.

Their question, handed over to Trump’s team for blessing, had nothing to do with evidence, witnesses, or even process claims. It was simply this—even if Trump did everything the House managers said he did, would it be impeachable? The Trump team immediately declared that it was not an issue, as Murkowski and Alexander knew they would when sending the question their way.

Had that same question been directed to the House managers, it would have been signal that the rule of law was still in play. But because it went to the Trump team, it was a flashing neon sign signaling “GAME OVER.” Nothing said after that point mattered in the least.

The entire reasoning behind these Republican statements doesn't just assume the case is true as a hypothetical, it labels it "proven" and in no need of further proof. Adam Schiff understood that the moment Murkowski and Alexander staked their position in deep Dershowitz territory. It was immediately obvious when he stood and began his next response by ignoring the question given him and saying “Let me be blunt,” before speaking to what he knew: the field was lost.

This is not something that could have been solved by further months in court trying to knock down "immunity," to be followed by months of fighting to prove "validity," to be followed by months of claims concerning "privilege," to be followed by months of some new invention. It’s not an issue that could have been resolved at all. Trump was quite content to ascend and descend the ladder of courts repeatedly, knowing that he has bottomless legal resources, a fixed window beyond which it will not matter, and that he has appointed a quarter of all appellate judges— a number that will only increase. 

Had the House pursued witnesses until Barron Trump's second term, they would never have secured clear testimony of a single current White House official, on the points critical to the trial, so long as the White House resisted that effort. Never. This is not, and probably never was, a scalable mountain.

What made past impeachments possible was that Nixon and Clinton cooperated. Not just failed to block subpoenas, but actively demonstrated faith in the system by instructing their officials to testify. Trump had no intention in cooperating at all, ever. Nor any reason to do so.

The experience of the House is easily sufficient to show that, given the resources of the White House counsel and DOJ, an uncooperative president need never be brought to heel. Never. Not, to steal from Lincoln, in the "trial of a thousand years." Not under the system as it exists.  There is no existent mechanism, outside impeachment, to being an uncooperative executive to heel. And an executive determined to be uncooperative on the subject of impeachment can be uncooperative forever, unless Congress is prepared to hold that lack of cooperation itself as a cause for impeachment.

The Senate made it clear that it would not do this. House managers made it clear themselves … the second article was key to their case. Key to the oversight role of Congress. Key to the legitimate power of both the Senate and the House. Schiff and others did all they could to underline that point, bringing the attention again and again to the point that the Senate should not accept broad claims of either privilege or immunity on the part of the Executive, because it has never accepted even the existence of such power in the past. Historically, the Senate has never recognized even narrow claims of privilege on the part of the White House. This time, the House could not enlist a Senate determined to protect Trump at all costs, even if that cost was to their own authority.

Without that, it was not possible to proceed. Schiff recognized that clearly. That’s why the efforts on Friday were not framed as an effort to simply bringing in John Bolton or any other witness, but to structure the depositions in a way that allowed decisions about privilege to stay within the Senate. Historically, neither the House nor the Senate has ever endorsed the idea that executive privilege exists. They have claimed, and still do, the right to access any document, any witness, on any subject. But they know privilege is out there; that it has been recognized by the courts. So they often carefully avoid fights over privilege out of fear that a court ruling will redefine this amorphous blob (which, no matter how many times Pat Philbin said it, is not in the Constitution) in a way that makes it larger.

Schiff dangled his bait in the Senate’s sweet spot. Offering them a chance to test the bounds of privilege in a way that did not risk leaving behind a nasty court precedent. They did not bite.

This situation did not come out of some great genius on Trump’s side. Trump is not a genius. But his natural inclination is simply to refuse cooperation. And with the system as it is, that is all it takes. He can lose all day, every day, in every court, and still never face a day of testimony so long as a witness adheres to his instructions to stay quiet. Impeachment isn’t the option of last resort, it’s the only option available if the executive digs in its heels. If Turley wants to address something, he needs to look squarely at this open wound and determine what steps can be put in place to make it possible to rein in not just this executive, but future executives. How might we prevent “will not cooperate” from becoming both standard practice and an automatic out?

And still ... That was never the issue in any case. No matter what Turley says. No matter what a thousand other armchair generals deliver with a waggle of their oh-so-wise fingers. 

Republicans told you their reasoning... they don't care. They considered it proven. It wasn’t an issue of privilege. It wasn’t an issue of witnesses. It wasn’t an issue of anything that might have introduced new facts. They surrendered on the facts.

The Senate decision was made on the profound and eternal principle of They simply do not give a damn. That cannot be remedied through evidence, or reason, or anything that is within the powers of anyone on the House team to deliver.

Dammit.

*I can’t tell you how happy I am that this word got the sanction of use on the Senate floor during the trial. It’s always been one of my favorites.

Republicans agree Trump is guilty as charged, but they don’t care and will vote to cover it up

The final night of questions and answers in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump has ended. And except for going through the final motions, it appears the same is true of the whole impeachment trial. In the final hour of the evening, as questions were pushed to both the House managers and Trump’s legal team, it became clear that the so-called moderate Republicans were not going to vote to actually hold a trial by calling witnesses. That was driven home when retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander and Alaska’s own Susan Collins Lite, Lisa Murkowski , joined with Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham to deliver a nail-in-the-coffin joint question to Trump’s team.

That question: Even if Trump did everything that was alleged, even if he set out to gain advantage in the 2020 election by extorting slander from a foreign government and squeezed that government by withholding military assistance in the middle of a hot war, would that be okay? Trump’s team, unsurprisingly, said that was fine. And then Alexander issued a statement agreeing with them. The night didn’t just end with the certainty that Trump will be acquitted, but with an agreement from Republicans in the U.S. Senate that he is free to do anything—anything—that he wants. It’s not just an acquittal; it’s a coronation. 

Throughout the evening, the House managers continued to make a plea for some form, any form, of sanity. As the night went on, Rep. Adam Schiff outlined a plan in which the House would agree to limit witness depositions to a single week. It would let Chief Justice John Roberts have first say over the appropriateness of every witness and every document. It would let the Republican-dominated Senate have veto power over Roberts’ decisions. It would hold depositions off the Senate floor so they didn’t take up the chamber’s time. It would agree to not try to fight any decision in court.

But on the other side, Trump’s team agreed to nothing. “With all due respect,” it wouldn’t let Roberts make any decisions. Or the Senate. It would fight every witness called by the House in court. It would call “dozens” of witnesses. It would demand that every decision be appealed, appealed again, and would not stop until every decision hit Roberts again, in his role at the Supreme Court. After repeatedly blaming the House for failing to reach “accommodations” with the White House team during the House hearings, Pat Philbin, Pat Cipollone, and Jay Sekulow made it brutally clear that they had no interest in reaching accommodation on anything. 

Just as they had done in the House, the members of Trump’s team didn’t just hint that they would turn any attempt to get witnesses into an agonizing slog through the courts that could not possibly be settled before the election; they said it. Repeatedly. That they would not cooperate on any point, and would consume the Senate’s schedule indefinitely, was their theme song.

Throughout the evening, the handful of Republican senators supposedly still having doubts was watched closely. It became obvious that Susan Collins had been given a hall pass allowing her to try to salvage her worst-in-the-nation popularity through the demonstration of yet another pointless vote. But that moment came during a break in which Murkowski and Alexander huddled together, and a final five-minute halt in the proceedings so McConnell could make sure that he had the guarantee of no witnesses nailed down. It was at that point that the two critical votes joined with the most blatant Trump sycophants in the Senate to demonstrate exactly where they were coming down.

Adam Schiff hurled himself into his next response, clear on what was happening and beginning with, “Let me blunt.” He was. He explained exactly what it meant for Republicans to vote against witnesses, and to do so in the way they were indicating they would. It meant an absolute abdication of the Senate’s oversight role, and the over to Trump of power so great that “imperial presidency” is not a powerful enough term to describe it. Then Trump’s team handled a final response from a large group, making it clear they understood fully. When the final question reached the House team, it was Jerry Nadler who took it rather than a clearly exhausted, disgusted, and heart-sore Schiff.

Shortly after the session ended, Lamar Alexander issued a statement making it clear that he was indeed siding with Trump, on the worst possible grounds. He didn’t dispute the case that the House had brought. Far from it. Alexander said there was no need to bring in witnesses to prove that Trump had extorted slander, had threatened an ally in the midst of battle, and had schemed to put his own interests above the national interest. Alexander found all that worthy of the patented “moderate Republican” tsk-tsk. Then he left the national stage saying that, even though he believed all that was true, it still wasn’t something to do anything about.

Some time this morning, Lisa Murkowski is expected to deliver her own statement of tribute.

After all the talk, the dispute came down to one small point: Adam Schiff kept telling the Senate that Donald Trump is not a king. Republicans disagreed.

Collins, Alexander prove that fix has been in all along on Trump’s impeachment trial

There will almost certainly not be a 50-50 tie in the Senate impeachment trial on whether to have additional witnesses and documents. Sen. Susan Collins, almost immediately following the closing of Thursday night's session, showed that she'd been given the "hall pass" from McConnell to vote "yes" on witnesses. In a three-paragraph statement that was probably written before the trial even began.

Moments after Collins’ statement, as if it were totally choreographed to try to make her look like the hero, Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that he is a "no" because "there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense." He goes on to say essentially, yes Trump definitely did it, but we don't need to impeach him over it.

If, as expected, Sen. Mitt Romney votes for witnesses, that leaves just Sen. Lisa Murkowski as an unknown. She’s said she's thinking on it. That's most likely false, because the main thing has been trying to give Collins cover, and McConnell is not going to allow Chief Justice Roberts being in the position of having to decide whether or not to break a tie.

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