By Thomas O. Falk
On January 25, House Democrats will submit their article of impeachment to the Senate. It prompts the second trial against Donald Trump in only a year. The previous attempt to remove the now-former U.S. president from office appeared to be more of a predetermined partisan spiel, with an acquittal being inevitable from the start. This time, circumstances differ significantly – and the trial’s outcome remains uncertain for several reasons.
First, the A-Team is unavailable. Trump’s legal defense team will have a different look. During his first trial, the president was represented by a star-studded legal team that included the likes of Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, and Alan Dershowitz. While Dershowitz could still return, Cipollone and Sekulow will not follow suit. Both already stayed away from the president’s election lawsuits. Even more concerning, reports increasingly surface claiming Trump was having difficulties finding capable lawyers to defend him for a variety of reasons. So far, his legal team consists of only Butch Bowers, a South Carolina criminal defense attorney.
Second, the evidence was on full display on live TV. During the previous impeachment, Trump was charged with two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The primary evidence used for the charges was a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The content of which, however, left significant leeway for interpretation. The president’s words will once again be examined in the upcoming trial. However, unlike the Zelensky call, the whole world witnessed the immediate effect the president’s remarks caused. The lack of Republicans publicly defending the president’s words on January 6, despite being ready to defend the president’s phone call a year ago at all times, is a testament of the latter.
Third, it will be personal, not just business. Unlike the “perfect” phone call with Zelensky and the correlating accusation of pressuring a foreign government, the repugnant events that transpired on January 6 were not an abstract occurrence for members of Congress. They were the targets of a violent mob, instigated by Trump himself. Domestic terrorists breaking into their workplace, roaming the hallways trying to harm them will have manifested in many of the senators’ minds.
Fourth, and most importantly, Trump is no longer the president of the United States. With his departure from the White House – and the correlating loss of his Twitter account – he has already lost influence within the Republican Party. During the Ukraine impeachment, Republicans were fully cognizant that finding the president guilty would essentially result in political suicide.
Trump could ruin fellow party members’ careers via public condemnation, often with only a single tweet. With Damocles’ sword over their heads, Mitt Romney was the sole Republican who voted in favor of a conviction. It is almost inconceivable to believe this figure won’t be exceeded.
All eyes will focus on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly wants Trump gone. While only rumors, they were fueled on January 19, when McConnell blamed Trump openly for his role in the assault on the Capitol, stating the mob was “provoked by the president.” Purging Trump via a conviction and thus eradicating the threat of a 2024 run at the presidency would be a logical step for McConnell and Senate Republicans.
Officially, McConnell plans to “listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate” before making his final decision. But even this rather diplomatic attitude marks a significant transformation in McConnell’s approach, who had labelled the Ukraine impeachment a “political exercise” and a “charade.”
–The Daily Mail-CGTN News Exchange Item