Littwin: The Trump Senate impeachment trial, Day 10

View of the U.S. Capitol from the Library of Congress. (Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol via Flickr: Creative Commons.

The best argument against removing Donald Trump from office has always been that everyone knew what they were getting when they elected him. 

Some of you may be too young to know this, but when the Nixon tapes were released, when the full ugliness of Nixonland was revealed, there were people who were actually surprised. You can say that anyone paying the slightest bit of attention — or anyone reading Woodward and Bernstein — should have known everything, but, in fact, many did not know it or, in any case, believe it.

On the other hand, no one is shocked that Trump sent the knee breakers to Ukraine in an effort to coerce a newly elected president to interfere in American politics because we all know that’s who Trump is. He was elected despite that or maybe because of that. But we all knew. Everyone knew.

No one could be shocked by a corrupt quid pro quo because that’s the true art of a Trumpian deal.

EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony about the Trump team and Ukraine could also be said about Trump and every Republican sitting in the Senate, every Republican sitting in the House, every Trump enabler on TV or radio: Everyone was in the loop.

Now some Senate Republicans are trying to cover up their own cover-up by conceding that Trump’s behavior was “wrong” or “inappropriate” or whatever. Please. These senators are the same people who voted against former National Security Advisor John Bolton testifying before the Senate. That is what is wrong. That is what is inappropriate.

As everyone knows, Bolton has written a book — which the Trump people are busily, and unsurprisingly, trying to quash. Bolton was, of course, in the room where everything happened. In the latest New York Times report on Bolton’s draft manuscript, it describes an Oval Office meeting in May, attended by the president, Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. 

Yes, this was in May, two months before the infamous, not-so-perfect July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. At that May meeting, according to the Bolton manuscript, Trump told Bolton to call Zelensky to pressure him to set up a meeting with Rudy. Yes, to talk to Rudy, the minor player, the shiny object. And Cipollone, who has been leading Trump’s defense team, was in the room.

Knowing this, the Senate voted 51-49 not to hear witnesses, including Bolton. Anyone who voted not to hear Bolton is not just part of a cover-up, but is central to a cover-up. For anyone who makes the argument that removing Trump would tear the country in two, that may even be true, but it is entirely irrelevant to the witness vote. Those 51 senators voted to ensure that the country wouldn’t hear Bolton, under oath, tell the full ugliness of Trump’s plot to smear Joe Biden and who knows what else. But we do know why. Bolton’s testimony would not only implicate Trump, but also every guileful Trump defender.

Anyone who voted against witnesses violated his or her oath. In Colorado, we’re still waiting to hear Cory Gardner try to explain his vote. He can’t explain it, other than to say he didn’t have the moral courage to do what he knew was right. 

It’s not that often in politics where right and wrong are so clearly written. Gardner failed. I’m not talking about Gardner’s politics — with which I happily concede my differences — but about his character. 

Everyone knew – or should have known — that Trump would betray his office. (And the counter-argument, by the way, in favor of Trump’s removal is that Trump encouraged foreign involvement in 2016, he tried to force Zelensky to interfere in 2020, and the Russians, with Trump’s encouragement, will certainly be back, and nothing will be done to try to stop them. Is that enough to merit removal? He cheated in 2016. He has already cheated in 2020.)

The name of Bolton’s book — “The Room Where It Happened” — is apparently taken from a song from Hamilton, “The Room Where It Happens,” a song of corruption that was all too typical of Washington even in the time of the Founders.

Here are relevant lyrics: “No one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage gets made, we just assume that it happens, but no one else is in, the room where it happens.”

But Bolton was in the room. It may have taken him too long to get to this point, but he told the Senate he was ready to testify if subpoenaed. I don’t know who is leaking the incriminating bits from the manuscript to The Times, but the timing was clearly meant to put optimal pressure on Republican senators.

And on the day of the leak, we heard from Gen. John Kelly, the former chief of staff who often clashed with Bolton, saying that if the Senate failed to hear Bolton, they would be holding no more than half a trial. In his argument for witnesses and documents, Adam Schiff said that Kelly had understated the case. Without witnesses, he said, there was no trial.

We knew before the trial began how it would end. There would never be 20 Republicans to vote for Trump’s removal. But some of us held out some slight hope that there would be a real trial, and that the case, with players like Bolton and Mulvaney testifying under oath, could be fairly litigated.

If the country had gotten that much, people would know, in detail, what it is they would — or would not —be voting for in November.

It was once enough to say that Republican politicians had enabled Trump’s corrupt behavior. Now we can say with certainly not only that they enabled it, but that they encouraged it, they excused it and, worst of all, they stood before the country as they openly, and brazenly, voted on the Senate floor to cover it all up.

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He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. Great article, to which I say, “Amen.” Coloradans now have to do their job and get rid of Cory Gardner in November (meaning vote him out).

  2. Up until yesterday I suffered under the delusion that there were at least a few more Republicans interested in hearing the facts from fist hand accounts since after all that’s what they constantly complained about as the House investigated Trump “No first hand fact witnesses.” I wouldn’t have thought that there would 51 Republican Senators who would join with Trump to actively block the facts from being heard….even from those who would have defended Trump…except there weren’t any who could do so without perjuring themselves.
    So today I no long suffer from that delusion, I just suffer as does the Constitution and the institutions that once made America great or at least a whole lot better than where it stands today.

  3. Bravo, Mike, for your superb coverage and comments on My So-Called Trial. Cory’s career in public service is coming to an ignominious end as he has fundamentally failed to provide adequate service to the public who hired him to do so. The Republican party stands shamed for a hundred years or more.

  4. Paraphrasing FDR — Trump may be a crooked, disgusting, lowlife scum, but he’s the GOP’s crooked, disgusting, lowlife scum. Welcome to today’s Republican Party!

  5. The Republicans have thrown Comrade Chump in the back of the white Ford Bronco and they’re fixing to make a run for it.

    Can’t outrun those pesky leaks that are just going to keep coming.

  6. Thanks for your coverage. In 1965 I was a dumb country kid who joined the military thinking that the politicians & people in our national government had more information and were acting in the nation’s best interests. In 1968 I learned, first hand, that the politicians and the government types in D.C. could care less about our national interest. I had brief glimmer of hope when Nixon was ousted but I don’t see any redeeming qualities for either party since the intense partisan warfare started with Gingrich and culminating with what transpired on January 31, 2020, as an aside, an interesting date parallel to January 31, 1968 from my perspective. In my heart I knew that McConnell would give a kitchen pass to Susan Collins and probably couldn’t control Romney’s vote; which would result in the 51-49 vote keeping the details and facts of the coverup from being broadcast on all the major news networks.. Our ancestors and the individuals who fought and died in behalf of our country must be rolling over in their graves.

  7. The Republican Senate has effectively proclaimed that there is no rule of law. The president has broken the law and the Republicans have decided that he has but he doesn’t need to be held accountable.

    The rest of us should be so lucky. Can you now use the same defense of disallowing evidence that can be used against you at trial? Is the doctrine of implied consent null and void? Implied consent is a doctrine applied by most states that says if you want a driver’s license you consent to self incrimination and to giving evidence of your drinking before driving. If I refuse to give my breath or blood to the police officer under a doctrine that doesn’t exist, does that mean I can skate free from the drunk driving charge?

    What of juries who refuse to hear evidence against someone who they like? What if the most charming and beautiful person in the world was a murderous monster. Do we give a pass to the people who set the murderous monster free?

    Section 3 paragraph 6 of the Constitution states “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” The word “try” means to have a trial, not to make an attempt at something, like trying out for the football team. What we are witnessing is a less-than-half-hearted attempt to try to have a trial.

    The Republican party was supposedly the “law and order” party. To watch it become the “flawed and smarmy” (see Gardner, Cory) party is to witness a sea change in the morality of the “moral right.”

    Unless and until Mitch McGoebbels turns the waste of time into a trial with witnesses and evidence including documents there can be no evidence in this country that there are laws. We are living with anarchy.

  8. It is my speculation that Cory had a “come to Jesus” meeting this week in which McConnell sat him down and said, here’s the thing. Vote against the President and we’ll make sure you don’t win in November, and that your best prospect is to go back to Yuma and sell tractors again. On the other hand, vote with the President, and even if you lose in November we will find you a nice, comfy lobbying job in DC, which will be Yuma’s loss, but your gain, Cory. Your choice.

  9. For me the most frustrating part of this: the defense was based on no first hand information therefore only hearsay. Then to deny getting first hand information in the face of that clearly supports Mike’s analysis.

  10. Thanks again, Mike. I didn’t have the tolerance to watch as it happened, so relied on coverage — yours and a few others — to find key moments in the trial, themes, and the decisions.

    Even before the speeches and final votes — formulating the ending we knew was coming — the facts continue to trickle down. The GAO has already made it clear it believes there was a violation of the impoundment controls, and the lack of explanation rises to Constitutional status. We know that Lev has additional observations AND the documents to back them up. We know there were 24 emails exchanged on the Ukraine scenario, emails heavily redacted on first release which will be litigated to remove those heavy black bands (or perhaps leaked with the text mostly intact). If Trump loses the election and his threats then lose power, I have a feeling some Ukrainians will be willing to describe their impressions of what was being “offered”.

    Hugh Hewitt opined the impeachment process will be quickly swept under the rug and a true appreciation for the wonders of Trump’s accomplishments will take over. It is odd that someone who has such long-term, close ties with the Nixon legacy thinks impeachment will fade. He is now President and CEO of the Richard Nixon Foundation, a position which no doubt COULD get facts on how Nixon is remembered and what visitors to the library show an interest in. I’m betting Nixon’s accomplishments have better advertising and snazzier graphics — and even so, more people want to learn about Watergate, the cover-up, the investigations, and the eventual parade of Congressional Republicans who convinced Nixon he needed to resign.

  11. Ron, You wrote in civil manner, so I will do the same. Did you do a simple search, on net, for Treaty between Ukraine and USA,, 1998-1999. I did, all 21 pages of it, in PDF format, and legalize. Final notes between the countries was from Antn Buteyko, Ambassador and H.E. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State, USA. And it covered all forms of dialogue between the two countries. (note: I believe it to be similar to all the other countries, USA has Treaties with, and ALSO BELIEVE THEY ARE LAWS.
    ——–Senator Joe Biden was Senior Senator in that period, and led support in Senate, to get Majority approval, with Treaty being signed by President Barack Obama. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUJMP CAMPAIGNED ON ELIMINATING CORRUPTION, ALONG WITH MANY OTHER PROMISES. AND HE MADE GOOD ON THEM. Even with the open, active, angry opposition of both major parties in USA. Shame on them, and all who question his actions now.
    ———-As for more witnesses, Democrats had 17 of them, testifying in House, and NONE OF THEM WAS A WITNESS. Everyone one of them had talked to others, and only one had ever talked to President Donald Trump. So t hey were Gossip Mongers, and that is not good testimony, no matter how many oaths are taken, or given. Lot of wasted energy, efforts, expended, for lies, and even made up testimony. Consider me Republican, Deplorable, and I did keep my guns and religion.

  12. The idea of Pres Chump eliminating corruption is hysterically laughable. Shame on you for being so pathetically gullible. Your defense is incredibly, head shakingly weak. The Twit in chief has in fact delivered on very very few of his “promises” unless you mean his promises to do just as Putin tells him to. The main accomplishment of the worst president in our history is to corrupt our government in a supremely profound way, benefiting Putin at every turn. Why do you love this traitor so very much?

  13. Did you read the Treaty? Dis you read any of the treaties we have with our allies, NATO, U.N. ???? Can you read, or are you just a name caller, and put down artist? What ever, you live with your ideas, since you write, like the Iowa Socialist, still in college who was on Tucker Carlson’s TV program , following the Iowa Caucus? Go your way, in peace.

  14. Harry, Be careful about using FDR as a reference. I was born in 1929, month after stock market crashed. So I grew up in 1930s, 1940s, and know what depression is, what farm life is like when no one has any money. Lot of trading labor, and sharing with others, since we grew more on our farms, than others could grow in yards or pots. As a 10 year old on our farm, young guy drove into our front yard, walked through 3 farm gates, leaving them open behind him, and up on to ridge. Did not come to the house or talk to father. Dad grabbed shotgun, said “Bill, get me some shells”. I grabbed 12 gauge ammo, gave two to dad, and he put them into Iver-Johnson , double barrel 12 gauge, left it un-cocked, over left arm.
    ——-He and I walked to that ridge, where Dad asked “what are you doing on my farm? His reply was I am from the government, and checking how many acres of corn, wheat, oats you are growing.. Dad said ‘You dam fool, you drove down the lane, past the plowed fields not planted yet, and looking at our pasture, where you see horses, mules, and cows, grazing. “Now get off my farm, and close the dam gates behind you”. That was FDR who federalize Farm banks, Farm loans, and farm limit on grain growing in the East, to keep price higher for the Western growers.
    ———FDR and Harry Hopkins (his closest advisor) still do not have a good name in part of Ohio where I grew up. And Biden – Obama are not well liked in Ohio for their stand against Energy production is parts of USA. And too many business went off shore under Obama policies. Just as they are not liked in Colorado, in rural areas.

  15. Those clumsy leakers are exposing themselves, and we who know what real leadership is, see through them much better then you think. You may have spent some time in the military, but you were too exposed to “chain of command”, whether in military as I think I had read in one of your comments, but you were like Jason Crow. You were not in standard writing or policy writing, that more senior officers are. And I worked with all ranks, joint military services, and would not have remained, is I had been a “brown noser” type. Go in peace.

  16. Randy King, You proved you can read and research. Now just what law did Donald Trump or his administration, break. Mueller with all the documents and testimony, could not find it. Rep. Schiff , Pelosi, Waters, could not find it, so they had a KANGAROO COURT. Brought in 17 witnesses, who testified they talked to others, and all agreed that was what happened, and what President Donald Trump , had asked for. But none of them ever talked to him, so were gossip mongers, and 2nd, 3rd level in Hearsay reporting. NONE WAS A DIRECT WITNESS. And Democrats in the House, demanded more such testimony, at great expense, time, effort, and undermining what the rest of Congress was trying to do.
    ——–In every case where I was a witness, or sat on jury, the police gathered the info and testimony, transferred it to District Attorney to prosecute. And Lawyers- Judge decided what was acceptable, or would be heard. No one was judge, lawyer, jury, and punishment , performed by one person. Where was the proper sequence in what only Democrats, in the house, took this on themselves, because they did not like Donald Trump. Started before he was even elected., against him, and anyone they though he might contact in campaign, or in his administration.

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