Republicans have turned the impeachment trial into a dangerous sham | Andrew Gawthorpe | Opinion | The Guardian
The trial in the Republican-controlled US Senate is only going to tear up restraints on the would-be authoritarian White House.

While previous presidents tended to seek incremental increases in presidential power in service of what they believed, rightly or wrongly, to be the common good, Trump does the exact opposite. He seeks not just one particular new power but complete freedom from scrutiny for his conduct, and he does so in service not of any plausible national interest but rather purely to shield himself from the consequences of his abuses of power.

With the complicity of the Republican Senate majority, Trump is ...claiming the right to violate even this most basic requirement of his office, and to vastly expand what constitutes acceptable presidential conduct.

Foremost among them, of course, is Mitch McConnell, whose Republican majority sets the parameters of how exactly this abasement of the Senate will unfold. In any actual trial, the defendant’s advocates would be keen to bring to light evidence which might clear their client. Instead, McConnell is attempting to limit the information available to the Senate, rejecting Democratic amendments which would have subpoenaed additional documents and the testimony of key figures like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney.

By refusing to bring damaging evidence to light, McConnell has created a permissive environment for the shenanigans of Trump’s lawyers, whose sole aim is to distract the public from the factual record. In the defense brief which they filed at the outset of the proceedings, the lawyers claim that a president can only be impeached if he is accused of violating a specific federal law. Because the House of Representatives did not make such an accusation, the lawyers argue that the entire process is a sham which should be dismissed without further discussion.

This argument is wrong on multiple levels. Impeachment has never been understood to depend on the violation of a specific criminal statute, and any such understanding would allow American presidents to exercise the powers of a dictator. A president would technically break no laws if he encouraged the police to brutalize suspects – as Trump has in fact done – and then used his pardon power to protect them from prosecution whenever they did. Impeachment is supposed to guard against precisely this abuse of presidential power, even if it breaks no laws.

Trump appears to give little thought to his actions, but McConnell does. Just as he decided that refusing to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland was worth imperiling the legitimacy of the supreme court, now he has decided that the political survival of Donald Trump is worth creating the precedent that future presidents do not have to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. The only remedy is to channel public anger into a Democratic seizure of the Senate, and remake a broken institution as an instrument of the public good rather than a rubber-stamp legislature for the would-be authoritarian in the White House. If you want to see the consequences of failing to do so, just tune into the “trial.”

Andrew J Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University in the Netherlands
Republicans have turned the impeachment trial into a dangerous sham | Andrew Gawthorpe | Opinion | The Guardian
Politics • by ThomasinaPaine • 95 views •  1 comments • 2 months ago • [report]

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