It takes a unique talent to be the party pursuing impeachment, and right at the finish line of impeaching a former president, to have the entire process blow up in your face. But that’s precisely what happened over the weekend to Democrats as they wrapped up the Senate impeachment.
For nearly the same reasons, Donald Trump’s impeachment failed as the first one, and it was capped off with a debacle over witnesses at the end.
Saturday was just supposed to be the final wrap-up of impeachment. Everyone would vote, Republicans would take the political heat for defending the president, and everyone would go home.
But at the last minute, the House impeachment managers decided that the Senate needed to hear from witnesses, despite closing arguments having already happened.
Those representatives forced a vote, and all of a sudden, much to the vexation of Senate Democrats and the Biden White House, the prospect of a much longer trial loomed largely. Politico reports:
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his members had prepared for the possibility of voting on witnesses, they got no warning that the lead House prosecutor was about to force a vote that could have prolonged the trial for days or weeks. The impeachment managers spent Friday night and Saturday morning wrestling with the question themselves and made the final decision at the last minute.
But that wasn’t the end of things. Politico continues: “But after they voted to move forward, House managers had no real plan for what to do next, according to a Democrat familiar with the negotiations: ‘Senate Democrats gave them the votes, but the managers didn’t know what their next step was.'”
Democrats abruptly became the dog that caught the car and didn’t know what to do. So they froze. Republicans had no problems. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) saw that moment as a chance to take a mile and voted for witnesses. Graham realized this as an opportunity to bring forward witnesses the Trump team wanted.
The Democratic House managers thought they could bring a few witnesses for their side and then call it a day. But the Senate proceedings are a trial, and if one side gets witnesses, the other will claim it has the same right. If Democrats denied the Trump legal team a chance to call witnesses, it would make the trial seem like a partisan witch hunt where Trump got denied a fair hearing.
The problem with witnesses is that they take time. A lot of time. And spending time in the Senate listening to witnesses drone on and on about for weeks, if not months on end, is not something Democrats want to do. Nothing in Congress gets done if that’s happening, and the Biden administration would get hamstrung.
Republicans were more direct on this point. CNN reported: “[Democrats] were warned…that moving forward on witnesses could stall the Senate since the Trump team could move forward with any number of motions for witnesses. Each motion would require two hours of debate. That warning was delivered Saturday to the Democratic impeachment managers by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who said he was conveying what Republicans had told him.”
But that wasn’t something Republicans were saying quietly. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) tweeted that if Democrats wanted a two-year-long trial, they would get one. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) started tweeting about calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a witness and all the fun questions he’d like to ask her.
And not to be forgotten, the Trump legal team “responded to Raskin’s request by threatening to call 100 witnesses, and his legal team quickly had prepared a list of 300 potential names Saturday,” CNN said.
Yes, you read that right. The Trump team had a witness list ready with 300 names. And that was just for starters. If the witness proceedings had kicked off, the Trump legal could have added to that list and extended the trial even further. The Senate would get shut down for months, not weeks.
And so Democrats, who held a vote and made a big show about the need for witnesses at the very end, backed off, called no witnesses, and held a final vote. Trump was acquitted. Trump can now claim, and likely will, that Democrats were scared of the witnesses he could have called in his defense and didn’t want to hear a total defense of his actions before the Senate.
None of this touches on Trump’s conduct or what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol building, which was an utter disgrace. Those involved should face fines and jail time.
Trump should have also faced some form of punishment for his role in those events. Fortunately for him, the Democratic Party is politically incompetent and incapable of achieving an impeachment.
The time for building a case and calling witnesses was when the House was drawing up an impeachment article. The time to realize you may need witnesses is not hours before a final impeachment vote.
Congrats to the Democratic Party on its incomprehensible stupidity and ineptitude in trying to impeach Donald Trump twice. Both times ended up benefiting Trump politically. That takes a special level of ineptness.