by Nebojsa Malic
Even before President Donald Trump was elected US president, Democrats began talking about impeachment. Now that it has failed, will they finally accept the result of the 2016 election? Don’t get your hopes up.
Trump’s acquittal in the Senate on Wednesday was a foregone conclusion, given as it takes two thirds of the senators present to convict. The only way for 20 Republicans to switch sides was for the House case to be open and shut – something that only Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) and ‘Russiagate’ truthers in the media actually believed.
In the end, the sole Republican to break ranks was Mitt Romney, and only on one of the articles. Not guilty, exonerated, case closed, let’s “move on” – as Democrats themselves advised in 1999, after the same thing happened to Bill Clinton.
Not so fast. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has rejected the verdict, calling it “meaningless” because what happened in the Senate “wasn’t a trial.” It’s a retreat to last week’s talking points, arguing that the Senate should have called additional witnesses and documents that the House didn’t care to obtain before rushing to impeach back in December.
Never mind that doing this would have meant the House process was flawed, fatally undercut the second article – “obstruction of Congress” – or that the House managers themselves objected to any new evidence being introduced. If you’re expecting logic rather than lawfare, you’re in the wrong town.
Democrats began talking impeachment from the second Trump took office, having failed to prevent that from happening through a variety of long-shot schemes such as “Hamilton electors.” Their initial strategy was to allege “emoluments” and harp on Trump’s undisclosed tax returns, before settling on “Russiagate.” Then the Mueller Report came out and proved to be a dud of epic proportions. Hopes to at least get obstruction of justice charges out of it were decisively crushed by Attorney General William Barr.
Report came out and proved to be a dud of epic proportions. Hopes to at least get obstruction of justice charges out of it were decisively crushed by Attorney General William Barr.
Under tremendous pressure to find something – anything – to impeach Trump over, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi turned to Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, a fellow Californian. Schiff seized upon a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he was told about by staffers in touch with their former colleagues inside the intelligence community.
Schiff seized on Trump’s reference to Joe Biden’s bragging about getting a corruption prosecutor in Ukraine fired, to claim that this amounted to “soliciting foreign interference” in the 2020 election, since Barack Obama’s former VP was the front-runner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination.
While Schiff and his crew did their best to conjure a crazy conspiracy involving Trump holding up military aid for political leverage – mind-reading and inventing fake transcripts along the way – their case was ultimately smoke and mirrors. Zelensky himself said he was not being extorted, and the parade of other witnesses from within the very bureaucracy Trump had sworn to purge (but obviously hadn’t) had only their personal, anti-Trump opinions to offer.
Paradoxically, impeachment only made Trump stronger – and more popular, if the latest polls are anything to go by. By contrast, Democrats have gone from one defeat to the next this week, starting with Monday’s fiasco at the Iowa caucuses and continuing with Pelosi’s tantrum at Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday.
“This impeachment was a destructive debacle in every conceivable respect, but don’t worry I’m sure [Democrats] will change their behavior moving forward, they have a well-established track record of taking responsibility for failure,” quipped political journalist Michael Tracey after the Senate acquittal.
If Trump wins re-election in November – which increasingly looks like it might happen – expect the Democrats to try to impeach him again. What for? It doesn’t matter, any excuse will do.
Simply put, they have to. In retrospect, impeachment seems to have always been a coping mechanism for 2016, the election that neither Hillary Clinton nor her party ever recovered from losing.
Clinton herself offered more proof of that on Wednesday, accusing 52 Senate Republicans of betraying their oath to the Constitution and saying the US was “entering dangerous territory for our democracy.”
She’s actually correct about that, though not in a sense she may have intended. Democracy works only so long as all participants agree to abide by electoral results. Refusing to accept defeat and attempting to rules-lawyer one’s way out would be bothersome enough at a board game night, but is downright toxic when it infects national politics.
Kaiser Report co-host Stacy Herbert summed it up best, calling the last three years “one horrible remake of ‘Goodbye, Lenin’ in which the entire political and media classes have constructed an elaborate alternative reality so as to avoid having Hillary encounter any further distress which might compound her humiliation.”
Unlike in the 2003 German film, nothing so far has been capable of bursting this particular delusion bubble – which means that America’s long national nightmare is nowhere near over.