The House impeachment managers, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), have masterfully laid out a clear, easy-to-follow narrative of Trump’s misconduct. More importantly, they have made a powerful case that the Senate must gather evidence, including witness testimony and documents, beyond what the House was able to obtain. That is the key issue that Trump’s defenders are afraid to confront.
On Wednesday, Schiff cleverly highlighted specific missing documents and witness testimony — contemporaneous memos, a key State Department cable, former national security adviser John Bolton’s reported “drug deal” remark — that clearly would bear on whether Trump abused his power in his dealings with Ukraine. Why, Schiff asked repeatedly, would senators not want to see and hear this evidence?
Republicans’ answers ranged from the weak to the laughable.
“We’ve just come out listening to, what, six hours of testimony, and I didn’t hear anything new,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told reporters during a break. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) agreed that he “didn’t hear anything new.”
Come on, do better than that. A day earlier, Republicans repeatedly voted — along party lines — not to hear anything new. They denied every single measure that Democrats offered to call witnesses and subpoena documents, or even to give Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. the power to rule on admitting new evidence. That’s like telling your waiter “I don’t want any dessert” and later complaining that the service was horrible because “I didn’t get any apple pie.”
Republicans’ stated rationale for not seeking new evidence was that gathering the facts was a task the House, and only the House, should have performed. That’s just ridiculous. To begin with, we the taxpayers are paying the salaries of the members of both chambers of Congress, and what matters is that necessary work gets done, not who does it. It’s as if your waiter told you, “Sorry, I just clocked in, and you ordered that apple pie before my shift began.”
Trump took the unprecedented step of refusing to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry in any way, denying all subpoenas and instructing his aides not to testify. Bolton refused to appear before the House. He now says he wants to appear before the Senate and has relevant information to disclose. What valid reason could there possibly be for not hearing what he has to say?
The GOP threat to also call former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden as witnesses is a big bluff, and Democrats should call them on it. Republicans control the Senate, which means they have subpoena power. They could have summoned the Bidens to testify at a committee hearing whenever they chose. They don’t really want the Bidens’ testimony, which they know would be irrelevant to Trump’s conduct. They’re just in desperate search of a talking point.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) quickly moved beyond talking points to yelling points. Democrats “are on a crusade to destroy this man,” he practically screamed at reporters. “So, to my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you want about me, but I’m covering up nothing. I’m exposing your hatred of this president to the point that you would destroy the institution.”
Graham’s outburst brought to mind the passionate — and, I believe, calculated — screed he delivered in September 2018 at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, accusing Democrats of trying to “destroy this guy’s life.” Pitching a fit worked then. It is unlikely to work now.
I’m realistic. I know that Republicans have the votes to acquit Trump regardless of the evidence, if that’s what they decide to do. But the House impeachment managers’ skillful presentation of their case has made it much less politically attractive for GOP senators — especially those with tough reelection races — to say they won’t even cast their eyes upon evidence that’s being presented to them on a silver platter.
All right, let’s finish torturing our metaphor. It’s like saying, “The apple pie at this restaurant is an abomination,” and having the waiter point out, “But sir, you didn’t even order it.”