February 7, 2020

Senate Acquits Trump

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On Wednesday, “President Donald Trump won impeachment acquittal in the U.S. Senate.” The votes were along party lines with the exception of Mitt Romney (R-UT), who voted for conviction on the first charge, abuse of power. AP News

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From the Left

The left criticizes Republicans who voted for acquittal and worries about the consequences for Trump’s future behavior.

“In his closing argument, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone did not make it easy for the senators. ‘The President has done nothing wrong,’ he said, as he rested his case. On Wednesday, fifty-two of the fifty-three Republican members of the Senate, no matter what contorted rationales they offered the public, voted to accept that proposition. [Democratic Senator Joe] Manchin had tried to interest the Republicans in a censure motion that would at least register some disapproval. He had no takers.”
Susan B. Glasser, New Yorker

“The clearest measure of how far the Republican Party has strayed from good governance may be Mr. Romney’s explanation for his vote… Mr. Trump’s behavior in relation to Ukraine ‘was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values,’ Mr. Romney said Wednesday on the Senate floor. ‘Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.’… Just eight years ago, Mr. Romney was the Republican nominee for president; today, his vote will cast him as a pariah.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“That some Democrats were overly eager to impeach had nothing to do with whether these particular charges (and the president’s overall behavior) meant he should be removed from office… The impeachment power is weak, but it will be weaker in the wake of how Senate Republicans conducted this trial and how they explained themselves… [This] puts the U.S. Constitution in grave jeopardy. In particular, it puts the integrity of the 2020 election in serious doubt. Even if nothing else happens, it will already tend to undermine the strength of U.S. democracy. Does anyone think Trump will hesitate to seek further foreign interference in the election?
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

“Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski acknowledged that the president had committed wrongdoings in the Ukraine scandal. At the same time, she made the circular assertion that she couldn’t vote for a partisan impeachment, thereby ensuring that it would remain partisan. Maine Senator Susan Collins went even further to defend her vote for acquittal. While also faulting Trump for his actions, she made the risible assertion that Trump ‘has learned from this case,’ as if to suggest that he won’t do anything like it again. The president, for his part, has continually asserted that he did nothing wrong and acted perfectly in all respects.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

Trump got himself acquitted without even a token gesture of contrition. Bill Clinton survived his sex and perjury scandal, but part of him doing so was to concede in public that what he did was wrong. Ronald Reagan survived Iran-Contra, but disposing of the situation involved identifying fall guys and an internal personnel shake-up. Trump didn’t distance himself from Rudy Giuliani, hail internal dissenters for cutting short an inappropriate mingling of politics and foreign policy, or concede that there was any problem with holding up the aid in the first place, even though he eventually released it…

“Before acquittal, members of the Trump administration had to worry at least a little that getting caught doing something wrong would lead to consequences. And potentially, whistleblowers had to hope at least a little that spilling the beans would lead to positive change. Now we know that none of that is the case.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Regarding Pelosi, “[her] talents have always lain in the less glamorous, less public side of politics: she is good at whipping up votes in her caucus and she is good at disciplining dissenters. She is good at offering incentives and punishments to get Democratic members of Congress to do what she wants them to do… To rip up the speech on television was a bit of theatricality, sure – a ploy designed to get attention. It also worked. The day after Trump made a long speech full of misinformation that tried to make a case for his re-election, no one is talking about him. Instead we are talking about the speaker of the House. That, too, is a skill, one that Pelosi seems to be honing.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of the impeachment effort as a whole and generally disapproves of Romney’s vote.

From the Right

The right is critical of the impeachment effort as a whole and generally disapproves of Romney’s vote.

“In the bitter end, what has all of this accomplished? The House has defined impeachment down to a standard that will now make more impeachments likely. ‘Abuse of power’ and ‘corrupt motives’ are justifications that partisans in both parties can use. Mr. Trump remains in office, but he will now claim vindication and use it as a rallying cry for re-election against what he will call an attempted insider coup. The partisan furies have intensified, and this election year will be even more bitterly fought. Mr. Trump’s political standing has even improved during the impeachment struggle… We doubt this is what Nancy Pelosi hoped for, but it is what her partisan impeachment has wrought.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

At the end of the day, “The Democrats… failed to convince the Senate that Trump’s alleged abuse of power was impeachable. Presidents abuse power all the time, and the answer is rarely impeachment. Trump’s legal defense team went a step further and argued abuse of power is too vague an accusation to warrant impeachment. The constitutional framers would beg to differ — they did, after all, leave room for ‘crimelike’ actions. But even so, Trump’s team made a good point: Impeachment is a serious instrument that should be used only as a last resort.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

Regarding Romney, “A Senator who wanted to lead and believed deeply that Trump deserved conviction would have worked tirelessly to convince his fellow Republican Senators to join him in this vote. Instead, Romney waited until after the decisions made by all his fellow Republicans were announced to take his stand – ineffective as the protesters outside. Except to the extent it is helpful to the campaigns of Democratic candidates running against Cory Gardner and Susan Collins.”
Ben Domenech, The Federalist

“Had Romney stuck with his caucus, Democrats still would have attacked Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and other Senate Republicans for their acquittal votes, but Romney’s vote to acquit makes them all look a little more like Trump’s handmaidens. There’s no doubt Romney made it more difficult for them to compete in November

“It might not have mattered as much if [Democratic Senators] Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema had gone the other way. Both of them issued statements after Romney, and one has to wonder whether they might have decided differently had Romney voted to acquit. We’ll never know until we read their memoirs, but Romney’s big reveal two hours before the vote effectively tore away any political cover either would have had to break from their own caucuses.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Some argue, “Spare me the argument that Romney did it because he wanted praise from the media. He’s a 72-year-old multimillionaire senator who’s not up for reelection until 2024, and few Americans know better just how vicious the mainstream media can be. Romney lived through it in 2012; he knows how easily they will smear, deride, and attempt to destroy a good man in service of a political goal

“The only plausible reason for Romney to vote for removal on one count is because he genuinely believed it was the right thing to do — and did so knowing the avalanche of rage that would come his way from his usual Republican allies.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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