Republicans (not just Trump) have embraced and largely succeeded with a “flood the zone” strategy of misconduct and corruption that, regrettably, can make it hard to keep track of their bad faith, much less hold them accountable. In that vein, I simply wanted to note three instances before they slip away from memory.
1. Republicans’ primary argument to let Trump off on impeachment was conducted in secret. Despite overwhelming, contrary legal opinion that a presidential impeachment trial can be held after a president leaves office, and prior supporting precedent, all but 5 Republican Senators voted Tuesday to dismiss the impeachment charges as supposedly “unlawful.” But here is the rub. Legal questions are decided at trial with expert legal testimony. So, for example, during Trump’s first impeachment trial, four legal experts publicly testified at the impeachment trial, subject to cross-examination and argument by lawyers on both sides. This time? Republican Senators invited one pro-Trump law professor to their private Republican lunch to say that the law doesn't permit this. No record, no cross-examination, no public testimony, no argument. And, predictably, although Republicans claimed that this law professor advised that impeachment was not constitutional, that very law professor countered that he said no such thing:
During the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday, Turley presented senators with both sides of the argument over the constitutionality of impeaching a former president. Some senators noted a recent letter from legal scholars, including some from the conservative Federalist Society, who argued a former president can be convicted, according to an attendee.
“We just talked about the history from both sides,” Turley told reporters after the lunch. “It’s just a really difficult question. They have a tough decision to make.”
Umm, in truth, it is not a tough decision.
2. On the day the impeachment articles were transferred to the Senate, Trump personally pocketed more government money. One perk for former presidents is that they get taxpayer money to open and maintain an ex-president’s office while they remain alive. No specific number is set and ex-presidents typically receive around $500,000 or more annually for such offices:
A recent congressional budget report says President Bill Clinton’s rent in New York is about $429,000. In Texas, George W. Bush spends even more. His office space costs taxpayers $434,000.Taxpayers also cover their phone bills. In 2006, taxpayers shelled out $104,000 for Bill Clinton's bill, according to government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
So what did Trump predictably do? He announced that he is opening his former president’s office in Palm Beach — you know, Mar-a Lago, where crews are decorating a room to be called his office. Ahh, he gets to collect this half million annual rent. Of course, we all could see this scam a country mile away.
3. Republican Senators’ argument to let Trump walk are transparently bad faith. In addition to their faux, secret legal arguments (point 1), Jonathan Chait does the short work of explaining the transparent bad faith and complicity of Republican Senators. In Trump’s first trial, Republicans argued that it was too soon to impeach Trump because the election was only nine months away. In his second impeachment trial, Republicans could have convened Trump’s trial while he was president, but refused to do so. Now, Republicans argue it is too late to hold a trial because Trump has left office. You know, the “Goldilocks defense.” As Chait further notes, “[t]he perfect moment for a trial happened to fall when the Senate was on vacation. What are you gonna do?”
Unfortunately, next week’s inevitable waive of Republican dickishness threatens to wash all this away. So, I think it is important periodically to take the time and try to remember.