Mike Littwin: The Trump Senate impeachment trial, Day 10
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The best argument against removing Donald Trump from office has always been that everyone knew what they were getting when they elected him.
Some of you may be too young to know this, but when the Richard Nixon tapes were released, when the full ugliness of Nixonland was revealed, there were people who were actually surprised. You can say that anyone paying the slightest bit of attention — or anyone reading Woodward and Bernstein — should have known everything, but, in fact, many did not know it or, in any case, believe it.
On the other hand, no one is shocked that Trump sent the knee breakers to Ukraine in an effort to coerce a newly elected president to interfere in American politics because we all know that’s who Trump is. He was elected despite that or maybe because of that. But we all knew. Everyone knew.
No one could be shocked by a corrupt quid pro quo because that’s the true art of a Trumpian deal.
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EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony about the Trump team and Ukraine also could be said about Trump and every Republican sitting in the Senate, every Republican sitting in the House, every Trump enabler on TV or radio: Everyone was in the loop.
Now some Senate Republicans are trying to cover up their own cover-up by conceding that Trump’s behavior was “wrong” or “inappropriate” or whatever. Please. These senators are the same people who voted against former National Security Advisor John Bolton testifying before the Senate. That is what is wrong. That is what is inappropriate.
As everyone knows, Bolton has written a book — which the Trump people are busily, and unsurprisingly, trying to quash. Bolton was, of course, in the room where everything happened. In the latest New York Times report on Bolton’s draft manuscript, it describes an Oval Office meeting in May, attended by the president, Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Yes, this was in May, two months before the infamous, not-so-perfect July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. At that May meeting, according to the Bolton manuscript, Trump told Bolton to call Zelensky to pressure him to set up a meeting with Rudy. Yes, to talk to Rudy, the minor player, the shiny object. And Cipollone, who has been leading Trump’s defense team, was in the room.
Knowing this, the Senate voted 51-49 not to hear witnesses, including Bolton. Anyone who voted not to hear Bolton is not just part of a cover-up, but is central to a cover-up. For anyone who makes the argument that removing Trump would tear the country in two, that may even be true, but it is entirely irrelevant to the witness vote. Those 51 senators voted to ensure that the country wouldn’t hear Bolton, under oath, tell the full ugliness of Trump’s plot to smear Joe Biden and who knows what else. But we do know why. Bolton’s testimony would not only implicate Trump, but also every guileful Trump defender.
Anyone who voted against witnesses violated his or her oath. In Colorado, we’re still waiting to hear Cory Gardner try to explain his vote. He can’t explain it, other than to say he didn’t have the moral courage to do what he knew was right.
It’s not that often in politics where right and wrong are so clearly written. Gardner failed. I’m not talking about Gardner’s politics — with which I happily concede my differences — but about his character.
Everyone knew — or should have known — that Trump would betray his office. (And the counter-argument, by the way, in favor of Trump’s removal is that Trump encouraged foreign involvement in 2016, he tried to force Zelensky to interfere in 2020, and the Russians, with Trump’s encouragement, will certainly be back, and nothing will be done to try to stop them. Is that enough to merit removal? He cheated in 2016. He has already cheated in 2020.)
The name of Bolton’s book — “The Room Where It Happened” — is apparently taken from a song from Hamilton, “The Room Where It Happens,” a song of corruption that was all too typical of Washington even in the time of the Founders.
Here are relevant lyrics: “No one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage gets made, we just assume that it happens, but no one else is in, the room where it happens.”
But Bolton was in the room. It may have taken him too long to get to this point, but he told the Senate he was ready to testify if subpoenaed. I don’t know who is leaking the incriminating bits from the manuscript to The Times, but the timing was clearly meant to put optimal pressure on Republican senators.
And on the day of the leak, we heard from Gen. John Kelly, the former chief of staff who often clashed with Bolton, saying that if the Senate failed to hear Bolton, they would be holding no more than half a trial. In his argument for witnesses and documents, Adam Schiff said that Kelly had understated the case. Without witnesses, he said, there was no trial.
We knew before the trial began how it would end. There would never be 20 Republicans to vote for Trump’s removal. But some of us held out some slight hope that there would be a real trial, and that the case, with players like Bolton and Mulvaney testifying under oath, could be fairly litigated.
If the country had gotten that much, people would know, in detail, what it is they would — or would not — be voting for in November.
It was once enough to say that Republican politicians had enabled Trump’s corrupt behavior. Now we can say with certainly not only that they enabled it, but that they encouraged it, they excused it and, worst of all, they stood before the country as they openly, and brazenly, voted on the Senate floor to cover it all up.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in the Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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