McConnell’s vote against allowing impeachment trial shows once again how he’s manipulating the media

Senate Republicans once again showed the limits of their willingness to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions. Those limits include the occasional disapproving statement, but emphatically do not include following through when he’s impeached. Just five Republicans voted to even allow the impeachment trial to go forward when Sen. Rand Paul tried to block it on the grounds that Trump is already out of office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had used leaks that he might vote for conviction to con the traditional media into portraying him as a fair broker, was not one of those five Republican votes. Sen. Rob Portman, who likes to be seen as a reasonable guy who’d consider bipartisan action and who doesn’t have to worry about a primary because he’s retiring, was not one of those five Republican votes.

Nope, the only Republicans who were even open to hearing the evidence on Donald Trump inciting an insurrection that physically threatened all of them were Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey. Murkowski and Romney probably meant it, Collins and Sasse knew that the time had come when they had to do something do justify continuing coverage of their supposed distaste for Trumpism, and Toomey is retiring.

Here’s the really perfect, chef’s kiss part of McConnell voting against a retroactive impeachment trial: Two weeks ago, when he was still majority leader and Trump was still in office, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate for a trial. But at the same time, he leaked that he might maybe vote to convict, getting the Very Serious Reasonable Person headlines he was seeking. Now McConnell turns around and votes against holding a retroactive trial that is only retroactive because of him.

I’d say, “Do they not think we’re going to notice what they’re doing?” Except that McConnell has the measure of the traditional media, most of which will absolutely allow itself to get played in this way. To really oomph up the level of “Are you kidding me?” involved here, Republicans decided to hear from their go-to constitutional law scholar, Jonathan Turley, about how retroactive trials are no good … even though in 1999 he strongly endorsed retroactive trials

The next level of Republican procedural objection will be because Chief Justice John Roberts isn't presiding over the trial, which was 100% his decision and apparently didn’t come with any indication that he is opting out because he considers the trial illegitimate. But Sen. Patrick Leahy, the most senior Democrat in the chamber, will be presiding, which Republicans will use to suggest it’s a partisan event even though Leahy is scrupulously fair, frequently to a self-owning extent.

It remains possible that evidence of Trump’s incitement of insurrection will emerge that’s so strong that not even most Republicans can ignore it. But in the absence of that, consider the wagons fully circled around Trump, and don’t be surprised by it.

Dr. Fauci, finally fed up with Sen. Rand Paul’s bullsh#t, schools him during hearing

Whether you believe that top U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci is doing a solid job or whether you believe he is a grand mastermind in the global deep state conspiracy to destroy the world and get rid of Donald Trump so that Hillary Clinton can start human trafficking your children, you have to admit, he always seems rather unflappable. Dr. Fauci’s general calm and methodical way of explaining our public health crisis is not always perfect, but it is reassuring to many because, in a world where the president of the United States says horrendous things every single day, having a public official who seems competent is something of a revelation.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is what happens when you take Donald Trump and dress him more conservatively, but somehow make him more annoying. He has spent the current pandemic playing the part of science skeptic. Rand would have followed his father Ron into calling COVID-19 a hoax, but then he ended up testing positive for the virus. Like everything between Ron and Rand, Rand is just the shittier version of his racist, useless dad. So when Sen. Paul attempted to once again promote misleading scientific information in an attempt to “gotcha” Dr. Fauci during Wednesday’s hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, watching Dr. Fauci get angry and school little Rand was something to see.

Sen. Rand Paul first attempted to blame the United States’ failure to simply do nothing at all, like Sweden, as the reason for death rates. It’s idiotic for sure, but Paul is trying to argue that Dr. Fauci and others who pushed for mask-wearing and social distancing and other safety measures early on were wrong and alarmist. Paul is wrong. He is not a little wrong. He is 100% wrong, and Dr. Fauci was tired of such sophistry on Paul’s part. 

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, senator, I would be happy at a different time to sit down and go over detail. You have said a lot of different things. You have compared us to Sweden, and there are a lot of differences. You said, well, you know, there are a lot of differences between Sweden, but compare Sweden's death rate to other comparable Scandinavian countries. It's worse. So I don't think it's appropriate to compare Sweden with us. I think in the beginning, we have done things based on the knowledge we had at the time. And hopefully, and I am—and my colleagues are—humble enough and modest enough to realize that as new data comes, you make different recommendations. But I don't regret saying that the only way we could have really stopped the explosion of infection was by essentially—I want to say shutting down—I mean essentially having the physical separation, and the kinds of recommendations that we have made.

Sen. Paul then attempted to promote the Republican narrative that the high concentrations of COVID-19 deaths in places like New York, under a Democratic governor, is proof of some Democratic Party problem in public health, while the Republican Party’s complete negligence is somehow better.

DR. FAUCI: No, you have misconstrued that. They got hit very badly. They made some mistakes. Right now, if you look at what's going on right now, the things that are going on in New York to get their test positivity 1% or less is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four or five things: of masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds, and washing hands.

As time has just about run out, Sen. Paul attempts to throw in one last fake scientific fact.

SEN. RAND PAUL: Or they have developed enough community immunity that they are no longer having the pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop it.

That’s bullshit, and Dr. Fauci very quickly and stridently says: “I challenge that, senator.”

Time is up, but Dr. Fauci is not going to use his easygoing demeanor to allow this crap bag of a senator to get away with pushing fake science.

DR. FAUCI: Please, sir. I would like to be able do this because this happens with Senator Rand all the time. You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said, that in New York, it's about 22%. if you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you're alone in that.

Rand Paul is alone most of the time since his own neighbors hate him and most Americans dislike him as well.

Continuing his quest to endanger alleged whistleblower’s life, Rand Paul names him in Senate speech

Sen. Rand Paul continues to be a flaming heap of whistleblower-outing trash. Whistleblowers are protected for reasons that an alleged libertarian like Paul should appreciate—that protection encourages people to come forward when they see something wrong in government. But after Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read Paul’s question naming the person who Republicans believe to have been the whistleblower on Donald Trump’s impeachable Ukraine call, Paul took matters into his own hands.

He’s already read the question, with the name, to reporters. But apparently he didn’t get enough attention for that, so on Tuesday, Paul brought a large poster of his question up with him as he made a floor speech in the Senate, during which he read the question.

To recap: the chief justice refused to read Paul’s question because it named a rumored whistleblower, possibly endangering that person. Paul then held a news conference to read the same question, and then, as if he hadn’t done enough, read it on the Senate floor while standing before it printed on a large poster, for anyone watching C-SPAN to hear and see.

Paul has insisted that this is all innocent because he doesn’t know that this is the whistleblower, he just happens to be asking lengthy questions about a random person whose name hasn’t come up in the impeachment for … reasons. I think we know the reason, and the reason is that Rand Paul is a terrible piece of human trash and he’s part of a political party that rewards that.

Sen. Rand Paul tries to out whistleblower during impeachment, #ArrestRandPaul goes viral on Twitter

Wednesday evening, reports came out that Sen. Rand Paul was trying his darndest to out the alleged “whistleblower” by getting Chief Justice Roberts to say the name inside of a question, to be read during the Senate impeachment trial. It’s the kind of rich kid douchebaggery one expects from a 1980s teen movie villain … and Rand Paul. Because of the bad press that justifiably rained down on him, Sen. Paul illegally went out to talk with reporters during the Senate impeachment trial to clear his name by continuing to be a gruesome person and even worse senator. It’s important to note here that Sen. Rand Paul does shitty things on occasion like this, mostly to remind the country that he’s still here. Also because, like his dad, he’s mostly interested in his own power, and also like his dad, his libertarian ideas are worthless and cyclically ebb and flow with the rise and fall of fascism.

And so Rand was able to make the day’s headlines, and stay in those headlines, but not because people think the gold-diapered baby senator is a patriot. No, people had Sen. Paul on their minds for a very different reason altogether—American history and common sense. #ArrestRandPaul began to trend on Twitter, and took off.

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No. No there’s not.

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And people aren’t saying it simply as a joke.

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And while it is preaching to the choir, the depth of this move, the true inhumanity and bleakness of soul that it takes to put people’s lives in jeopardy over some worthless political points that you might get from Donald Trump, is pathetic.

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If our justice system was even half working at this point, Sen. Rand Paul would be in a whole heap of very real trouble.

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Rand Paul continues his efforts to get the Ukraine whistleblower killed

Sen. Rand Paul has not been getting enough attention during this impeachment process, so he executed his predictable and promised stunt on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, submitting a question to Chief Justice John Roberts during the Q&A session that presumably contained the name of the whistleblower. Roberts refused to read the question, so Paul left the floor to have an "impromptu" press conference (and probably hit the send button on a fundraising email).

CNN's Manu Raju reports, "At press conference, Paul says: 'I can tell you my question made no reference to any whistleblower.' Then Paul reads aloud his question which names a Schiff's staff member and names the individual who has been reported as possible whistleblower—and asks about their contacts." This was an apparent effort to get the press to publish the name, since he seems intent on getting the whistleblower killed.

It likely won't work. One reporter asked, "With all due respect, shouldn't you be at the impeachment hearing right now?" Of course he should have been, and the sergeant-at-arms should be putting him in the Senate jail right now. He should also be disqualified from sitting as a juror in this impeachment trial and have his vote taken away—if either Roberts or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to save this trial from being a total farce.

Rand Paul is determined to show that he is more vile than anyone else in Congress

On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts read more than 80 questions that had been submitted to him by lawmakers in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. That included questions that were long enough to include whole right-wing conspiracy theories and multiple questions that included the names of people who appear in no document in the whole investigation, but whom Republicans accuse of being involved in a conspiracy involving John Bolton and the whistleblower. 

But there was one question that Roberts refused to read—a question from Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who intentionally placed in his question the name that right-wing publications have insisted is that of the whistleblower. Roberts refused to read the question. And today Paul is going to do it again.

From the very beginning, the whistleblower made it clear that he or she was not a firsthand witness to events but had only been told about actions that were reasons for concern. Based on that information, the whistleblower raised those concerns with the intelligence community inspector general. Then, following the strict instructions of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, the whistleblower contacted a specific staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, who instructed the whistleblower in the next appropriate step.

All of this is defined by law. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has made it clear that he did not meet with the whistleblower. He has made it clear that he does not know the whistleblower’s name. He has also made it clear that his staff did not assist in preparing the whistleblower’s complaint or provide any research to the whistleblower, or offer any assistance whatsoever beyond the instructions that are required by the law—a law that has, in the past, been strongly supported by Republicans.

There is no evidence, none whatsoever, that Schiff or anyone on his staff did the slightest thing wrong in regard to the whistleblower.

There is no evidence, none whatsoever, that the whistleblower took any step that was not strictly legal, strictly moral, and strictly out of concern for the nation.

There is absolutely no doubt that what Rand Paul is doing is petty, vile, mean-spirited, and definitively evil, with no intent but to bring harm to an individual who acted entirely within the law.

On Thursday, Paul has already declared that he is going to do it again. And if what he accomplishes from this is the ruin of someone who was doing their best for the nation—or the ruin of someone who is not the whistleblower, since the name Paul is using came from no official source—he’s perfectly okay with that.

Senate Republicans make clear: It’s not about Ukraine. It’s about ending American democracy for good

On Wednesday, the Senate conducted the first of two days of question-and-answer in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, with the House managers and Trump’s legal team. Throughout the sessions, Trump’s team made it clear that any attempt to get at the truth of what happened would result in retaliation in the form of asking for an endless stream of witnesses, fighting every request in court, and holding up activity in the Senate “for a very long time.” Meanwhile, the House managers continued to swing for the fences with a number of stirring moments, sharp responses, and ringing calls for the Senate to do its job for the country.

From the start of this session, it was clear that Republicans were not taking the day seriously. Confident that enough of their members had fallen in line to suppress any possibility of subpoenaing a witness, the Republican side indulged in question after question written for no other reason than to promote conspiracy theories and smears by having Chief Justice John Roberts read them aloud. But even that wasn’t the worst damage done during the course of the evening.

As the night wore on, Trump legal team member Alan Dershowitz rose repeatedly to make it very clear what Republicans were authorizing: They were not just embracing foreign interference, but literally allowing Donald Trump to do anything in pursuit of reelection.

Much of the evening seemed to be the Ted Cruz Show. Having abandoned any pretense that they were seeking information, Republicans allowed the Texas assassin to have a hand in at least eight questions, all of them designed to spread ridiculous, corrosive smears against the whistleblower, Rep. Adam Schiff, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s defense team joined in eagerly, citing information from the worst of right-wing sites as “public information” to justify repeating claims. By the end of the night, Senate Republicans had endorsed every aspect of the conspiracy theory that Trump had tried to extort from Ukraine, and they had gone on to indict the whistleblower as having a hand in the “double bribery.”

Again and again, Republicans such as Cruz and Josh Hawley demonstrated that they were laughing up their sleeves, playing the “Roberts will repeat anything” game. That included using questions to make statements that Adam Schiff had collaborated with the whistleblower, long after Schiff had explained—again—that he had not met the whistleblower, that he did not know the whistleblower, and that no member of his staff was involved in preparing the whistleblower’s complaint. It didn’t matter, because for Cruz, getting out the facts was never the point of the exercise.

A special award goes to Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. At one point in the late afternoon, he managed to concoct a question so vile that Roberts refused to read it—the only time that happened, even though some of the questions from Cruz included recitations of multiple false charges.

Trump’s team leaned into the chance to spread unfounded information. Despite hours and days of chest-beating over “hearsay” or “second-hand information,” Trump’s attorneys relished every word of the beyond-Q conspiracies that came their way (including a rare appearance from benchwarmer Pam Bondi so bad that it’s already gathered more than two million views). And when not rolling in vile claims with absolutely no foundation, they used much of their time to directly threaten the Senate, stating again and again that any attempt to call a witness would be met with an unending string of requests, privilege claims, and court fights. 

In the middle of the evening, Schiff made a major play and said that, to expedite the process, the House managers would agree to be bound by decisions from Roberts when it came to validating subpoenas, authorizing witnesses, and requesting documents. Citing the way that the House had taken as many as five depositions in a week, Schiff made it clear that there was no reason that a process involving witnesses had to be lengthy. But Trump’s legal team said that it would not agree. Instead, it continued its threat to respond to any call for witnesses by wrecking the Senate, drowning the trial in frivolous requests, and demanding a string of witnesses (including every member of the Biden family, every House manager, the whistleblower, people cited in right-wing media … an unending parade). And Republicans on both sides of the table pretended that this threat wasn’t simply an argument that any legal process can be crushed by the power of the White House.

But it wasn’t the cudgel of delay, or the giggling efforts of Cruz, Hawley, Paul, and others to place their hands under Robert’s robe and make him talk that did the most damage. The worst damage to the evening, the trial, and America’s future came from doddering Alan Dershowitz, who used the evening to expand his previous defense to a degree that didn’t just exonerate Trump in this case, but also exonerated him in any possible case. 

In a pair of appearances, Dershowitz expanded on his theory that abuse of power isn’t a permissible cause for impeachment. Deliberately and directly contradicting the historical sources he cited, Dershowitz called every constitutional expert in America a “never Trumper” for daring to disagree with him. And while claiming to be the only reasonable man in the country, he said he didn’t stand alone … because he had found a single attorney in 1867 whose views were similar. And 1867 is closer to when the Constitution was written, so that view wins. If you ignore all the people involved in the writing of it.

Then, having literally made up dictionary entries to support his redefinition of legal terms, Dershowitz went not just all-in, but completely overboard. According to Trump’s finest legal mind, there is nothing that Trump can’t do in pursuit of reelection. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. So long as Trump believes that his reelection would be good for the nation, he can extort foreign governments for made-up dirt. He can directly threaten an ally. There is no limit.

Along the way, Dershowitz also argued that there is absolutely nothing wrong with launching an investigation into a political opponent. In fact, he asserted that a run for office itself can be justification for investigating an opponent. He directly embraced the idea that a president launching investigations of his political opponents using domestic or foreign sources wasn’t just fine; it was desirable. He argued that daring to run against Trump painted a target on anyone’s back, and that Trump had all the power he needed to shoot at it.

If there was any doubt going into the evening, Dershowitz removed it: voting to acquit Trump means voting not just to dismiss this charge, but to embrace the idea that Trump trumps the law. He didn’t hint that Trump could do anything he wanted in pursuit of reelection; that was the core theme of his whole presentation. That was the point. That was what he said.

The Senate listened to a presentation from Trump’s legal team according to which there is nothing Trump can do in pursuit of reelection that isn’t justified. There is no limit to how Trump can use his power to persecute political opponents. According to the theory that was put forward on the floor of the Senate, Trump could simply lock up every Democratic opponent, or suspend elections indefinitely, and that would be just fine—not only an impeachable offense, but a good thing.

Republicans are going to vote for that. Republicans are going to press the button on not just a step toward autocracy, but a full-on embrace of it. They’re going to do it with a smile.