From Smirking Chimp
Anytime your lawyers walk out on the eve of the most important trial of your life, you should be in big trouble. Except, of course, if you're Donald John Trump and you're facing your second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, where the majority of Republicans are either spineless sycophants or outright authoritarians who will never vote to convict you, no matter how compelling the evidence.
That's exactly where Trump finds himself as his latest trial is slated to begin on February 9. Five members of Trump's impeachment legal team resigned a little more than a week before the trial, ostensibly over disputes about trial strategy. According to several news outlets, Trump pressured the lawyers to center his defense on the widely debunked claims of election fraud he persists in peddling. The attorneys wanted to concentrate on constitutional issues.
The legal exodus left Trump scrambling to hire replacements and even boasting to aides that he could represent himself. He has since hired another slate of lawyers headed by two attorneys who boast strong right-wing credentials and, like Trump, have a flair for publicity.
One of the newcomers, David Schoen of Montgomery, Alabama, previously represented Trump associate Roger Stone, and met with Jeffrey Epstein in prison nine days before the accused sex trafficker's death. Epstein reportedly asked Schoen to represent him, and Schoen has since declared he believes Epstein's death was not a suicide.
The other new lead counsel is Bruce Castor of Pennsylvania, who once served as the district attorney of Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia. In 2005, Castor made headlines when he declined to bring sexual assault charges against comedian Bill Cosby.
Ordinarily, a defendant buffeted by such a last-minute shuffle of attorneys might be expected to "lose big time," to invoke one of Trump's favorite catchphrases. But not in this case.
Despite the internal turmoil, Trump's acquittal appears all but certain. On January 26, 45 Senate Republicans voted in favor of a procedural motion that would have dismissed the impeachment case against Trump on the legally dubious theory that the Constitution restricts impeachment to current officeholders. Although 55 senators, including five Republicans, voted to allow the trial to proceed, convicting Trump will require a two-thirds vote of the upper chamber, and that, at least for now, seems unattainable.
Sensing defeat, some Democrats have already started to waver. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has announced plans to file a censure motion against Trump as an alternative to impeachment. Other Senate Democrats want to go ahead with the trial, but want to keep it as short as one week.
The hand-wringing, while predictable, is unwarranted and shortsighted. Above all, it fails to meet the vital challenge of holding Trump accountable for his plot to subvert democracy.
The article of impeachment lodged against Trump could not be more ominous. It charges him with "incitement of insurrection" for the infamous speech he delivered outside the White House on January 6, exhorting an angry and armed throng of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, QAnon fanatics, and MAGA zealots to march to the U.S. Capitol building and "fight like hell" to prevent the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, and in effect, overthrow the government.
In addition, the article maintains that: "In the months preceding the Joint Session (of Congress on January 6), President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that "the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials."
Leaving no doubt about Trump's intentions, the article also alleges:
"President Trump's conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to 'find' enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so."
Having come this far, Democrats have no choice but to mount the strongest possible evidentiary showing against Trump. Whether the trial takes a week or longer, and whether or not it features live witnesses, the House impeachment managers who will try the case against Trump must demonstrate, in the words of Rep. Liz Cheney, that "The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing."
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