By the time you read this, the impeachment trial of President Trump will be well on the way to completion. Absent a miracle — perhaps the leaking of John Bolton’s manuscript as we went to press? — the Republican-controlled Senate will have beaten back any effort to call witnesses who would directly implicate the president. Getting re-elected, and not incurring the wrath of Trump, are more important to the 53 Republicans than how history will treat this so-called impeachment trial.
Day after day, we’ve heard rumors that four or five Republican senators, despite their concern about their re-election back at home, were prepared to jump ship and vote for new witnesses and more evidence, to fill in the blanks of the Democratic impeachment case. Maybe that will happen, and maybe the Mets will win the World Series this year, but the likelihood of a partial revolt by the partisans is doubtful.
I have listened to all of the claims by the president’s defense team — that “it was just a phone call,” that there’s no case for impeachment, and that there was no bribery, so there’s no crime — and I’ve watched a designated group of Republican members of Congress say or do anything they can to win the approval of the president. In Trump World, some people will do anything to get a favorable tweet.
But the big takeaway for me, as an American, a lawyer and a former public official, is, what message does this sham of a trial send to our country, and presidents of the future? How far must a president go to get a majority of the U.S. Senate to vote to remove him or her from office? What are high crimes and misdemeanors? What is “abuse of power”? What would it take for two-thirds of the Senate to vote a bad actor out of office?
Whether you agree with it or not, the presentation by Rep. Adam Schiff, one of the House impeachment managers, was articulate, and answered almost all of the questions about why there was an impeachment. He presented televised witness testimony, connected the dots, showed how the president was blocking any efforts to bring in witnesses and pinpointed the exact blocked documents that would seal the case against the president.
The Democrats used three days to present their case, based on available facts and evidence, and the president’s team planned to take only half that time to claim that Trump committed no crime, and that the House railroaded the impeachment proceedings and denied the president due process.
Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz has volunteered to argue that Trump didn’t violate the Constitution in any way, and therefore the trial is a waste of time. A couple of years ago, Dershowitz offered the opinion that Trump could give Alaska back to the Russians or Florida back to Spain and that would not constitute abuse of power. During the Clinton impeachment, Dershowitz argued that “bad conduct” wasn’t enough to remove a president from office.
There is no doubt that the Senate will fail to find President Trump guilty, but they can’t whitewash the record, and they can’t make his attempts to hold the Ukrainian government hostage for a personal political favor into a summons for jaywalking. Those who were complicit in covering up for the president will leave the White House when their time is up, but they will never be able to wash their hands of their own misdeeds.
The most profound part of Schiff’s presentation was the simple statement that in the months ahead, more and more evidence will surface that will show to what extent Trump has broken the laws of this country. As each document leaks out of the far corners of the government, including the courts, there will be more and more proof that Donald John Trump violated his oath of office on countless occasions. You can redact all the documents you want, but you can’t rewrite American history.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.