“Coup attempt! … No basis for this impeachment!” offered Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
“Wooo!” cheered 75 or so conservative demonstrators, assembled by FreedomWorks as part of an “activist fly-in.” Each wore a yellow windbreaker bearing an emblem with an Angry Birds-worthy cartoon eagle and the words “Trump Defense Force/Presidential Protectors.”
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) took a turn. “Unfair impeachment hearing! … All based on hearsay … He has not committed any crimes!”
“Amen!” called out one of the protesters. They wore MAGA caps and ski caps and carried various signs showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a witch hat or saying “America stopped hunting witches in 1693” and “Hey Democrats, go impeach yourself!”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) blew a kiss to the activists. “This is all about Nancy Pelosi continuing her charade that she started in the basement,” he reprised, a tear from his cold-stung eyes splashing onto his lapel.
“Trump! Trump! Trump!” crowed the Angry Birds.
The speaking lineup also listed voluble Rep. Matt Gaetz, but the Floridian skipped the icy adventure. Just as well: They were ostensibly there to hasten Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, but why should anybody listen?
For the moment, the loons are out in the cold in more ways than one.
“Trump’s House warriors likely sidelined in Senate trial,” reported a Politico headline Wednesday. “Some Republicans and allies of the president are afraid the House lawmakers could turn the trial into a circus.” One Trump adviser expressed fear House Republicans would create a “clown show.”
That’s to be expected when you send in the clowns.
The banishment of the House clown car from Senate proceedings is promising: Maybe there could be a legitimate trial, after all?
Early signs haven’t been favorable. Pelosi failed in her attempt, by delaying delivery of the impeachment articles, to force the Senate to allow witnesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared that he has the votes to force through trial rules on a party-line vote without a commitment to have witnesses. (Senators approved rules for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial 100 to 0.)
But a few GOP senators — Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) — have at least made noises about hearing eventually from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. And Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), as Trump-friendly a Democrat as there is, pointed out that it would be ridiculous for the president, after declaring that House proceedings were unfair, to insist on using only the House record for the trial. “I can’t see how anybody, Democrat or Republican, cannot vote to have John Bolton testify,” Manchin told CNN. “And if we don’t get that, then it’s a sham of a trial.”
Even Trump seemed to turn down the crazy on Wednesday. After bumbling toward war with Iran for several days with ever-escalating threats, he opted against an immediate military response to Iran’s symbolic (and apparently nonlethal) missile attack against Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are housed.
In a statement from the Grand Foyer of the White House, Trump, using military chiefs as his backdrop, offered plenty of bombast (“our missiles are big”) and outrageous partisanship (“the missiles fired last night at us … were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration”). But he stuck to the teleprompter — struggling with difficult words such as “accomplishments” and “Soleimani” — and presented no repercussions for Iran other than more economic sanctions.
Maybe the Senate trial could likewise be a serious undertaking? Certainly, some Republican senators — Ron Johnson (Wis.) and John Neely Kennedy (La.) come to mind — are no more responsible than their GOP colleagues across the Rotunda. But Pelosi’s delay, though unsuccessful in its primary aim, has given time for more corroborating evidence to trickle out about Trump’s involvement in the Ukraine affair. Lawsuits have pried loose more documents; Rudolph W. Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas has been freed by a court to share evidence with House investigators; vice-presidential aide Jennifer Williams has supplemented her testimony with classified material; and Bolton has come forward.
It is still possible that a small combination of moderate, conscientious or endangered Senate Republicans will yet insist on obtaining some of the evidence Trump blocked the House from getting. That would be a much better look for them than joining their hotheaded House colleagues out in the cold with the Angry Birds.