Donald Trump
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

The sec­ond impeach­ment tri­al of Don­ald J. Trump begins Tues­day in the U.S. Sen­ate cham­ber, briefly occu­pied in the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion that sought to block for­mal con­fir­ma­tion of Joe Biden and Kamala Har­ris’ Elec­toral Col­lege win.

Sen­a­tor Patrick Leahy, D‑Vermont, Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore, will be in the Sen­ate president’s chair where then-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence was sit­ting as the Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capi­tol. The chair was briefly occu­pied by the Q‑Anon “shaman,” horn wear­ing Jacob Chansley.

On a roll call list of sen­a­tors’ votes, the “Q Shaman” had left a message:

It’s only a mat­ter of time/Justice is com­ing.

Trump had want­ed his Vice Pres­i­dent to refuse accep­tance of elec­toral votes from sev­er­al states car­ried by Biden. “And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” he told a ral­ly ear­li­er on 1/06/2021. As the mob then marched on the Capi­tol, Trump was tweet­ing “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to pro­tect our Coun­try… USA demands the truth!”

The tweet is poten­tial evi­dence in Trump’s tri­al, giv­en that insur­rec­tion­ists chant­ed “Hang Pence” as they occu­pied Capi­tol hall­ways. An endur­ing image of the day is of a noose in the fore­ground with the great dome as backdrop.

“A lot of us believe that if ever there was a rea­son for our Found­ing Fathers to have the Arti­cles of Impeach­ment in the Con­sti­tu­tion, this was it,” Sen­a­tor Joe Machin III, D‑West Vir­ginia, remarked the oth­er day.

If a crime was com­mit­ted, the tri­al is being con­duct­ed at the crime scene, before wit­ness­es to the crime, how do you mount a defense?

We’ll wit­ness the first smoke screen on Tues­day, when Trump lawyers mount a so-called “con­sti­tu­tion­al defense.” The argu­ment: You can’t try the orange-haired one because he is no longer in office.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion does not give Con­gress the pow­er to impeach a pri­vate cit­i­zen: This charge is direct­ed at an indi­vid­ual who no longer holds pub­lic office,” the words of Manchin’s seat­mate from the Moun­taineer State, Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Shelly Moore Capito.

Non­sense, say con­sti­tu­tion­al experts, includ­ing nabobs from the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety. The pur­pose of the impeach­ment tri­al, if sen­a­tors agree to con­vict, is to pre­vent Trump ever again from seek­ing pub­lic office.

But the defense allows Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to ignore the evi­dence, like­ly in the form of pic­ture after pic­ture, show­ing stuff like a Con­fed­er­ate flag car­ried through Stat­u­ary Hall and such words as those of Louie Gohmert, R‑Texas: “You got­ta go to the streets and be as vio­lent as Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter].”

Equiv­a­lence is the next smoke screen, broad­ly deployed by the right and right-wing media. Try to equate the 1/06/2021 coup attempt with excess­es of the left. The back­drops of Rupert Mur­doch’s Fox are fre­quent­ly filled with pic­tures of glow­er­ing, men­ac­ing, disheveled young black men. They’ve late­ly been replaced by shots of Rep. Max­ine Waters, D‑California, and her advice to “get in the face” of Trump admin­is­tra­tion nabobs encoun­tered in restau­rants or airports.

Sure, Stephen Miller was giv­en a bad time at one restau­rant, while Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao chose to exit another.

Nobody was hurt or killed, how­ev­er, nor were the restau­rant crit­ics clad in body armor or pack­ing AR-15 assault rifles.

Con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, con­jured out of thin air, are also being deployed.

Sen­a­tor Ron John­son, R‑Wisconsin on Sun­day tried to blame the U.S. Capi­tol attack on House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi. “Is it anoth­er diver­sion­ary oper­a­tion?” he asked. “Is this means to deflect away from poten­tial­ly what the Speak­er knew and when she knew it? I don’t know but I am suspicious.”

Of course, Repub­li­cans are claim­ing the impeach­ment tri­al will deep­en Amer­i­cans’ divi­sions. They were, of course, almost entire­ly silent over the past four years as Trump opened wounds in the body politic and then poured in the salt. Impeach­ment will “fur­ther divide this coun­try,” warns Sen­a­tor Josh Haw­ley, R‑Missouri, who gave a clenched fist to the mob as it stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Amer­i­ca’s wrong wing seems intent on cre­at­ing its own real­i­ty, or “alter­na­tive facts”, to quote Kellyanne Con­way. Words of Shake­speare come to find: “They whose guilt with­in their bosom lies, imag­ine every eye beholds their blame.”

The bosom of Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell is wor­thy of a close look. After all, wasn’t it McConnell who said in a floor speech: “The mob was fed lies. They were pro­voked by the Pres­i­dent and oth­er pow­er­ful people.”

McConnell nev­er acts on prin­ci­ple, so the speech stirred instant speculation.

The busi­ness wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty had used Trump to achieve a gar­gan­tu­an tax cut favor­ing the rich, and then put two hun­dred and forty-eight most­ly white, most­ly young judges on the fed­er­al bench.

Now, in dis­grace, was McConnell sig­nal­ing that Trump could be jettisoned?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is noth­ing like a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge to focus the mind.

Don­ald Trump, Jr., is already talk­ing about trav­el­ing to Wyoming next year to “pri­ma­ry” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Cheney, a steely con­ser­v­a­tive who was one of ten House Repub­li­cans vot­ing to impeach Don­ald Trump.

He can keep com­ing west, for State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brad Klip­pert, R‑Kennewick is chal­leng­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan New­house, R‑Washington. (New­house can­not be pri­maried, owing to Wash­ing­ton’s “Top Two” elec­tion system.)

On Mon­day, Steve Kor­nac­ki of MSNBC post­ed new poll fig­ures on the Big Board, show­ing that just nine per­cent of Repub­li­can vot­ers favor a sec­ond impeach­ment of Trump, with eighty-sev­en per­cent opposed.

Mar­jorie Tay­lor Green, QAnon-Geor­gia, for once spoke the truth last Thurs­day when she said: “The par­ty is his (Trump’s). It doesn’t belong to any­body else.”

Trump has trans­formed the base of the Repub­li­can Par­ty. It is no longer the polit­i­cal pre­serve of busi­ness and edu­cat­ed sub­ur­ban­ites. Its base now is white vot­ers with­out col­lege degrees, the evan­gel­i­cal right and rur­al voters.

It has become a hotbed of white suprema­cists, a vehi­cle for folks resent­ing a more diver­si­fied, more inclu­sive coun­try. They are angry.

Can Trump keep them angry, despite hav­ing been ban­ished from Twit­ter and deplat­formed from a host of oth­er ser­vices where he once went unchecked?

Repub­li­cans in Con­gress fear an affir­ma­tive answer. Hence, they are will­ing to deny an impeach­able offense with they wit­nessed, think­ing up excus­es as they go. Stature-speak­ing, they could hide in a field of stubble.

A few will break ranks and sup­port impeach­ment, includ­ing the very con­cerned Sen­a­tor Susan Collins, R‑Maine.

But we will see noth­ing like the 1950s Repub­li­can revolt against the thug­gery of Joseph McCarthy. The first to rise up in protest against McCarthy­ism in the Sen­ate was Sen­a­tor Mar­garet Chase Smith, R‑Maine.

She was fol­lowed by Sen­a­tor Ralph Flan­ders, R‑Vermont. The Sen­ate com­mit­tee which led to McCarthy’s cen­sure was chaired by Sen­a­tor Arthur Watkins, R‑Utah.

Twen­ty-three Repub­li­cans vot­ed to con­demn “Tail Gun­ner Joe”. Just five were with the Democ­rats last week on a pre­lim­i­nary impeach­ment motion.

There is not much we can do about the Senate’s vote beyond urg­ing Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to put coun­try ahead of par­ty, which they are very resis­tant to doing.

What we can do, how­ev­er, is watch the pre­sen­ta­tion of evi­dence and crys­tal­lize in our minds mem­o­ries of a right-wing coup that sought to over­turn an Amer­i­can elec­tion, and recom­mit to defend­ing gov­ern­ment by the people.

This repub­lic, it bears repeat­ing, is ours to keep… if we can keep it.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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