On Monday, as senators and House impeachment managers prepared for the opening of President Trump’s impeachment trial Tuesday, Democrats and their courtiers in the mainstream press decided to ratchet up the their rhetoric to the point of delusional hysteria.
The House managers—led by Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler—issued a statement that essentially accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of a coverup, saying his proposed rules for the trial are “rigged,” nothing more than an “effort to prevent the full truth of the President’s misconduct from coming to light.”
That wasn’t all. Schiff and the impeachment managers also called on Trump’s lead impeachment lawyer, Pat A. Cipollone, to disclose what he knows about the president’s alleged behavior underlying the two articles of impeachment, saying Cipollone is a “material fact witness,” and that, “The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is likely also a necessary witness.”
Funny they should mention that. As my colleague Mollie Hemingway pointed out on Twitter, Schiff is himself a material fact witness to this entire impeachment imbroglio, beginning with his office’s coordination with the whistleblower.
As for McConnell’s rules being some kind of coverup, compare them to the House impeachment inquiry, which turned up no evidence of a crime despite Schiff stacking the deck in Democrats’ favor by not allowing GOP members to call witnesses or ask substantive questions.
By those standards, McConnell’s proposed rules are generous to Democrats, stipulating a four-day calendar in which each side gets two days, 12 hours per day, just for opening statements. After that, senators would have 16 hours for written questions for the prosecution and defense, then four hours of debate—all to adjudicate a purely partisan impeachment probe that after months failed to persuade even one GOP member of the House that Trump had committed an impeachable offence.
To a certain mindset—apparently rampant among Democrats and media elites—none of this matters. Nothing we learned during the House impeachment inquiry, not to mention what we all know about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the White House released the transcript, seems to matter to Democrats hell-bent on delegitimizing the Trump presidency.
If their impeachment removal gamble fails, as it inevitably will, they’ll say it only failed because McConnell rigged the trial, or because the president covered up his crimes by instructing key witnesses not to cooperate, or because all Republicans are corrupt. The narrative takeaway will be that Democrats tried to save the country and the Constitution by removing a dangerous criminal from the White House, but were thwarted, and only voters can stop Trump now by throwing him out of office in November. After all, the future of the republic is at stake.
Impeachment Is Untethering Some People From Reality
The overdone rhetoric turned out to be contagious, especially for Never Trumpers like Bill Kristol, a formerly serious person who on Monday compared the upcoming Senate impeachment trial to a show trial in an authoritarian state.
I grew up reading about show trials in authoritarian nations abroad. I didn’t expect to see one of our two major parties endorse a show trial here in the U.S. Capitol.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 21, 2020
Perhaps the best example of this fevered mindset whirling away in real time is a Twitter thread from Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center, who warned that an acquittal would amount to a “war on the Constitution and the rule of law,” and that “McConnell will not only be striking a blow to our democracy, he will be communicating that [there] are no rules, only power.”
He goes on to suggest that McConnell is exposing the political process as a “sham,” that Trump is “dead set on stealing the election to stay out of jail and line his pockets with impunity,” and the result of all this will be violence in the streets because “we can’t just ‘decide it at the ballot box” if the ballot box is stuffed.”
If you trash the constitutional order, trash democracy, you destroy the means to keep political authority from devolving into into factional power, and political conflict from spilling into the streets. But that's what McConnell is doing–on behalf of Trump's rank corruption.
— Will Wilkinson 🌐 (@willwilkinson) January 21, 2020
Does Wilkinson really think that’s what happening here? Or does he just think that if the Democratic Party and its media allies fail to overturn the results of a free and fair election with a years-long string of investigations and half-baked accusations against the president, then that’s really what amounts to election theft and a stuffed ballot box? In other words, Democrats’ impotent efforts to remove Trump are proof positive that the republic itself is in danger, and our political process is a “sham.”
What’s most telling in these Twitter rants is the apparent unawareness that for many Americans, the political process has indeed been revealed as a sham—a long time ago. After decades of elite incompetence and corruption, from illegal immigration to the Iraq war to Katrina, the housing crash and ensuing recession, the sluggish recovery and the dismal reality of Obamacare, Americans have plenty of reasons to think the Constitution has been trashed, voters have been ignored, and the entire political process exposed as a sham run by our elites for their benefit at the expense of everyone else.
What the American people did about it was elect Trump president. For the political and media establishment, that’s Trump’s real crime, and the one thing that must not be allowed to happen again.
Language Games Reveal More About Dems Than Trump
To make any rational sense in their arguments, they must evacuate terms like “election theft” and “democracy” of all meaning. Trump of course didn’t steal an election in 2016, and if he wins again in 2020 that won’t be a stolen election, either. But this mangling of language is a common trope among the impeachment crowd.
As Eric Felton of Real Clear Investigations noted in a thorough fisking of a brief from Democratic impeachment managers, Schiff and his crew “are convinced that thin allegations can be bulked up if repeated often enough.” Felton points to the repeated use of words and phrases like “baseless,” “debunked,” “discredited,” and “conspiracy theory” whenever impeachment managers discuss questions and assertions made by Trump or Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine or Hunter Biden.
For example, the brief entirely ignores a January 2017 report in Politico about efforts of officials in Kiev to boost Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump in 2016, and instead repeat, dozens of times, that concerns or questions about possible 2016 election interference from Ukrainian officials are nothing more than a “conspiracy theory.”
Most Americans are wise to this sort of thing. They realized a long time ago that the political establishments of both parties care about power above all and have long governed on behalf of special interests, not the people. Most Americans also know that despite earnest paeons to the Constitution in recent months, Democrats don’t care about the Constitution and would be happy to get rid of much of it, including the first two amendments in the Bill of Rights.
So in the days ahead, when Schiff and other Democratic leaders mention a “rigged” trial or a “sham” process, they’re unintentionally invoking language that many Americans have been using for some time now—not about Trump, but about the political establishment they elected Trump to overthrow.