As I watched Day Four of the Trump impeachment hearings unfurl, I finally understood — it hit me with the force of an Adam Schiff cross-examination — why the Democrats would never find four Republican senators to vote with them on witnesses and documents.
It’s not just the senators’ reasonable fear of Trumpian vengeance. Or even the certain wrath they’d face from Trump’s loyal-to-a-fault base.
And it’s certainly not the latest faux outrage about Schiff’s reference to a CBS News report of an anonymous quote that GOP senators were warned that if they voted against Trump, their heads would end up on a pike.
It’s really as simple as this: If there were witnesses, if there were documents, the already strong case against Donald Trump could become so overwhelming that the inevitable vote to keep Trump in office regardless would be nearly impossible to explain.
At this point in the Senate trial, as Trump’s lawyers are set to begin their three days of defending the president, we know more than enough to convict Trump on both impeachment counts, including the self-evident case for obstruction of Congress. Trump copped to the fact — bragged about it — that he blocked all documents and tried to block all witnesses. What else do you need?
But the case for witnesses and documents is still pretty obvious in that we can only guess how much more there is that we don’t know. Imagine John Bolton followed by Mick Mulvaney in the witness chair and take it from there. Watching Bolton let loose on Rudy and his bag-man diplomacy — I’d pay to see that — and Mulvaney struggling, under oath, to explain just how the $390 million in Ukraine military aid was withheld could be, uh, helpful. What did the president suspend and when did he suspend it?
The texts we have seen have been mostly devastating to Trump. Imagine the rest of the cables, the WhatsApps, the phone calls, the read outs, the emails that would tell the story from one corrupt moment to the last.
I mean, lordy — as James Comey famously put it — there’s now even a tape. This heartens every Nixon impeachment fan who recalls that time when, thanks to the tapes, the good guys actually won. This time we can thank Lev Parnas, whose tales of being at a dinner with Trump and others in April 2018 when the president said he wanted to fire then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch were understandably dismissed by Republicans as fantasy. I mean, who would believe someone like Parnas, a shady-enough character, was a key player in Giuliani’s attempt to smear Biden in Ukraine?
But the tape told a different story. On the tape, as reported by ABC News and apparently recorded on his smart phone by Igor Fruman — another questionable type on the Giuliani team — you can apparently hear Parnas saying “the biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of” Yovanovitch. “She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’ ”
And then, in the coup de grâce, there’s Trump, who said he didn’t know Parnas — that the photos of them together are not unlike the thousands of photos Trump takes with supporters — apparently telling a White House staffer in the room: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. O.K.? Do it.”
And yet, it took another year before the late-night call to Yovanovitch, warning her to take the next flight home out of Ukraine. Why it took so long — and why Trump needed Rudy and his team involved — to fire Yovanovitch is one of the many intriguing mysteries of the case. After all, Trump can fire an ambassador at will, without explanation. The argument is that she was fired because she was an anti-corruption fighter who stood in the way of the plan to smear the Bidens. But now, we really need an explanation. You think Mike Pompeo might be helpfu?
When last seen, Pompeo was giving an interview to an NPR reporter, who naturally asked him about Ukraine and about why he had never shown support for Yovanovitch. When the interview was over, Pompeo launched an F-bomb attack against reporter Mary Louise Kelly and — get this – had an aide bring a map, with no writing on it, challenging Kelly to find Ukraine. She could, of course. She’s a national security reporter.
But back to getting four Republicans, who are needed to join the 47 Democrats in order to force the calling of more witnesses. This is not a matter of whether House Democrats did or didn’t do their job in trying for months and maybe years to go to court to press for these witnesses. This a case where Chief Justice John Roberts is there to say whether subpoenas should be upheld. If they want to subpoena Hunter Biden, that’s OK with me.
There have seemed to be four possible candidates — Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander — for the job, but according to congressional reporters, it looks like Lamar and Murkowski are growing cooler to the idea by the day. It’s not impossible that McConnell wouldn’t object to Collins — a vulnerable senator up for re-election — to vote for witnesses. Mitt? Who knows? But, as we’ve heard over and over again, two plus two make four. But two plus zero, in this case, means the vote fails.
And that’s where we were Saturday morning, the House managers done, Adam Schiff completing his star turn, the Trump lawyers on deck. And those easily offended Republican senators, still apparently shaken by Schiff’s referencing of an anonymous “head on a pike” story, awoke to see the president tweet about the next step in the proceedings:
“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M. on @FoxNews, @OANN or Fake News @CNN or Fake News MSDNC!”
And on it goes.