With no more witnesses being called to testify, the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump is over. Sure, the Senate has another final vote lined up that will acquit the president. But everyone knows how that vote will go, and the impeachment trial really died on the witness question.
For the next few days, impeachment might as well be a zombie roaming around in Washington, D.C., because everyone will be turning their attention to the Democratic primaries in Iowa and the president’s Tuesday State of the Union address.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) said on Twitter last week: “If the trial is rigged to keep hidden the most damming, most important, most relevant evidence, then it’s not a trial. Nor is it an acquittal. It’s a cover-up.” He was referring to the potential testimony of former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.
But here’s the problem with that line: If Bolton’s testimony — or any testimony, for that matter, at this stage of the proceedings — is that vitally important, that damning to the Trump administration’s defense, then why didn’t Democrats subpoena that testimony in the House? Dems, and in particular Adam Schiff, had every single chance to call any witness they deemed essential during the House’s impeachment hearings.
Indeed, Democrats heard from 17 witnesses that they deemed vitally important in the House. Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats even pressured the White House and got a read-out of the call President Trump had with Ukraine. And in the House, John Bolton said the same thing he told the Senate; he’d speak if Congress subpoenaed his testimony.
But Democrats refused. Right before impeachment moved from Schiff’s Intelligence Committee to Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, Schiff said in an interview with NPR: “I think our report shows abundant evidence, really overwhelming evidence, that the president used the power of his office.” Referring to the second article of impeachment, on obstruction of justice, Schiff said in the same interview: “It is difficult to imagine a more ironclad case of obstruction of Congress than this one.”
Even still, Democrats never heard a single witness that Republicans requested. The only person whose testimony Republicans were able to call was one law professor, Johnathan Turley, who laid out his reasoning to the House Judicial panel for why Donald Trump’s conduct was wrong, but not impeachable. It’s worth remembering what Turley told House Democrats at the time:
If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.
Democrats, ignoring Turley’s advice, told everyone that they had an ironclad case while answering zero Republican critiques or anything related to them.
Indeed, Democrats are the ones who refused to call witnesses. Democrats refused to win over moderate or retiring Republicans with reservations about Trump’s conduct. And Democrats refused to do their due diligence in using the most powerful congressional power: impeachment.
The politics of impeachment went about as swimmingly for the Dems as Ted Cruz’s government shutdown over Obamacare. Donald Trump’s approval rating sits near record highs for his administration, and his odds of re-election sit at their best since he was first voted into office.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) put it best, writing in a statement on rejecting more witnesses:
The framers believed that there should never, ever be a partisan impeachment. That is why the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate for conviction. Yet not one House Republican voted for these articles.
If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist. It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.
Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with “the consent of the governed” not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.
The reason we’re here, at this moment, watching impeachment lurch forward like a zombie with its body parts falling off, is because Democrats chose the most partisan and dishonest way to sell the idea of removal. Democrats sold the concept of impeachment like they sold Obamacare: with no input from anyone else, and no attempt to make it a bipartisan process.
If you’re going to remove a president, you cannot shame another party into action. You have to reach across the aisle and convince people who are not in your party to remove the duly elected head of the executive branch.
At no one point did Democrats ever attempt to make this argument. That’s why polls haven’t moved, and that’s why everyone dug into their tribal position.
There’s no cover-up here, only the most remarkably stupid politicking by a political party pushing impeachment in generations. Historians won’t remember this trial or impeachment as a coverup — they’ll see Democrats’ efforts to impeach Trump as a sham maneuver they used in an attempt to boost their base.
With that, it’s time to bury this zombie and move on to far more important matters. It’s time to let the least convincing and most unremarkable impeachment in our country’s history to end. Fortunately for everyone involved, the country will have forgotten about this whole thing in a week or two.