Now What?

So we’ve had two weeks and many hours of people giving their testimony on Trump’s “Aid for Dirt” bribery scandal. As could be expected, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asked pointed questions that strengthened their case for Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, while the Republicans responded with “La la la, I can’t hear you, Biden, corruption, Burisma, hearsay, la la la…..”

The media have gone over the testimony picking out highlights and wondering why the whole megillah hasn’t moved the proverbial needle on Impeachment. Personally, the high point of the many hearings was Chairman Schiff’s closing comments on the last day of the hearings. He made an impassioned defense of law and order, as well as our nation’s role on the world stage. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now:

And to think it was all ad-libbed!

Anyway, now that the hearings are done, what happens next?

We’re actually only at the beginning of the process.

The Judiciary Committee has just announced that they will be holding their own hearings, starting next week, to discuss the historical and Constitutional basis for impeachment. There are a couple of other House committees conducting their own investigations. Once all the investigations are done, each committee will submit its own report to the House Judiciary Committee. They will collate all the reports, and determine what offenses have been committed. Based on that, they will submit a draft list of Articles of Impeachment to the entire House.

It’s pretty likely there will be a large list. Bribery, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, abuse of power, etc. Chances are good that the House will winnow it down to just a few – the ones where they (the Democrats, that is – don’t expect any Republicans to uphold their oath of office and put country over party) have the strongest case. The major difficulty will be having just the right amount of charges. Too many, and it really will look like a witch hunt. Too few, and you wind up minimizing the extent of El Presidente’s wrongdoings and unsuitability for office. Expect a party line vote, with at least two Articles (bribery and obstruction) getting approved.

These few steps are all pretty straightforward. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has a pretty tight rein on the Democrats; don’t expect any dissents or roadblocks. It’s when the Articles of Impeachment get sent up to the Senate that things get unpredictable.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gets to set the rules for the trial – assuming, of course, he will even bother to hold one. There doesn’t seem to be anything requiring him to schedule it. Fortunately (I suppose), the White House is indicating that it wants a trial. McConnell may not have a choice. But given how he’s acted in the past, there will be minimal – at best – input from the Democrats on the rules. Perhaps he’ll remember that he’s up for re-election next year….

One rule that cannot be changed – since it’s specifically mentioned in the Constitution – is that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, will preside over the trial. He gets a lot of grief in some circles for being a Conservative justice; but even he knows that “Conservative” doesn’t necessarily mean “Republican”. Don’t expect him to automatically favor the GOP. Another thing fixed in the rules is that the House of Representatives appoints the “prosecuting attorneys”. I wonder who they will pick.

One thing to look for is testimony from a whole bunch of new witnesses, including members of El Presidente’s “inner circle”. Chief of Staff Mulvaney, personal attorney Giuliani, Secretary of State Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence…. All those who avoided testifying in the House hearings won’t have a choice in the Senate. They can try to appeal or refuse a subpoena, but guess who decides their legitimacy – the presiding judge, Chief Justice John Roberts. Who can they possibly appeal to?

One thing I’d love to see during the trial is one of the prosecutors go right up to key Republican senators and ask them “If you allow this now, you allow it for all presidents in the future, regardless of party affiliation. Senator McConnell, would this behavior be acceptable if it were, say, President Biden doing it? Senator Graham, would you be just as fine with it if President Warren were the one doing it?”

I’d also love to see the major news media devoting some major time and effort to educating the public on the issues at stake. Let’s see the weekly news magazines publishing special issues on impeachment…. 60 Minutes devoting an entire show to the subject….

Right now, it looks like the Republican majority in the Senate will vote to acquit. Too many of them are so beholden to the Cult of Trump that they cannot be seen to go against their Dear Leader. However, if the final voting is done by secret ballot (it would only take a simple majority of Senators to have that happen)….quite a few Republican senators have noted off the record that yes, El Presidente should get the boot….

If the forces of Justice and Decency and Good prevail, and El Presidente is evicted from the White House, Mike Pence will be sworn in as President. There are those who find this a cold comfort, given Pence’s beliefs and involvement in the scandals. I’ll take it, since we’re not likely to impeach him as well. And what are the odds he’ll win the election in November – even assuming he wants to run?

As far as showing El Presidente the door, some are worried that he’ll try to fight. Well, he cannot appeal the decision, and once Pence is sworn in, Pence becomes the Commander in Chief, the military follows his instructions, and El Presidente is trespassing…..

If he is acquitted, then every single Republican in Congress should have to go into the campaign season facing the question of how they can support someone who is so manifestly unfit for the office. Then they should start looking for a new job.

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