The End of Impeachment 2: Electric Boogaloo

Donald Trump has now been acquitted twice.

I hope everyone enjoyed their extra day off. A thing I think about every President’s Day: Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the Super Bowl during the long holiday weekend? Something to consider.

This will probably be a short Jackal that integrates the must-reads with my thoughts about Trump’s acquittal. While the outcome wasn’t surprising, it still hurt to see that 43 members of the GOP caucus are totally OK with sedition. David Frum put a positive spin on it, and noted that the final number was pretty good even if it wasn’t enough to convict:

Things will get worse for the 45th president. The 57–43 margin in the Senate flashes a green light to federal and state prosecutors that, if they find evidence of crimes, proceeding with legal action against Trump would be politically safe.

I mostly agree with that. In a lot of ways, Trump’s problems are just beginning. Nancy Pelosi announced today that the House would be forming a long, investigatory committee (in the same vein as the 911 Commission) to take a deep look at what happened on January 6th. And if that committee has the power to make criminal referrals, Trump could find himself facing not just State prosecutors, but a possible Federal prosecution as well.

Charlie Sykes is less positive. He points out:

This is Donald Trump’s party. But worse.

Over the last five years, Republicans have shown willingness to accept — or least ignore — lies, racism, and xenophobia.

But now it is a party that is also willing to acquiesce to sedition, violence, extremism, and anti-democratic authoritarianism. 

Maybe that’s what Lindsey Graham meant when he talked about “Trump-plus.”

He goes through the list of local Republican organizations that have taken action to censure officials like Bill Cassidy, Liz Cheney, and any other Republican who supported Trump’s impeachment. And then, you can also look at polls that say 75% of Republicans want Trump to play a “big role” in the GOP and slowly feel yourself sinking into the abyss.

Here is the silver lining though: The same poll showed that 60% of all Americans do not want Trump to play any role in the GOP and 55% say he should not be allowed to run for office in the future. To that end, George Will thinks we will now see the GOP’s (probably years-long) project to shrink Trump’s influence begin. And the Wall Street Journal says it pretty plainly: “He may run again, but he won’t win another national election.” The only people who want Trump to run again in 2024 more than his supporters are Democrats. Nothing drove more people to the polls than the prospect of another four years of Trump, and if he rises from the dead in 2024, you can bet people will show up again to send him back to the Shadow.

Leaving all of the political calculation aside, the vote itself is shameful. The evidence against Trump - as shown by the House Managers in a nearly flawless case - was overwhelming. Alex Burns had an incredible paragraph about what the vote signified:

The vote stands as a pivotal moment for the party Mr. Trump molded into a cult of personality, one likely to leave a deep blemish in the historical record. Now that Republicans have passed up an opportunity to banish him through impeachment, it is not clear when — or how — they might go about transforming their party into something other than a vessel for a semiretired demagogue who was repudiated by a majority of voters.

I think this is where Mitch McConnell and even George Will are a little naive. Even in the best-case scenario, where Trump is hounded by lawsuits for the next four years and even if he is convicted for inciting the Capitol Riot or for some other crime, the Republican base will never abandon him. And if McConnell thinks he can win a PR campaign against Donald Trump, then good luck. The GOP ultimately missed their moment.

And to go back to McConnell, his speech excoriating Trump is deeply cynical and doesn’t deserve an ounce of praise. McConnell let Trump off on a technicality, as he clung to an argument that no serious constitutional scholar has endorsed. The Wall Street Journal piece that I linked to above tries to defend McConnell’s vote, but there is a huge issue with their argument: They say that the impeachment of a private citizen lacks a “limiting principle” and would set a dangerous precedent. What’s the tell there? Trump wasn’t impeached as a private citizen; he was impeached as the President of the United States.

That turns this into an argument about “late impeachment,” which the Founders definitely thought was Kosher, as any constitutional scholar could tell you. Moreover, Senator Richard Burr actually had this right in his statement explaining his “guilty” vote, as he said that the Senate finding “late impeachment” to be constitutional ended the debate about the issue. With that, every Senate vote should have been about the facts of the case, which are overwhelming. Burr is actually being consistent with the constitutional process and McConnell is not.

I do think McConnell has gotten some unwarranted heat for not bringing the Senate back to hear the articles of impeachment, but I actually think he would have needed unanimous consent to do that and there is no way Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz would have given the OK. But still, McConnell’s entire argument is bogus and an attempt to thread the needle between keeping Trump’s nutty followers in the GOP column while attempting to return to the suburban-friendly Republican Party of the pre-Trump era.

The problem for McConnell is that the GOP can’t win without Trump, and they really can’t win with Trump. This sort of restates what I said a few weeks back, but Trump isn’t going to just simply fade away into oblivion. And the GOP’s problems are actually quite a bit deeper than Trump. They are a Party that has won the popular vote only once since the 1996 election. Since 1988, there have been two presidents who served single terms in office, both Republicans. If there ever was a time to rebrand and make a play for a larger vote-share in an increasingly diversifying country, it was this past Saturday.

This piece about Eric Metaxas is just insane and deeply humiliating for him. At one point he suggests that no one was killed in the Capitol Riot, and when it is pointed out to him that people - including police officers - did die, he says, “I’m not a newshound.” I used to go to Metaxas’s Socrates in the City events and spoke with him quite a few times. To say that he has done a complete 180 on his past principles would be an understatement.

We keep getting great vaccine news. Israel saw a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID cases among the vaccinated.

That’s it my babies. Picture below is from our rooftop, which showed a snowy, -6 degree Denver evening. The downtown skyline, which is normally more visible, is obscured by snow. Spring is coming.