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Sunday, January 19, 2020

How Dems Could Win From Impeachment Trial

House  managers walking articles of impeachment to the Senate
Photo: Axios

Spoiler Alert: President Donald Trump will not be removed from office as a result the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. Nonetheless, if they play their cards with skill and determination, the Democrats could come out winners politically.

As we experience the third time in history that a U.S. President has been impeached, Trump has now assembled his made-for-TV lawyers to defend him in the Senate trial. Too bad Matlock and Perry Mason are unavailable because for Trump it’s all about the show. On one hand Trump wanted a quick dismissal. On the other hand he sought a theatrical display whereby he is completely exonerated and will blame the radical angry Democrats for wasting everyone’s time. At this point we still don’t know what he wants.  

For their part, the Democrats, need to be key players in the show as well. With the outcome a near certainty, the charge for the Democrats is to get their messaging on point to win the political battle—no easy task with the messaging skills of Trump, Trump TV, and his sycophantic supporters in Congress and beyond.

Trump and his cheerleaders have repeatedly labeled the impeachment a hoax. Democrats should continue to shoot back saying that his own phone call to Ukrainian’s President Zelensky plus the credible testimony by foreign service and other professionals point directly to a shakedown of the Ukrainian government by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid in exchange for announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden and by extension his father Joe Biden—a leading contender to oust President Trump in November.

While each senator swore an oath of impartiality, public comments by McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham declared just the opposite. This is a strong talking point for Dems to use to declare the trial was never going to be fair from the outset.

Armed with a mountain of evidence that is credible and clear, Trump has been charged by the House of Representatives in two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  The question looming prior to the trial is will Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican minions allow witnesses and documentation as part of a trial.

If there is a deal whereby key witnesses, such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s henchman Lev Parnas are allowed to testify, their testimony could be explosive. Never mind that Vice President Pence, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also key witnesses who could potentially be damaging to the president as they would testify under oath.  It should be noted that Trump had exerted executive privilege in blocking these characters from testifying at congressional committee hearings.

If the Republicans manage to win a vote that prevents fact witnesses and documentation, Democrats should (and probably will) declare the trial a sham and rightfully accuse the Republicans of being willing players in a massive cover-up. The Dems should exploit this to the hilt and wreak havoc on vulnerable senators up for re-election should they be a party to this act.

Trump’s defense team denounced the impeachment case stating, “The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president. This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away.”

The U.S. Senate: the scene of the impeachment trial
This is a paper thin argument and does not bode well for Trump if this is the best his dream team can come up with. For one thing, the impeachment is not taking the right away from the American people to freely choose their president. Of course, Russia’s indisputable (except by Trump and his allies) interference in the 2016 election must have been forgotten.  

Secondly, the action by the House is far from “unlawful.”  Impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution (Article I, Sections 2-4,)—a document that Trump never read and now I have my doubts about his legal team as well.

Moreover, if Trump was actually removed, the election would not have been overturned. Vice President Mike Pence would succeed him in office, not Hillary Clinton.

We are hearing rumors that the defense team may stipulate to the facts in the articles and instead try to convince the 100-person jury (the Senate) and the American people that what Trump did does not meet the threshold of impeachment and removal.  Trump, however, will not have any of it.  Under no circumstances will he allow his defense to admit that the famous call to Zelensky was anything but “perfect.”  Look for a shake-up of the team should that stipulation materializes.

Barring a development of nuclear proportions, Trump will remain in office after this proceeding.  This is all about the 2020 election now. For Democrats, the mission is to zealously prosecute the case and remind voters that the president put our national security on the back burner in order to gain a political advantage in the upcoming election.

They need to pound the message home that Republicans again put devotion to their party and their fealty to Trump above the national interests. The Dems need to emphasize, regardless of the outcome, that nobody is above the law and our democracy is at stake.

If they do this right, the Democrats can win even by losing.

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