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Alternative Fact of the Week: Senate Republicans respect the Constitution

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presides over Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump as the House votes at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on December 18, 2019. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 229-198 on Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for obstruction of Congress. The House impeached Trump for abuse of power by a 230-197 vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presides over Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump as the House votes at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on December 18, 2019. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 229-198 on Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for obstruction of Congress. The House impeached Trump for abuse of power by a 230-197 vote. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Given President Donald Trump’s admiration of strong-arm dictators from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Kim Jong-un, you would think he would be well-versed in the favored authoritarian device known as the show trial. Republicans could simply have put a twist on it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have pretended to take the impeachment process seriously, insisted the outcome of a trial in the Senate was not predetermined and then staged a dramatic, if insincere, performance. At the end, there would be the expected partisan vote to keep Mr. Trump in office. Everyone involved would know it was all a sham, this failure to hold the president accountable, but Republicans could at least have pretended to put the country ahead of self-interest.

But, alas, it was not to be. For only the third time in the Republic’s history, a sitting president has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet, perhaps for the first time, the Senate is bound and determined not to treat this constitutional process with the gravity and respect it is due at trial. It is a sickening sight, this total prostration before the White House, this loss of legislative oversight, this shirking of patriotic duty. Senator McConnell remains happily committed to his promise to do Mr. Trump’s bidding and not to treat the matter objectively in a Senate trial, the next step in the process. And Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s last-ditch attempt to get the Senate to put country first by not yet forwarding the two articles of impeachment until the Republican-controlled Senate promises to do its job (perhaps in some near-meaningful way) has so far had little effect, as Mr. McConnell now claims she’s simply “too afraid” to transmit them.

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To describe Republicans as “all-in” on the side of the man who tried to coerce Ukraine’s president into announcing an investigation into a political rival is insufficient. They are gambling not just their political stakes but their immortal souls. One by one, House Republicans took to the floor on Wednesday spouting talking points that could easily have been gleaned from the Trump Twitter feed. There was no mention of wrongdoing or lapse in judgment or questionable decision-making, such as refusing to cooperate with the House investigation and then upbraiding Democrats for not having a sufficient investigation (an explanation illogical enough to be branded Kafkaesque). Instead, they simply got their facts wrong. They talked about how no crime was committed (the Constitution doesn’t require that) or that the phone call transcript was exonerating (it wasn’t) or how Ambassador Gordon Sondland said there was no “quid pro quo” (he testified there was).

And the list goes on and on — not unlike President Trump’s own lengthy impeachment eve letter to Speaker Pelosi, in which he trotted out his usual alternative facts only more vigorously and, given the better-than-usual vocabulary and complete sentences involved, likely through a ghost writer. Instead of acknowledging established information (such as how military aid was withheld from Ukraine or how the whistleblower’s report has been corroborated), he lays into Rep. Adam Schiff’s now-infamous parody of his call as some kind of impeachable moment itself. (Oh, Franz Kafka, the residuals you are owed). To read this letter and witness the spectacle of indignant House Republicans angrily denouncing their Democratic colleagues during Wednesday’s debate for daring to hold the president accountable for his actions must surely cause a degree of disorientation to the casual spectator. The political party of the president, who at a political rally in Michigan on Wednesday mocked the late Rep. John Dingell as “looking up” from hell, has their sensibilities highly offended by skeptical interpretations of the phrase “do us a favor.”

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Say what you will about the Bill Clinton impeachment of exactly 21 years ago, but it wasn’t as if his Democratic supporters denied his relationship with Monica Lewinsky or his lying under oath. They simply denied that it was worthy of impeachment. The Republican approach has been to question the worthiness, as well, but also to deny the facts, the process and anything else in the neighborhood. That’s the sad reality of this historic moment. How unfortunate that a procedure that’s supposed to be about finding the truth and holding the most powerful elected officeholder in the land can be so smugly, so complacently, so self-servingly subverted by Republicans so committed to protecting the most dishonest president in this nation’s history.

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