Laugh Now, Cry Later: Trump's Impeachment
Members of Lawrenceville, good afternoon. It has been my great privilege over the past couple of weeks to watch an outstanding team of lawyers and dedicated professionals lead in the defense of the 45th President of the United States.
Before the trial even started, we knew we were in for a treat. Early on, a stark dichotomy was presented to the country. House Democrats assembled an Avengers-level team of district attorneys, impeachment managers, witnesses, prosecutors, and hours of footage to support their case against the former president. Trump’s defense, on the other hand, seemed lackluster. The first impeachment featured the respected White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi defending Mr. Trump. This past week’s second round, however, gave the floor to Bruce Castor Jr., David Schoen, and Michael van der Veen, criminal defense attorneys by trade. It may be interesting to mention that South Carolina attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier were also tapped to defend the former president, but they dropped the gig just a week before the trial for reasons that are only speculative.
The trial itself was quite the spectacle. The Democratic opening statement was a fiery rebuke of Donald Trump’s alleged incitement of insurrection. They showed compelling video evidence of the January 6 incident to the Senate jurors, some of whom recoiled in disgust. It was a textbook presentation. Again, however, Trump’s lawyers seemed to be ill-prepared in comparison. Once they decided—five minutes before the trial, I might add—who would deliver their opening statement, van der Veen rebutted with a somewhat competent address of his own, that is, until he suggested that they take the deposition back to his office in “philly-delphia.” The jokes seemed to write themselves for this one.
After days of evidence, arguments, and more evidence being railed against Trump with little resistance from his lawyers, the Senate made its decision on his fate. In a vote that surprised literally nobody, they elected to acquit the former president. Though seven Republican senators jumped on the Democratic bandwagon to convict Trump, for the second time in the last four years, the minority trumped the voice of the majority—pun most definitely intended.
This impeachment offered a fascinating lens into the Republican Party post-Trump for two main reasons. A, the Capitol insurrection of January 6 seemed to draw a clear line between the GOP and the former president, but this week’s vote suggests that Trump and his supporters still hold significant power over the party. And two, only the seven GOP Senators, a minority within the minority, were dedicated enough to their Constitutional oaths to convict the president: the others were satisfied with pandering to the Trump base. Recent polls from The Washington Post buttress this idea, noting that six in 10 republicans support the idea of a Trump reelection campaign, even in the face of the Capitol riot. Not to mention the fact that Republican Senators like Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and Louisiana’s Ben Cassidy, both of whom voted to convict Trump, have been censured by their state parties. The Republican Party, as it stands now, remains the party of Donald J. Trump.
This all begs the question: what was the point? Trump’s defense didn’t even need to present a coherent or competent case because a majority of the Senate had already made its judgements on the case. The Senate let Bruce Castor, a man who admitted to changing his opening statement because the other side’s was “so well done,” rambled about old records with Everett Dirksen's voice (“we still know what records are, right? The thing you put the needle down on, and you play it?”), and decided wearing a pinstriped suit with a spotted tie was the best fit for the occasion, win the case. The impeachment was a joke, that is indisputable, but are we truly at the point where the American legal system is nothing but the source of the jokes in a sophomore’s satirical op-ed? In my mind, Donald Trump is the first president to have been impeached twice, not because of some partisan conspiracy, but due to his incredibly disappointing behavior while in office. Even though for some it seems as if the obvious verdict was scrapped in the name of partisan security, the very fact that the impeachment trial was held is a victory for democracy in and of itself. If anything, though this acquittal may be what the media is focusing on, we, as Americans, must remember that impeachment alone should amount to a serious verdict and censure of the president's behavior, and only by ensuring that character once again amounts to the principal criteria of candidacy can we prevent people fundamentally unfit for high office such as Trump from holding such positions. While the trial was hilarious, I’m sure we would all much prefer a president whose behavior would have never warranted such proceedings.