Where Justice is a Game: Impeachment Hearings Redux

The Monday, December 9th hearings were another repetition of the facts by Democrats and the ignoring of them by the trumpists. The hearings began with a so-called silent protest by the GOP. Despite this misappropriation of a popular tactic by the right wing, one has to admit it’s nice when they keep their mouths shut. Then an InfoWars hack stood up and called the hearings a sham, repeating the standard trumpist lies and half-truths. I won’t go into the details offered by the witnesses since the information and the arguments have been revealed numerous times in just the past few weeks. The trumpists continue their attacks on the process and attempt to divert the debate to Hunter Biden. Their approach is to ignore the charges and attack those making the charges—just like their media at FoxNews. While there are certainly issues of corruption in both parties, this fact does not mean that Trump did not commit impeachable offenses. In other words, Biden’s potential improprieties do not render Trump’s impeachable offenses irrelevant.

The most interesting occurrence in the nature of the hearings is the trumpist shift on Ambassador Sondland. In essence, they are throwing him under the bus, portraying him as a loose cannon while pretending that he was not working on Trump’s orders. Indeed, he was Trump’s right-hand man in the Ukraine dealings other than Rudy Giuliani. Other names are now being pushed forward as the trumpist defense continues to shift. It becomes clearer that the trumpist strategy is to confuse and conceal. Like FoxNews, the trumpists use manufactured sound bites that leave out important elements, portray non-criminal incidents by Biden and others that at first glance seem similar to Trump’s crimes but are not because of the difference in the intention and reasons. Specifically, the withholding of aid to Ukraine in 2015 by Biden was for reasons of state and not for a hoped-for political benefit like Trump’s withholding of aid in 2017 was.

One thing that really made me laugh was Representative Sensenbrenner stating his concern that the matching up of telephone numbers in a subpoenaed document with those of journalists and congresspeople was the beginnings of a surveillance state. This is the guy who co-sponsored the PATRIOT Act, for Christ’s sake. While he strives to make his concerns seem legitimate, his legislative history proves otherwise. He doesn’t give a shit about a police state, just like Mr. Trump doesn’t give a shit about the police state—as long as it works for them.

After the vote to impeach is taken, it looks like the next big fireworks and headlines will occur during the Senate trial. The exact nature of the proceedings in the Senate are yet to be determined. Even if Trump is not impeached, one hopes his arrogance and the obnoxiousness of his supporters in the Senate will seal his defeat in November 2020.

On Tuesday two counts of impeachment were announced. The limited number of counts makes a couple things fairly clear. The first is that the impeachment investigations should have begun much earlier than they did. If this had happened, the number of charges would be broader and would most likely include crimes involving emoluments and other specific crimes probably committed by Trump. In addition, some of the numerous lawsuits and court challenges Trump has used to prevent various pieces of evidence would have been resolved in the investigators’ favor, thereby providing clearer evidence of those crimes. As it stands, Trump’s stonewalling has been successful so far. Even as he is charged with obstruction of justice, he continues to obstruct justice.

I wrote in an earlier impeachment dispatch that in my years of observing trials—both as a participant and as an interested member of the public—that prosecutors seem to have a couple different approaches in how they file charges. Sometimes they throw the book at a defendant, charging them with more and greater crimes then they can actually prove. Other times they seem to go for the charges they truly believe they can make stick, even if the DA’s office wants to go for more. An example of the former would be something that happened to me once. I was arrested with a little less than an ounce of marijuana. In the jurisdiction I was arrested in, possession of less than an ounce was a misdemeanor. However, I was charged with possession with intent to distribute and simple possession. I was also charged with resisting arrest because I called the arresting cop a pig or something similar. The reason for the first charge was to raise my arrest to a felony, which carried real prison time. The secondary intention of the prosecutor’s office in filing the charge was to get me to plead guilty to the lesser charge. Since I didn’t have a lawyer who gave a shit (my public defender was pushing the deal), I pled to the lesser charge. They dropped the felony charge and the resisting arrest charge. I ended up with a misdemeanor and a fine. That was what’s known as throwing the book at a suspect. They got their conviction.

In the case of Donald Trump, the prosecutors—in this case the House of Representatives—decided to go for charges they truly believe they can make stick. Instead of throwing the book at the crook in the White House, they are essentially charging him with the congressional equivalent of a simple possession charge. It is clear to everyone but the trumpists and those who either don’t understand the meaning of abuse of power and obstruction of justice or pretend that they don’t that Trump’s attempt to get political favors from Ukraine’s Zelensky was an abuse of power. It is equally clear that his continued stonewalling is obstructing justice. Unfortunately, the likelihood of the Republican senators letting go of their allegiance to the power Trump’s presidency provides them makes the likelihood of his conviction pretty small.

In a land where justice is often difficult to find in the courts, the likelihood of finding it in a body like the Senate that is defined by avarice, venality, the pursuit of power and petty politics is almost nil.

Time will tell.


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com