After three long years and a litany of crimes later, the seemingly inevitable impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump has finally begun. Yet what should be a moment of triumph for justice and the rule of law in this country is clouded by a pall of impotent frustration and resignation as the nation slowly grapples with the realization that all the evidence in the world could not change the predetermined outcome.
The beginning of the trial today saw the president’s lawyers put on the same kind of preposterous dog-and-pony show that we’ve seen at every single Congressional hearing related to Trump’s myriad misdeeds: bluster, huffy pearl-clutching indignance, a wild abuse of the truth and the mainstreaming of dark web conspiracy theories.
Trump lawyers Sekulow and Ciopollone ridiculously accused the Democrats of violating the Constitution, steamed about the sanctity of executive privilege (which the president has not claimed) and complained that the House had not allowed their subpoenas to be subject to judicial review even though the Trump administration had previously argued that federal courts had no constitutional ability to rule on congressional subpoenas.
However, Sekulow was correct when he said that “what had taken place in these proceedings is not to be confused with due process.” Due process begins with the reasonable expectation that the arguments and evidence presented in the trial will be taken into consideration when determining the outcome, but so far Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has made it clear that there is nothing that will stop him and his caucus from acquitting the President.
So far, in a straight party-line vote, the Senate Republican have refused to allow Democrats to subpoena any documents from the State Department. They then defeated the next two amendments calling for more evidence and witness testimony and at the time of writing are preparing to defeat the motion to interview Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
53-47, Senate votes along party lines to kill Schumer amendment to subpoena State Department documents
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 21, 2020
Senate Republicans vote to scuttle amendment seeking OMB documents on Ukraine aid being withheld, 53-47. Third straight document vote defeated by GOP. Also the Senate finished that vote in about five minutes.
Next up: 30-minute dinner break, and a vote on Mulvaney
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) January 22, 2020
It’s obvious that McConnell wants to be done with this trial as quickly as possible so he can get back to machine-gunning right-wing psychopaths into the federal judiciary and entrenching the right-wing’s pernicious hold on our judiciary for a generation.
Under the revised McConnell rules, it’s possible Trump could be acquitted by Friday the 31st if there’s not majority support for a subpoena for witnesses and documents.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 21, 2020
This represents a major existential crisis for the United States and our system of government as a whole, the utter breakdown of rule of law and the shattering of faith in our government institutions.
What are we to make of a group of legislators who represent a tiny proportion of the population that violate their oaths the minute they utter the last word without any sort of consequence?
How are we supposed to just casually walk into the next election knowing that the members of one of our two parties will simply refuse to obey the rules whenever it suits them? That facts and evidence apparently no longer carry any weight in the United States Senate?
We’ve already seen Mitch McConnell steal one Supreme Court seat out from under President Obama’s nose, and now we’re about to watch a going-through-the-motions show trial that would have impressed Stalin with its cynical efficiency. The United States Senate is fundamentally broken, and we cannot afford to have this partisan gridlock make a mockery of our institutions and obstruct justice any longer.
The next Democratic President is going to need to take drastic action to finally strip Mitch McConnell of the power he’s abused for so long — and to make sure that he and his cronies don’t use the same tactics to impeach the next Democrat.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.