There’s a saying among lawyers that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he or she wants to. That’s what we have here: a Democratic majority so driven by hatred for Trump that it will indict him (and that’s what impeachment is, an indictment) on anything it can hang its hat onto. That’s also why we have a presiding officer, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), whose opening and closing statements each day show he has already decided Trump should go. They are like Captain Renault from the movie “Casablanca,” who tried to decide whether a suspect in his custody died from suicide or while trying to escape.
We have learned almost nothing from this week that had not already been leaked during the witnesses’ private deposition testimony. Democrats argue that Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked he president to investigate what then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son did in that country in 2016, is impeachable on its face for mixing personal political gain with public business. They further argue that Trump’s decision to hold up already approved military aid to Ukraine establishes a quid pro quo — give me the investigation and I’ll give you the aid — or at least they did until their focus groups determined people responded better to the word “bribery.” Essentially nothing we’ve heard so far adds any new details to that story.
The hearings exist for the sole purpose of trying to do what previous hearings held by other committees had not been able to do: move public opinion in favor of impeachment. But polls show that the overwhelming majority of people who don’t approve of Trump are already for impeachment. The remaining holdouts are the 40 percent to 45 percent of Americans who do support the president. They have remained immune to these arguments for two months. It’s difficult to see why Trump backers will suddenly change their minds now.
In fact, Trump’s job approval ratings have been increasing over the last two weeks after an initial drop when the scandal was first unveiled. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Trump’s job approval stands at 44.4 percent. That’s higher than it was for all but two days between February 2017 and this past May, and it is less than a point below its high-water mark reached on the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voiced her support for impeachment.
Trump supporters have completely tuned out the regular news coverage that assails their leader, and by extension, them. They know the president won’t get a fair hearing before the partisan House or from the legions of talking heads who have been shouting at them for three years. It would take a truly earth-shattering revelation at this point to get them to reconsider their backing. The idea that somehow flogging Republicans over their supposed backwardness for backing Trump will get them to change their minds is as stupid and counterproductive as the saying that “The beatings will continue until the morale improves.”
That saying is often attributed to Captain William Bligh of the HMS Bounty. That approach led his crew to mutiny the captain and send him adrift in a lifeboat accompanied by only a few loyalists. Republican voters, sick and tired of being treated as afterthoughts at best and animals at worst, are eager to mutiny. Think of Trump as their Fletcher Christian, and you’ll understand what’s going through Republicans’ minds.
I don’t expect anything to change in future hearings. Democrats will trot out witnesses they have already vetted in private. Anti-Trump acolytes throughout the media-entertainment complex will pronounce they are shocked at the revelations, all while refusing to even contemplate that maybe the Biden family should at least be looked into. And when the hearings reach their inevitable conclusion that Trump is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, the chorus will merely grow louder and insist that the Republican-controlled Senate “do its job” and put “country over party.”
That body will do its job. It will hold a fairer hearing than we have seen so far. It will almost certainly refuse to remove the president from office. And by doing so, it will be putting country over party because it will let the American people decide Trump’s fate through an election. Would that those braying for his blood because democracy is supposedly at risk have similar faith in the people.