A year ago, when Mitch McConnell advanced the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, then President of the United States, Senator Chuck Schumer declared it was not a real impeachment trial because no witnesses would be called. It would be a farce.
By Senator Schumer’s own standards, the impeachment trial he will now oversee as Majority Leader of the Senate is a farce. There will be no witnesses. “So far, neither Senator McConnell, nor any Republican Senator, has articulated a single good reason why the trial shouldn’t have these witnesses or these documents,” Schumer said then.
“Trials have witnesses. That’s what trials are all about,” Schumer maintained a year ago.
There is clearly a coordinated talking point making the rounds that the senators themselves were witnesses to that day. But in the setting of a trial, that misses Schumer’s point then and the reality now.
This is not a trial. It is a spectacle. It is a performance done to scratch another Democratic itch and placate both their base and members of the press.
Yes, I said after January 6th that they should have impeached Donald Trump. But they also should make an actual effort if they wanted to take it seriously. There will be no witnesses to examine and cross-examine. It will be rushed. It will be performance. The outcome is foreordained. The former President will not be convicted. It is Groundhog Day for impeachment. It will be over just as quickly.
This is now about defining the Republicans by the President and causing a spectacle by which the Democrats can hang Trump around the GOP’s neck even with him being out of sight now. Members of the media will puff their chests in righteous indignation. Some will say he deserves it and the GOP deserves it and they deserve each other and a pox on all of them.
But that gets me back to the key point here. Just as many of the Republican legal minds once held that a former President could be tried for impeachment if impeached while in office (an argument established with the Nixon resignation) are now reversing themselves for political expedience, so too is Chuck Schumer who said there needed to be actual questioned witnesses for a real trial.
He knows this is not a real trial. It is a political calculation that, with the help of the media still outraged by Trump, will hopefully hurt the GOP enough that Schumer can stay majority leader for more than two years.
The former President of the United States arguably incited a mob to storm the United States Capitol. A woman was shot and killed. A police officer died. Others died. There should be an accounting. There will not be. The Senate would like to move on from it as quickly as possible and is only now forced to have a trial by its rules. The Senate rules do not allow the Senate to ignore articles of impeachment.
It is clear neither side really wants to go forward. If they did, they'd respect the process enough to bring the witnesses they insisted a year ago were necessary for legitimacy. The only major difference between then and now is that last time there was no bipartisan process to govern the impeachment. This time, the Democrat and Republican leaders agreed to get it over with as quickly as possible and without witnesses.
Senate Democrats are tacitly admitting this impeachment trial is a waste of time. They are not wrong. Scream your moral indignations over January 6th all you want. You are not wrong. But you should be screaming at Democrats who abandoned their own standard for what constituted a legitimate trial in order to just get it over with and move on.
“Senate Democrats believe strongly the trial must be fair and it's very important that the American people judge it to be fair,” Schumer said. “A fair trial is one where senators get all the facts. And one that allows them to adjudicate the case impartially.”
"What is a trial with no witnesses and no documents? It's a sham trial,” Schumer said.
That was then. Now he want to move on.
One addendum to the matter this morning: In 2020, Schumer insisted on witnesses because he claimed there was new corroborating evidence about White House staff involved. Yesterday, we learned the President was going around the White House incredulous others were not excited about the storming of the Capitol. We know this from more than one Republican Senator who talked to those people in the White House. But those people will not be called as witnesses. No one will be called as a witness.
This is not about accountability. This is about providing a spectacle to comply with the Senate rules and moving on as quickly as possible. If they wanted accountability, they’d bring in the witnesses.