But for what truly ails Trump’s team, the treatment of choice should be CoQ10, ginkgo biloba or perhaps some brain teasers. Trump’s defense appears to be in need of some serious memory care.
On the Senate floor on Monday, Trump’s lawyers avoided any mention of Bolton for nearly eight hours, instead repeating the same no-quid-pro-quo mantra — now debunked by Bolton — that they made on Saturday, as though Sunday had never happened.
They brought in criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who said impeachment requires a specific, statutory crime — as though his previous declaration that there “certainly doesn’t have to be a crime” had never happened.
And, best of all, they wheeled in Kenneth Starr to denounce “the age of impeachment” and the “poison” and “grave disruption” it brings — as though the entire decade of the 1990s had never happened.
Starr denouncing the practice of impeachment is a bit like Queen Elizabeth denouncing the monarchy. Yet there, at the far end of Trump’s defense table, was the man who pursued President Bill Clinton’s impeachment like Captain Ahab and the white whale. He rose, with a frog in his throat, sanctimony in his heart and nonsense on his tongue.
“The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently,” said the man whose work led that same body to put Clinton on trial for lying about a sexual affair in a dismissed civil suit.
“How did we get here?” asked the man who forced on the nation a fight over a semen-stained dress and lurid uses of Altoid mints and cigars.
This produced wry smiles and looks of disbelief on the Democratic side. But Starr was deadpan. Impeachment is “inherently destabilizing” and “acrimonious,” he said, and, praising one of Clinton’s lawyers, he condemned the independent-counsel statute that authorized the Starr probe as “a dagger aimed at the heart of the presidency.”
“Enough was enough!” he said, celebrating the demise of the statute.
He betrayed not a hint of responsibility, or even self-awareness, an observer of impeachment more than its primary proponent. “Like war, impeachment is hell,” Starr said. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand.”
Now the man who argued passionately that Clinton’s lying about sex amounted to “high crimes and misdemeanor” wants the senators to “return to our country’s traditions when presidential impeachment was truly a measure of last resort.”
If chutzpah were a high crime, Starr would be doing serious time.
After Bolton’s revelations, Trump’s defenders didn’t seem to know quite what to do at first.
“**CANCELED**” announced TV screens throughout the Capitol on Monday morning, after Republican senators called off their regular impeachment briefing. Eventually, two of the five senators who had planned the briefing decided to proceed.
“I say, take a breath,” recommended Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
By then, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah) had already indicated they would look more favorably on calling witnesses.
But White House lawyers’ strategy soon emerged: They would simply act as though Bolton’s revelations had never happened. Trump lawyer Michael Purpura blithely repeated for senators the argument he made on Saturday that “the evidence doesn’t show a quid pro quo” and “there was no linkage between investigations and security assistance.”
Trump’s other lawyers apparently suffered from the same Bolton-induced amnesia. Pam Bondi attacked former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Eric Herschmann offered a highly partisan attack on President Barack Obama. None mentioned Bolton.
Finally, Dershowitz, given the prime-time speaking slot of 8 p.m., delivered an argument that directly contradicted his previous position. But at least he acknowledged the 180-degree reversal since Clinton’s impeachment. “I was not fully aware of the compelling counterarguments,” he explained.
Dershowitz’s conversion is so complete that he now thinks even Bolton’s allegations — direct evidence that Trump conditioned military aid on Ukraine announcing investigations of Trump’s political opponents — is harmless stuff. “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” he proclaimed.
Uh-oh. It was the first and only time in eight hours that Trump’s team had mentioned Bolton on the floor. Dershowitz totally forgot about forgetting him.
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