Note from authors: As developments have continued and as our understanding has deepened, substantive changes have been made to some parts of this article since it was posted here at OpEd News on Sunday morning, February 2. The updated article can be found at https://revcom.us/a/632/the-senate-vote-a-vctory-for-fascism-en.html.
Friday, January 31, the Senate voted 51 to 49 to refuse to hear further witnesses in the impeachment trial of Trump. Every Republican senator, with two exceptions, voted against hearing witnesses. They did this despite the fact that John Bolton, one of the former top officials of the Trump/Pence regime, had offered to testify. By all accounts, Bolton was ready to verify that Trump had personally admitted to him withholding military aid to force Ukrainian president Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation of Trump's political opponent Joe Biden for corruption. In other words, Bolton would give first-person direct evidence that Trump was corruptly and illegally using the power of the presidency for personal gain to discredit his main political rival in the upcoming presidential election.
Prior to this, a large part of Trump's defense had rested on the fact that no witness had yet been able to testify that Trump had directly stated to them his motive for withholding aid. Why? Because Trump refused to cooperate at all with the impeachment inquiry, forbidding anyone in his administration from testifying. In other words, Trump's lawyers and Senate Republicans had said that Trump should not be impeached because there were no direct eyewitnesses; now, when a credible eyewitness presented himself, they refused to let that witness testify and scurried to end the trial!
This cleared their path to acquit Trump this coming Wednesday, February 5. Before the trial began, the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said he would not be impartial and was coordinating everything with Trump.A Big Step Toward Fascism
An acquittal of Trump on these terms is a big step toward a fascist America. Conducted by craven fascist Republicans, this trial seriously undermined the rule of law; and it legitimated that truth has no role in governing, with the result being that whatever Trump, or any president, says and does, goes.
This is a further leap toward fascism, which is, in short, a different form of rule by the ruling capitalist class-a blatant dictatorship of open terror and violence by the state, and the discarding of what are supposed to be civil and legal rights as well as what have been traditional bourgeois democratic principles and norms of governance.*Ominous Implications
This vote is a defeat for the rule of law.
Despite the existence of people with direct knowledge of what happened wanting to testify to a crime committed by a high official while the trial is still going on, the Senate refused to allow it. One of Trump's lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, literally mounted the defense that if Trump, or any other president, "does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo [a deal] that results in impeachment." This because, he said, "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest."
What does it mean that the president now gets to define what is legal or not, depending on whether he or she believes that their being elected is in the public interest? How is this different from the president being "a law unto himself"? This argument from Dershowitz gives legal expression to Trump's bogus theory that--to quote him directly--Article 2 of the Constitution means that "the president can do whatever he wants." This is the unvarnished version and real meaning of the theory of the "unitary executive" put forward by the fascist attorney general William Barr. And now the Senate has effectively enshrined this. What can not be done on such a basis?
This vote is a defeat for truth.
Bolton's testimony could have helped get to the truth of what actually happened and could have opened up the way for others to testify, and for evidence of even more criminal activity by Trump and his fellow fascists-in-power to emerge. Faced with this prospect, the Republican senators moved to block this as soon as possible. Bolton is coming out with a book soon that reportedly includes some of the things he would have testified to in the impeachment if witnesses had been allowed. But it is now far from certain that Bolton's book will even see the light of day, as the White House could move to invoke its "national security" power to censor the key portions of it or even the whole book. What does it mean to the ability of people to know the truth when the executive power can openly and without penalty suppress evidence of its own corrupt and illegal activity?A Victory for Fascism
This is a victory for fascism, not only because the denial of truth and rule of law were given official sanction by the trial proceedings, but because the whole terms of the impeachment further solidified the advance of fascism. If Trump is acquitted, and even more so if there is not significant opposition in the streets, many who pinned their hopes on impeachment will be disillusioned while others will plunge headlong into the elections without stopping to examine what really happened and why, and the conclusion from this for what needs to be done to stop the consolidation of fascism.
There are even some saying that this will be good for the Democrats in the next election who are either missing (or willfully blinding themselves to) the grave consequences of this whitewash--or they know better and are covering it up.
First, the Democratic leadership refused to impeach for almost three years-and then when they did, they only did so when their then-leading candidate, Biden, was being attacked, and the foundational legitimacy of their elections was being torn up. More, the whole Ukraine affair reflects differences Democrats have with Trump/Pence over national security, especially concerning Russia.
But they didn't indict Trump for the many crimes that violate U.S. and international law and which are also outrageous abuses of power--to take just two of those crimes: the separation of immigrant children from their parents along with putting them in cages, and the turning away of refugees seeking asylum. By not indicting Trump on these broader grounds, the terms of the impeachment left the broader interests of humanity out of the picture, with the result being that his whole fascist program is further legitimated.
Second, the Democrats dared not sound the alarm on or act themselves in any way commensurate to the fascist danger they know is posed by the Trump/Pence regime. A recent revelation from theatlantic.com illustrates this:
During the course of the impeachment, Hillary Clinton's Democratic vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, was quoted as having said in 2016, "President Obama called me last night and said, 'Tim, remember this is no time to be a purist. You've got to keep a fascist out of the White House.'" (emphasis added) Not only did Obama (as well as Kaine and Clinton) hold this opinion of Trump back at the time of the election, Obama went on right after Trump's election to say that he and Trump were members of the "same team" running a "relay race," that the election was an "intramural scrimmage," and that we should root for Trump's success. (In bringing on fascism?)