- Terry Wigmore
When Politics Trumps Conscience - the search for impartial jurors in Trump's 2nd impeachment trial
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
I have watched both impeachment trials, completely engrossed by the process but at the same time flummoxed by the notion of impartiality. In both impeachment trials Trump was convicted in the House of Representatives. In the first impeachment, despite what I viewed as overwhelming evidence presented impressively by Democratic House Managers, led then by Rep. Adam Schiff, despite the testimony by US ambassadors, policy specialists regarding US relations with Ukraine, and several whistleblowers, Trump was acquitted by Republicans in the Senate. How could that happen? Acquitted along party lines, save one dissenting vote from Mitt Romney? Is this an example of impartial jurors rendering a considered opinion on the Articles of impeachment? Or is it simply another example of the inability of justice to truly render a blindfolded, impartial verdict? Has political expedience overtake pride in country and the foundational belief in blind justice?
We (everyone in the world) are in the midst of watching a second impeachment trial of Trump, only to learn, even before the case was opened in the Senate, that many, perhaps most Republican Senators had already viewed the proceedings as a waste of time. Their minds appeared to be far from open. No amount of evidence, no polished delivery of evidence in video and audio, and no amount of skill on the part of the House Managers, led this time by the skillful Jamie Raskin, would prevail and influence one Republican Senator. Well, actually, a few did agree with the Democrats that it was indeed constitutional to hold the impeachment of a former president who committed the offenses while he was still in office. So, that looked hopeful, and as I type, I have a sliver of hope, albeit a very small one, that more Republicans will move on a vote of conscience to convict Trump.
Last night, however "permissible" their action was, 3 US Republican Senators met with Trump's lawyers to discuss "strategy". What? Impartial jurors meeting with the legal team of one side of a trial? It seems, according to what I've read and heard, that this type of thing is acceptable, though frowned on. How can this be? I know the impeachment is not a criminal trial, but surely the sense of "blind justice" would require that this act be deemed inappropriate at the very least, and perhaps it may even be culpable, with some form of censure, or perhaps recusal, required for those who engaged in this behaviour. No? Then is this all a mockery of Lady Justice's blindness? It seems so.
Now why is it Republicans who are the focus of this behaviour? Well, only Mitt Romney, out of all the other Republican Senators voted to convict Trump on the issue of twisting Ukraine's Prime Minister's arm to dig up dirt on Hunter and Joe Biden. The others said that action was not impeachable. Susan Collins from of Maine indicated that she believed Trump had learned his lesson. Senator Roy Blunt said that Trump had placed his hand on a hot stove and learned not to touch it again. Even I understand Trump's character deficits, and learning from mistakes is not possible as far as he is concerned. There is nothing Trump won't do IF there is something in it for him. Collins and Blunt were wrong about Trump, and the Republican party as a whole is about to let the former president get off scot-free again, refusing to hold him accountable for his actions in the January 6th insurrection and voting to acquit him, despite the mountain of evidence that he is responsible for inciting the assault on the Capitol. Trump did say he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he would get away with it. The Republicans are about to send that very message to Trump. "Yes, you can do that and more, and we will still not vote against you."
Was the Republican Party always this way? Was it always so self-interested and mindful only of how many judges they were able to assign to Federal courts, including the unprecedented 3 US Supreme Court justices (gotta overturn Roe V Wade, after all), or how much tax-relief for the wealthy they could get away with, or how many children they could lock up in immigration detention centers? Is it too hard on Trump to say that he should carry all the blame for the past 5 years of problems domestically and abroad? I think, perhaps, the Republican party has a lot of blame in this too. They had the chance to slap Trump's wrist over Charlottesville, but few, if any, spoke out then. They had a chance to call him out on his now infamous, "I want you to do me a favour, though," remark in the Ukraine call, but didn't. Or what about Helsinki? Republicans are supposed to be the hardliners against Russia, but few chose to chide Trump for taking Putin's side over his own Intelligence Community. And remember Trump's remark about working on US cybersecurity - and election security - with Russia?? What the bleep was he thinking?) Trump has been strangely silent on all things related to Russia, despite the poisoning of Putin's opponent, Alexei Nevalny. What did Trump so to protest Saudi Arabia's assassination of Jamal Khashoggi of the Washington Post? Nothing. And still most Republicans stayed right by Trump.
With each encroachment on principles that the Republicans used to claim as their domain ( tough on Russia, strong on law and order) , we saw Trump take more and more egregious actions. Trump IS the Republican Party at this point. I may have to apologize for this post, but if Republicans stand up to Trump and convict him in this second impeachment trial, I will gladly apologize. Until then, Republicans will get what they deserve, and what they may deserve may be the type of politician who is prone to sudden conversion experiences, such as Nikki Hailey, who has suddenly seen the light and tweeted against Trump - and this before she announces her 2024 presidential bid. Are all Republicans this transparent, and this transactional, always protecting their career aspirations and always asking, "what's in it for me?" before asking, if at all, "how can I serve my country?" (remember JFK's famous words? Here they are, and how foreign they sound in today's context of the trial of Trump: "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.")
Remember Trump's reading of the story of the Snake? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywY2-_S3ci4) I don't think he quite understood the irony of that moment. It certainly wasn't lost on many of us. After all, he IS the snake!
As for republicans? Caveat Emptor. Or in the recent words of Nikki Hailey: "He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again." (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/02/12/nikki-haley-tells-politico-republicans-shouldnt-have-followed-trump/6735480002/)