Teresa Hanafin writes in the Boston Globe’s Fast Forward:


You have to hand it to Mitch McConnell:He is quite open about his devotional obeisance to Trump. Just look at the TPP he has unveiled (that’s Trump Protection Plan, not Trans-Pacific Partnership) and which the Senate will vote on today: His rules are very different from those in place for the Bill Clinton trial, which he had pledged to follow. (Wait, a Republican lied? I’m shocked, shocked to find that lying is going on in here!) A cynic would sum up the proposed rules as no evidence, no witnesses, no time, no sunshine.

Evidence. The material the House collected during its impeachment investigation will not be automatically entered into evidence, as it was at the Clinton trial. Instead, it will be subject to a vote of acceptance by the full Senate, a vote that won’t happen until after statements and arguments by both sides.

Witnesses. McConnell is opposed to calling witnesses who refused to testify in the House unless the Senate votes to call them — again, after the arguments by both sides.

Time. Like the Clinton trial, each side will have 24 hours to present its case. But McConnell is forcing those 24 hours into just two days each (Clinton’s opponents and supporters had four days each). Since the sessions can’t start until 1 p.m. because of Chief Justice John Roberts’s Supreme Court morning schedule, the trial arguments will go into the wee hours of the morning each day. That’s why the hashtags #MidnightMoscowMitch and #MidnightMitchand the phrase “Nobody likes him” are trending on Twitter. Oh, wait — that last one is about Bernie Sanders, not McConnell. Sorry about that.

Sunshine. That’s the nickname given to laws and acts that mandate openness and transparency on the part of government and businesses, designed to reassure the public that officials are acting ethically, to allow the public to bear witness to certain activities, and to prevent corruption. In fact, there is a federal sunshine statute that applies to Congress. McConnell looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in quite some time, so there’s that.

Let’s review what’s at issue here: The charges against Trump are that he abused the power of the presidency to help himself get re-elected, and then obstructed Congress when it tried to find out the truth by blocking all requests for testimony and documents.

Trump held up $391 million in congressionally approved and critical military aid for Ukraine, a US ally that is fighting off the Russians on its eastern border; refused to invite the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the White House to demonstrate US resolve to help him clean up corruption; and canceled VP Mike Pence’s attendance at Zelensky’s inauguration, which would have signaled US support for Ukraine to the Russians.

He stands accused of doing all that to try to force Zelensky to publicly announce that he was investigating Trump’s chief political rival, former VP Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Testimony from multiple witnesses during the House impeachment investigation showed that Trump wasn’t the least bit interested in the widespread corruption in Ukraine that Zelensky was trying to tackle. Nor did he care whether Zelensky actually conducted a Biden investigation, witnesses said. All he wanted was an announcement that could be played on an endless loop on Fox News until November.

Of course, the whistleblower derailed that plan when he/she revealed the contents of a phone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. After Trump found out about the whistleblower’s complaint, and after three House committees launched investigations into the scheme, Trump finally released the aid — after a delay of 84 days. (In other words, after he got caught.)

The Democrats released their 111-page trial argument, which says that Trump’s actions jeopardized national security, compromised the integrity of US elections, and undermined US democracy. The White House legal arguments read partly like a combination of Trump’s Twitter tirades and his rally rages: It’s a rigged process, Democrats are trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election, the charges are flimsy and dangerous, Chuck Schumer is ugly, etc. etc.

One of the White House’s main arguments is that Trump committed no crime, although first of all, most legal scholars say that’s not required for impeachment, and second, he actually did break the law. The Government Accountability Office ruled last week that he did so when he withheld the military aid to Ukraine, saying that the president cannot substitute his policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. And obstruction of Congress is a federal criminal violation.

They also argue that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. Funny, it was when Nixon’s impeachment articles were being prepared, and it was again during the Clinton impeachment when independent counsel Kenneth Starrunsuccessfully tried to persuade the House to make that an article of impeachment. In fact, he argued that repeatedly invoking executive privilege is abuse of power. He’s now on Trump’s legal team, but apparently sees no contradictions.

Neither does Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz,who is on Trump’s team for one reason: to argue that abuse of power isn’t an impeachable offense under the Constitution because it isn’t a crime under federal law. Of course, in 1998 during the Bill Clinton trial, he argued the exact opposite.

Meanwhile, a panicked Trump and Senate Republicans are frantic over the possibility that the Senate will, indeed, vote to hear from witnesses, so they are pulling out all the stops, coming up with plans to keep former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying. Man, he must know a lot. But why he doesn’t just hold a press conference and spill his guts, or send House Democrats a document outlining what he knows, is beyond me. Another GOP drama king.