By not calling witnesses, this impeachment lacked the due process of previous cases.
Many could have correctly guessed the results of President Trump’s impeachment before the two articles indicting the 45th president officially made it out of the House of Representatives, but the shameful way that the trial was conducted does not bode well for anyone other than the man still sitting in the Oval Office. The impeachment case of Donald John Trump saw the Republican Party disregard all precedent and respect for the rule of law in order to protect an electoral victory in November.
The trial’s purpose was essentially to decide whether Trump’s direction to withhold aid from Ukraine until after the new Ukrainian government had opened an investigation into Joe Biden’s son and the White House’s subsequent attempt at silencing any who dared to testify as to what they knew merited removal. Those were the facts. The only thing up for dispute was whether the actions make Trump undeserving of the office.
Impeachment has always been partisan: The two previous impeachment trials, those of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, also both ended in acquittals and were both heavily influenced by party sentiments. Impeachment is a political process supported by a reference or two from the Constitution, and, in that way, Trump’s was no different.
Where this impeachment differed with Johnson and Clinton’s was in its execution. Unlike the only two previous examples, Trump’s case lacked any witnesses testifying to the president’s actions, and Trump’s defense team seemed more concerned with the House’s process of impeachment than defending Trump on the merits of his conduct. Johnson and Clinton’s defense team faced testimony from those with intimate knowledge of their alleged wrongdoing. With the help of 51 Republican Senators, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vote whipping efforts, Trump did not face one witness.
Instead, this trial consisted of House managers, led by Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, making cases that mostly fell on deaf ears, while Alan Dershowitz, the head of Trump’s defense team argued that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that can not be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” By essentially restating Richard Nixon’s infamous assertion that “if the president does [something] that means that it is not illegal,” Dershowitz and every Republican who voted for acquittal have signaled to the President that he will not be held accountable as long as he can excite the base to a win in the November elections.
Republicans know that in a country of shifting politics and demographics that the policies that gave them near absolute ideological power in the late twentieth century have begun to fade. They also know that Trump’s racist and regressive politics will get disgruntled white voters to the polls when a faltering economy and lack of government assistance might have kept them complacent and at home. With Trump, they can continue to compete, methods of doing so be damned. For the first time in many of our lives and maybe since the Civil War, the integrity of American democracy will be at stake in the next election. A president elected by a minority of voters abused his power in office and will now likely use every possible method to hold onto that power. Come November, the same tests that the United States uses to assess the viability of Latin American democracies will be applied to the world’s oldest republic and our potential of failing those tests has rarely been higher.