To Quit or Not to Acquit, That Was the Question

“Wherever law ends, tyranny begins”

– John Locke Two Treatises of Government

February 5, 2020. Think of it as “a day which will live in infamy.” It is, of course, the day the Republican majority in the U.S Senate decided to quit the Constitution rather than not to acquit a tyrannical president. Is it not a gross exaggeration to suggest a comparison between what happened in the Senate on that day with what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941? Read on.

In the wake of a sham impeachment trial in the Senate, one with no witnesses and a predetermined outcome, there was never any doubt that the Republican majority would vote to acquit President Trump. Nor can there be any doubt that the 51 Republican senators who voted not to allow witnesses knew exactly what they were doing, knew that a trial without due process 1) is a travesty of justice, 2) sets a dangerous precedent, and 3) and demolishes America’s commitment to the rule of law in the eyes of the world.

What’s worse, these lawmakers did it at a time when we have a president who believes and behaves as though he is above the law. Last summer (July 23, 2019), Trump told a crowd of young conservatives, “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” It would have been a false claim at any other time in the nation’s history. Is it still? Or has the U.S. Senate handed an impulsive president unlimited power to do whatever he wants?

Fact #1: Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to remove a president via “impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Fact #2: Fact #1 is irrelevant.

In the words Paul Savoy, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office:

This is how autocracy comes to America: not with a declaration of martial law and tanks in the street, but by a roll-call vote in the Senate whipped by the leader of the Senate in violation of the Constitution.

Had the Republican majority in the Senate decided to hold a fair trial and act as an impartial jury, had they allowed witnesses to testify and considered the ample evidence of presidential wrongdoing, they would have had no choice but to convict Donald Trump or face the real prospect of a voter backlash.

Rats will be rats and they will desert a sinking ship. That’s precisely what motivated Mitch McConnell’s decision not to allow witnesses. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not understand how things work in Washington in the Trump era.

Senator McConnell made it crystal clear that there would be no impartial trial, telling Sean Hannity on Fox News, he intended nothing less than “total coordination with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position . . . .”

President Trump’s astonishingly bold assertion of unlimited presidential power now appears prophetic—quite possibly the most alarming self-fulfilling prophecy by a sitting president ever. We can only hope Paul Savoy’s words are not similarly prophetic:

If on the day the Senate returns its verdict, history records the failure to convict the president following a trial without witnesses, that will be the day the rule of law dies in America. The courts will remain open for business. Congress will be in session. Citizens will still be able to vote. And a free press will continue to launch withering attacks on President Trump. But the American people will no longer be living in a constitutional democracy.

In refusing to call a single witness before acquitting the most impeachable president in American history, Senate Republicans were in lockstep with Donald Trump and his drum major, Mitch McConnell. Are the American people in lockstep with them? We will have the answer to that question when voters go to the polls on November 3.

No witnesses? Who do they think they’re kidding! The nation witnessed the travesty. So did the rest of the world. What happened on February 5 will never be forgotten. It will be remembered as a day when the freedom Americans have fought and died was placed in moral mortal danger. Like Pearl Harbor.


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
Jeff Mackler
Capitalism is the Virus!
Andrew Moss
Incarceration, Detention, and Covid-19
Farzana Versey
Prayers, Piffle and Privation in the Time of Pandemic
Will Solomon
In the New Dystopia
Dean Baker
The Relative Generosity of the Economic Rescue Package: Boeing vs. Public Broadcasting
Dr. Leo Lopez, III
We Need a Lot More Transparency From the CDC
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Reflections on a Glass of Homemade Cider
Rashid Nuri
Homegrown Crisis Response: Who Grows Your Food?
Mark Luskus
Worst Case Scenario: Healthcare Workers Need Masks, ASAP
Volker Franke
The Virus That May Bring us Together
Mitchell Zimmerman
A Q & A on the GOP’s Call for Elder Sacrifice
Olfat al-Kurd
COVID-19 Could Be Catastrophic for Us: Notes From Gaza
Eileen Appelbaum - Roesmary Batt
Hospital Bailouts Begin…for Those Owned by Private Equity Firms
Nabri Ginwa
Jill Richardson
Efficiency vs. Resilience
Lee Ballinger
Eddie Van Halen and the Future of Humanity
David Yearsley
Beset by Bach
Robert Koehler
Developing a Vaccine Against War