Monday, February 15, 2021

What did we just witness?


The Spy's Report from Washington

By Scott V. Sandford, Justice Correspondent with
Hamilton Burger, Spy Contributing Criminal Jurisprudence Expert

Well, that went well.  

Last week we made the point that there were any number of witnesses who could shed light on the details of Individual-1's involvement in the violent effort to overthrow the United States Government on January 6.

None were called.  Oh, and by the way, Individual-1 beat the rap again, by a vote of 43 to 57.  That's even worse than the 5-4 vote that installed George W. Bush as President.

So did the failure to call relevant witnesses cause the impeachment trial to fail to convict?

Jamie Raskin took on a corrupt Senate.
The Senate won.
We doubt it.  The outcome was in no more doubt that the trial of two white murderers of Emmett Till and for the same reason: a jury corrupted by white supremacists willing to perpetuate or excuse any outrage if it helps keep their hands around the throat of the body politic.  In other words, Republicans.

We don't want to lose focus on those 43 seditious fellow travelers.  As Dana Milbank put it, “The other 43 Republicans, some of whom, like McConnell, feebly denounced Trump’s conduct even as they acquitted him, now have the cowardly distinction of licking the boots of the man who left them to die.”

Cowards, sure, but we'd also go with the likelihood that the 43 subversives were in fact in full sympathy with the Trumpublican program of destroying democracy in the service of keeping their grip on power.  If you find that conclusion a tad harsh, please provide three facts tending to falsify it. We'll be waiting.

But without letting these 43 anti-American Senators off their hook (and we'll put them right back on it any time they try to lecture loyal Americans on anything related to national security, like closing the hellhole at Guantanamo), let's dilate a minute on the question of witnesses.

The quick execution of the Duke of York maneuver (who led 10,000 men to the top of the hill, and then . . .) by the House impeachment managers Saturday came in for a crossfire of comment, pro and con. 

Those in favor of witnesses (like us!) would point out that the witnesses would have nailed down the parts of the story for which first-hand evidence is lacking, like Trump's prior and contemporaneous involvement in the insurrection.  Even if witnesses would never persuade the 43 disloyal Republicans, they would give the American people a vivid and one would hope durable impression of Trump's brazen scheme to assassinate democracy in broad daylight.

Or as Aaron Blake in The Washington Post put it:

But then we come back to what was mentioned at the top: [The Managers] said this was vitally important. They said this was the worst offense a U.S. president had ever committed. They said accountability was required. Even if Republicans would never have provided enough votes, there is still value in putting all of this on the record — and maybe even, however unlikely, forcing those Republicans to confront the evidence the Democrats said was incontrovertible.

Democrats passed on even really trying. It just doesn’t speak to the idea that this was the worst high crime in American history. 

The Managers had all that in their grasp and they backed down, settling for a written stipulation read by Manager Raskin that confirmed Trump's willingness to sacrifice his Vice President to scuttle the election.  

The Managers toured the Sunday morning gasbag fests but their explanations were not inspiring.  They had already proven their case.  Witnesses wouldn't have swayed more Senators to vote to protect the Republic.  And they scored a great victory by getting seven Republicans to not betray their country.

Well, OK.  But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the real reason for caving on witnesses was something less inspiring, possibly because it had already been reported in The Washington Post:

And you thought romance in the Senate had died with ol' Strom Thurmond.

We're not very good lawyers, but if we are told that the judges in the case we are arguing want us to wrap it up and if we don't they'll be mad, we sit down and shut up.

Why would the Impeachment Managers, who demonstrated that they are very good lawyers, respond differently?  And why wouldn't they cop to it?  “The Senators made it clear to us that the longer we went on, the worse it would be for our case,” is a perfectly honorable defense.  And with the trial over, why do members of a coordinate branch of Congress feel any further need to spare the sensibilities of the Senate romantics?

We also have the thoughts of various legal kibitzers of greater or lesser repute.  Mr. Dan Goldman, who has had experience as a federal prosecutor and as congressional staff, tends to give the Managers a pass on witnesses:

If you are prosecuting a bank robbery and you have the surveillance camera footage, you don’t need witnesses to tell you what happened. . . .

@RepRaskin is right that if their powerful case did not convince 67 to convict, nothing would. Why dilute their case, delay the trial, potentially put people in harm’s way or endure lengthy litigation, only to get marginally more info about facts that everyone knows? . . . .

It was the right call to proceed as they did. They got important evidence at no cost that bolstered an already strong case. Witnesses were not necessary to the case and witnesses purely for witnesses sake is bad strategy.

So the question of witnesses, unlike the question of the guilt of the impeached Loser-in-Chief or the willful blindness of 43 Qpublican Senators, remains open. 

We have an idea.  Just because the impeachment trial is over doesn't mean that real Congressional oversight of the January 6 outrage and Trump's involvement is over.  The House Managers should turn over their files to the House Committees on Homeland Security (including Eric Swallwell) and Oversight and Reform (including Member Jamie Raskin) and let them follow up with hearings and witness testimony.

That way we can hear from former flunky and acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who could explain why one day after the Seditionist-in-Chief decided to address his mob at the Ellipse he sent a memo disarming the DC National Guard.  He could and should tell the House what prompted this memo, and whether he had had, directly or indirectly. any communications with or directions from the President or his agents with regard to the deployment of the DC National Guard in event of an attack on or around January 6.  There's a phalanx of highly partisan bag carriers whose testimony would also be of great interest.

In addition, given the endless shrieking from Whinin' Mike Lee, the House Committees should subpoena anyone with knowledge of the events at the White House from 1 to 6 p.m. on January 6, including House Minority Wiener Kevin McCarthy and indeed the Loser-in-Chief himself.

Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q - GA) declined comment,
claiming she was "late for her training session"
Republicans and their media masters will screech about prolonging a matter that should be allowed to fade into oblivion, as has been the practice with past fatal assaults on the U.S. Capitol and the attempted murders of senior government officials in furtherance of an insurrection.  But guess what – they'll screech no matter what.  Might as well, as Bonnie Raitt would say, give 'em something to talk about.

And of course the same Trumpublicans who cared not a whit about the rule of law since it was chucked into the bucket of chicken bones in January 2017 will attempt to block the enforcement of the subpoenas in court.  Let them.  Prolong the whole mess for four years.  We can wait.  Even if the investigation prevents Trumpublicans from responding to Cupid's arrow next Valentine's Day too (although we suspect that Marjorie Taylor Greene's “trainers” will be able to reschedule the orgy).

What legal arguments could they muster?  Executive privilege belongs to the Executive, not to grifters evicted from the White House by the electorate.  The Republican witnesses can hardly claim that an investigation into an attack on the U.S. Capitol is not related to a valid subject of Congressional inquiry.  We're kidding – of course they can and will, but we'll bet that even rapey Brett and spooky Amy won't buy it.  Some witnesses will likely plead the Fifth, which tells a story too.

We'll go so far as to say that the longer the potential witnesses try to wriggle out of their day under the bright lights, the better.  Nothing keeps the public interested like a cliffhanger, and the documents and video that the Congressional investigators will provide or leak will continue to torment Qpublicans for an entire Presidential term.

And we're not talking about some bs commission.  Commission are where problems are quietly buried.  Live Congressional hearings and their attendant media circus are where problems remain lodged like a cinder in the public eye.

If we seem to be advocating an endless round of Congressional investigations to promote a partisan political agenda, hell, we'll plead guilty to that.

If you like, you can even call it the Full Benghazi.

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