At one point, Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the team of House impeachment managers, asked GOP senators a question.
“The truth is going to come out,” Schiff said. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?”
This argument has been ubiquitous, including on this blog: GOP senators who vote against subpoenaing new witnesses and documents run the risk that more damning revelations will come out after any such vote, and after their inevitable acquittal. This could allow those revelations to be hung around their necks, as examples of what they sought to help Trump cover up.
But it’s now clear we’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. The truth, plainly, is that in this scenario, the fact that the votes on evidence and acquittal will come before any future revelations is a feature of doing it this way.
That’s because a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.
Yes, future revelations will stand as evidence of what GOP senators covered up. But that’s still politically less risky, from their perspective, than taking the chance that new evidence could be still more damning than what’s already known, and that they’d have to then acquit at that point.
This is why the argument that Schiff and many of us have made has been a bit like shooting spitballs into a concrete wall.
The obvious reason for the blockade has been that Republicans want to help Trump execute the coverup. But the raw incentives for senators themselves also tilt against new witnesses and evidence, especially given the likelihood of new revelations later. Senators can try to dismiss future revelations with a wave of the hand — Trump has already been acquitted; we’ve moved on.
New reporting from CNN’s Manu Raju underscores the point. As Raju reports, no GOP senator wants to be the 51st and decisive vote for new witnesses and evidence. So the only way we’ll get new evidence is if a larger bloc of GOP senators breaks toward this outcome, resulting in, say, 54 or 55 votes for it.
But as Raju notes, “at the moment, that is not within the realm of possibility.”
Plainly, the prospect of being the 51st vote for transparency, accountability and the full truth would constitute a betrayal of loyalty to Trump that will not be countenanced.
No GOP senator wants to suffer such horrifying ignominy. And the inevitable vote to acquit will be easier, the less one knows about just how corrupt Trump’s scheme really was.
The coverup will mostly fail. Here’s why.
Still, time is working against Trump. What has already been demonstrated by House Democrats is incredibly damning. But since the impeachment vote, digging by good-government groups, supplemented by investigative reporting, has shown that concerns inside the administration about the illegality and impropriety of Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to extort Ukraine ran far deeper than we knew.
More is coming. The nonprofit group American Oversight just received reams of new emails, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, from the White House budget office showing that on the day Trump pressured the Ukrainian president, White House officials were still working to justify the aid freeze’s legality, creating previously unknown internal tensions.
But many of those documents are heavily redacted.
Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, tells me the group will be negotiating with the White House budget office about getting some redactions lifted, and if it doesn’t sufficiently comply, it’s back into court. It’s perfectly plausible, though hardly guaranteed, that a ruling may lift many redactions in the next few months.
One can envision numerous possibilities emerging from those documents. For instance, it’s plausible that the redactions cover up internal conversations, or additional concerns, about Trump’s rationale for freezing the aid.
Remember, when the Just Security website was able to peer under the redactions in a previous batch of emails, it was very revelatory.
What’s more, American Oversight is suing for still more documents. According to the group, two new batches are due from the State Department in February. Those requests concern, among other things, communications to and from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials regarding Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani’s escapades in Ukraine to unearth dirt smearing Joe Biden.
Those, too, will be redacted. But if necessary, American Oversight will go to court on that as well, and an eventual ruling in the group’s favor is a genuine possibility. The point is that it’s very likely that more incriminating information will indeed come out.
There is a strangely ingrained media narrative that tends to treat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the deviously clever and all-controlling wizard behind the Senate curtain. And, yes, McConnell may persuade GOP senators to answer Schiff’s question with a resounding “no,” in an effort to carry Trump’s coverup to completion.
But McConnell’s control over what we end up learning is not absolute. And neither is Trump’s.