Littwin: The Trump acquittal (and a few words on the State of the Union)

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rips up pages of the State of the Union speech after U.S. President Donald Trump finishes his State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rips up pages of the State of the Union speech after U.S. President Donald Trump finishes his State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

On the night before the momentous Senate vote on whether to remove Donald Trump from office, Trump smugly — and I think that’s a fair description — delivered his State of the Union speech. He knew how the impeachment vote would turn out, although he may not have counted on Mitt Romney’s boldly-stated defection. It was left to Romney to make the argument that not all Republican politicians lack either conscience or courage.

Trump’s version of the State of the Union was riddled, of course, with half-truths, misstatements of fact and, sure, lies. But even though impeachment was never mentioned, it was the obvious subtext throughout the speech. You could hear it as Trump made absolutely clear that the cold civil war in America and especially in American politics is rapidly heating up, And that Trump, not without reason, believes he’s winning the war.

I mean, how much more base-pandering is possible than to present Rush Limbaugh the presidential Medal of Freedom on the spot. Yes, it’s quite sad that Limbaugh has lung cancer, but that doesn’t change the fact that Rush Limbaugh is Rush Limbaugh, as provocative and divisive a figure in America as Trump himself.

And yet, at this point, you’d have to say that the 2020 presidential race is a toss-up. Democrats are still counting votes in Iowa, the Electoral College is still in place, Mitch McConnell held all but one GOP senator in line for the impeachment trial vote, the latest Gallup poll has Trump’s approval rating at a career-high 49 percent despite the damning evidence of Trump’s conduct on Ukraine. 

And you can be sure Trump is more certain than ever that his infamous Fifth Avenue shooting boast has now basically become the law of the land.

In Trump’s speech, he made no call for American unity in these hyper-polarized times. Any other president — every other president — would have called for America to come together and pledged his/her willingness to lead that charge. Not Trump, of course. The national divide is very much part of his philosophy of campaigning/governing — Trump’s victimized us standing strongly against his opponents’ victimizer them. And you saw, in his delivery of red meat to the base, a prolonged attack on his ultimate other — the so-called dangerous and lawless undocumented immigrant.

The red-blue divide, first recognized during the Bush-Gore triple overtime election fight, is now little more than a relic. New lines have been drawn. And crossing them, as Romney will surely learn, has a cost. As the kids say, for reals.

And so, the only thing that will be remembered from the State of the Union will be Trump’s snub of Nancy Pelosi’s handshake offer just prior to the speech and Pelosi’s very public ripping up of her copy of Trump’s speech just as he finished delivering it.

The visuals are important — and you’ll see them again and again — because they do, in fact, tell the story of the moment.

Just as the impeachment trial did. Just before the votes, McConnell gave a speech blasting Democrats for having the temerity to impeach Trump. Romney’s difference of opinion couldn’t have been more clear: “There’s no question that the president asked a foreign power to investigate his political foe. That he did so for a political purpose, and that he pressured Ukraine to get them to help or to lead in this effort. My own view is that there’s not much I can think of that would be a more egregious assault on our Constitution than trying to corrupt an election to maintain power. And that’s what the president did.”

That is precisely what the president did. Any honest reading of the facts makes that clear. Susan Collins, in explaining her vote to convict, had said that she “believed” that in being impeached Trump had learned not shake down foreign leaders for personal gain. Meanwhile, Trump said he had done nothing wrong and there was no lesson to be learned, after which Collins amended her statement saying she “hopes” Trump had learned his lesson.

On the Colorado front, both Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner gave speeches on the Senate floor on impeachment. Yes, Gardner spoke. In Bennet’s impassioned speech for conviction, he called Trump’s actions a “textbook” case for impeachment and said the Republicans’ unwillingness to hear from former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other new witnesses was “pitiful” and “disgraceful,” adding, “And it will be a stain on this body for all time.”

Meanwhile, Cory Gardner made the most Cory Gardnerish defense of Trump possible. Gardner ignored the facts of the trial and pretended the impeachment was about something else altogether — not about abuse of power, not about an egregious assault on the Constitution, not about a ham-handed extortion attempt conducted by Trump along with Rudy Giuliani and his thugs, but about Trump’s handling of a policy issue.

Here’s what Gardner told The Denver Post following the speech: “The question before us is whether or not a policy question can be grounds for impeachment. The policy question is, can the president be impeached for looking at how taxpayer dollars are being spent? I simply don’t think that’s true.”

So Gardner is saying that Trump was impeached because he improperly held up the congressional-approved military aid to Ukraine — and not because he held up the aid as part of a campaign meant  to force Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a potential presidential opponent. The policy issue, I guess, is whether the president can extort a foreign leader for personal gain.

And so the anger grows. Trump is furious that he got impeached. Pelosi is furious that after her careful handling of impeachment, Dems could find only two Republican senators to join them in a vote for an actual trial. They needed four. Meanwhile, Biden supporters have to wonder if the Trump legal team’s bogus attacks on Biden on the Senate floor cost him votes in Iowa.

And now we still have nine months before a far more momentous vote — on whether Trump can be re-elected. I don’t know the answer. But it should give us a much closer reading of the state of the union than the speech Pelosi decided should be shred.

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  1. I’m wondering if Pelosi will keep the ripped SOTU pages for her own library archives donation, or if she might be willing to auction them off, page by page, as a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

  2. An acquittal* for the president*.

    That sounds about right.

    By the way…that’s an awfully nice strawman Complicit Cory has there…it’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.

  3. In my opinion, Litwin’s narrative of the events of February 4th are the most complete and accurate of ANY of the news reports I’ve seen or read: New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, ABC. Thanks for keeping journalism alive!

  4. Russia hoax, Kavanaugh hoax, Impeachment hoax. Seems like the elected Democrats and their followers simply can not come to terms with the results of the 2016 election. I’ll be voting for DJT again while bracing for the next series of coordinated attacks against “us”.

  5. No, there were no “hoax’s”. Trump behaves like the mob bosses he admires. He and his enablers are doing everything in their power to upend the constitution that has served us so well since it’s inception. If the shoe were on the other foot and Hillary Clinton had done what Trump did, it would be Bengazi on steroids.

  6. Trump was impeached because he broke the law by withholding congressionally approved funds to a foreign entity in order to solicit help for his re-election campaign. Trump was not impeached because he won the election, he was impeached because it was what Congress had to do if our laws and our Constitution mean anything anymore.

    Everyone knows that. Well, almost everyone…

  7. Thanks for pointing out that “In Trump’s speech, he made no call for American unity in these hyper-polarized times. Any other president — every other president — would have called for America to come together and pledged his/her willingness to lead that charge.” I encourage everyone to view Frontline’s America Divided, especially:
    Frank Luntz extended interview (1-hour) –

    Our democracy is at great risk with the increase in divisiveness and divide.

  8. More recycled trash from the ash pile of history
    just another long winded screed from a nobody

    OK I don’t get it.
    I watched some of Ken Burns doc on country music. This segment covered a period including the Vietnam War. Having been in the sights of the draft board then I know the period well. And the country was quite divided. I understood that. One side grew listening to all the public service announcement about the communist threat.

    The other side saw a war without end

    a difference of opinion but I can see where both side came from and I never felt like democracy in america was threatened. (naive perhaps on my part)

    But this time, I do not get it. What is the white power structure in America so upset about? What is the great existential threat that we face, Russia? No, the trumpevers looove Russia because dear leader says so. War? no they seem to be fine with a war that lets most their kids and grand kids take a pass, the economy? nah. it’s not great but it’s not terrible.
    Not enough tax cuts for the rich? I can’t believe joe sixpack and johnny hardhat really want more trickle down off the legs of billionaires. Right now 40-49% of american are willing to sell their birthright for out of the money options on a goldmine in the sky.
    religious freedom – you’ve got plenty but we are not going back to a puritan theocracy where the a minority of american tell the rest how to live.
    immigration- your job didn’t get taken by an immigrant, more likely it went overseas or got automated. But if trump did such a great job with the economy where are all those manufacturing jobs t-wrecks promised
    The only thing I can think of that fits the data is old straight white men ( and you too Lindsey Graham) are mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore because they do not have 100 % of the power in America anymore.
    I hate repeating my point but in case you missed it. A lot of people in the country are upset over practically nothing. this is incredibly dumb and shortsighted. and y’all are gonna pay for it.

  9. None of you get it yet, do you? This impeachment was a question of equality between the three legs of government that we profess, under Constitution Congress abrogated their power o legislate, to the Executive Branch, during Barack Obama’s administration. He ruled by Executive Orders, and Executive Memorandums, and since his cabinet officers, and their employees wrote those, it freed up the cabinet officers to think of other mischief. And it let the Cabinet employees be petty tyrants, enforcing the executive orders and memorandums they wrote. Harry Reid ensured that any initiative Democrats did not like, would stay on his desk, or in committee. Not acted on, not discussed, voted, up or down, and it was fun time at the capital..
    ——–Donald Trump observed all this, and backed off when John McCain (R) (professed) campaigned thinking he would take command. Did the same when Mitt Romney did the same. Both quit, under fire when challenged in debates by Candy Crowley, then Meghan Kelley. Donald realized in 2015, no one else was stepping forward, and discussed with family. When they finally agreed with him , he made the statement (NOW WE FIND OUT WHO OUR REAL FRIENDS ARE). And he really did, just s we voters found out too, who our friends were, and who was not. Donald was facing both major parties, MSM, and lot of big money folks to use funds to buy votes. Donald surprised the Democrats in 2015-16, but Democrats broke loose in 2018 . And we got a lot folks who know how to get elected. But have very little experience in jobs, economy, health care, or the real issues that we middle class and low income are concerned with.
    ——–Now I got that off my chest, hopefully to get some folks to think, because the reckoning is coming in 2020. I suspect some newbies will be back in job market, and perhaps learn how the real world is. And considering that Adjutant General Barr indicted 8 folks in California for money laundering, foreign money to the Democratic Candidates, in large amounts voters will be more careful in who they vote for. There is no free lunch. Some one else has to pay, to give Freebies to young folks, or healthcare to illegal aliens. Wonder why MSM and others have not talked about the Criminal cases involved. Couldn’t be, due to names of the Democratic Recipients, could it?? And were they told who footed the bill, for those funds????”??. (Check out Washington daily news for this issue).

  10. Mueller and his lawyers could not find a law that was broken, in long investigation. DOJ, BARR SAID HE DID NOT BREAK A LAW. Schiff, Polosie, and Schumer could not, and did not reference a law that he broke. So Jim, why don’t you tell them which law was broken. (by the way, do read the TREATY BETWEEN UKRAINE AND USA, 1998-99 that specifically covers what President Trump did. And question is, why did Obama, Biden do what they did (or did not do) in allowing Rorruption to exist in Ukraine prior administration, and we still sent Foreign Aid? Even if it was just blankets.

  11. When Donald Trump gave his first speech after election, in January 2017, he stated he was President for all United States Citizens. Unfortunately, a lot of folks had campaigned openly against him, even contacting and trying to gain negative information from people overseas, that Donald had never talked to. Later those people were charged and investigated by FBI, CIA, and then by NY Southern Court system. So Donald id not cause the divisions, ——Those divisions started decades ago, and became worse in Clinton years, and Obama years.

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