Impeachment is a very serious business. It has only happened three times in our nation's history, after all.
Given that fact, you might expect the defense offered by President Donald Trump's lawyers would be serious too. But that's not what's happening.
Turning his angry Twitter posts into his legal strategy, Trump's defense has started offering the nation fact-free arguments that show their contempt for both the Senate, due process and the American people.
Since they clearly can't defend the indefensible, Trump's legal team is trying to create a big smokescreen instead. The articles of impeachment violate the, they are suddenly claiming.
This is on its face nonsense, however. Impeachment is literally written into the Constitution. You can disagree with the charges, you can disagree with the process, but you can't argue that impeachment itself is unconstitutional.
Another desperate claim being made by Trump's hard-pressed attorneys is that Congress has failed to “allege any crime or violation of the law whatsoever.” This is also complete nonsense. The president's personal hold on military aid for Ukraine broke the law.
That leads us to the next laughable defense, with Trump's lawyers claiming that “abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.” Since when? Abuse of power was the second article of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon and it was put forward against Bill Clinton at the recommendation of Ken Starr, who is now part of Trump's own legal team.
America's first attorney general Edmund Randolph, who was appointed in 1794, claimed that impeachment power was necessary because the executive (to wit the president) would have “great opportunities of abusing his power.” So it's been on the books for hundreds of years.
The last truly desperate gambit in Trump's legal team's growing list of Hail Mary passes will be to claim that “the president did nothing wrong.” He's as innocent as a newborn lamb. But if that was true then wouldn't Trump would be pushing very hard to have direct witnesses to his actions testify under oath on his behalf?
That's not what Trump is doing though, is it? Instead, he's turned to his trusty muck spreader of a Twitter account hoping to project and deflect and keep his loyal supporters from noticing he doesn't want anyone in his team who actually knows what was happening to ever testify before the Senate. These moves are simply not contingent with innocence.
Something to keep in mind as the Senate trial begins: Trump did what he is accused of doing. There is overwhelming evidence. Phone call summaries, witness testimony from people Trump himself handpicked, memos, notes, and Trump himself — on camera. Republicans simply don’t care.— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) January 21, 2020
This week Trump is at a summit in Davos, Switzerland where he would not answer a blunt question about whether there should be witnesses at impeachment trial? He is really trying to steer clear of the subject entirely. Instead, he claims he's the subject of a hoax and a witch hunt as if saying those dramatic words could absolve him of his own unlawful actions.
Witnesses will give the game away. He knows that. They would be compelled under oath to describe the president's clear abuses of power. That would be a disaster for Trump and the GOP, which is why Speaker Mitch McConnell has planned to hold the entire impeachment trial in the dead of night now, earning him the Twitter hashtag #MidnightMitch.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is not having it, however. The McConnell rules “don't even allow the simple, basic step of admitting the House record into evidence at the trial,” Schumer fumed.
“Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn't want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn't want to hear any new evidence. A trial with no evidence - no existing record, no witnesses, no documents - isn't a trial at all. It's a cover-up, and the American people will see it for exactly what it is.”
You have to admit it looks really bad that McConnell is insisting that all the key facts be delivered in the dark of night, simply because he doesn't want the American people to be awake to hear them.
In a statement this week Harvard University's Constitutional Law Scholar Laurence Tribe agreed with Schumer, saying McConnell's rules “aren't rules for a real trial at all, much less a fair one. They're rules for a rigged outcome...”
"If a president can obstruct his own investigation, if he can effectively nullify a power the Constitution gives solely to Congress...then the president places himself beyond accountability, above the law...It makes him a monarch." —@RepAdamSchiff #TrumpsRemovalTrial pic.twitter.com/HtXV55O1Wa— CAP Action (@CAPAction) January 21, 2020
So the real danger isn't just that we are being treated like empty-headed children who can't be trusted to learn the truth about the president's abuse of power, it's that our political leaders in the GOP have decided that we don't even need to be informed in the first place.
No evidence, no witnesses, no time and no TV cameras? That's the kind of blatant coverup that they specialize in far away authoritarian nations, not the United States of America.
Nothing stinks of coverup more than a trial held at 2am but thanks to Trump and Mitch McConnell now, that's America in 2020.