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EDITORIAL: Weak impeachment case moves to Senate

Updated January 21, 2020 - 9:09 pm

Dreamy optimists who harbored hopes that respect and decorum might prevail during the Trump impeachment trial were quickly disabused of that quaint notion on Tuesday. Within minutes of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell releasing his resolution outlining rules for the proceedings, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was running for the cameras to rant about a “cover-up” and a “national disgrace.”

Clearly, it isn’t just President Donald Trump who can be accused of lowering the level of our nation’s discourse.

In fact, the rules allow for witnesses if a majority of senators agree — something Democrats were adamantly opposed to when President Bill Clinton was on the receiving end. Both sides will get 24 hours to present their cases, as was the case during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment trial. It’s revealing that Democrats are apoplectic because arguments will be broken into two-day sessions. That means the proceedings may extend into the late evening on the East Coast when there might be fewer people tuned in, undermining their efforts to grandstand.

Sen. Schumer should be thankful that the majority leader isn’t entertaining an immediate motion to dismiss this weak case.

If anything, Sen. Schumer should aim his vitriol at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who allowed her Resistance Caucus to bully her into sanctioning slap-dash impeachment hearings rushed through in bad faith for political purposes and on the flimsiest of pretenses. Had the House taken a more serious and measured approach, Democrats would have had every opportunity to summon additional witnesses and create a more complete record for the Senate.

Instead, the House settled on two articles of impeachment, neither of which is an actual criminal offense. The first accuses Mr. Trump of endangering U.S. interests by withholding aide from Ukraine in an effort to goad the country into investigating a political opponent. The second accuses him of obstructing the House investigation by fighting subpoenas and witness demands. The former was clearly bad judgment, but would be a colossal overreach as grounds for ousting a sitting president. The latter is a bizarre attempt to punish Mr. Trump for availing himself of his legal rights through the courts.

Hypocrisy and political opportunism run rampant on both sides of the partisan divide, of course. A cynic might suggest that it seems the two sides simply swap scripts and playbooks depending on majority or minority status. But despite the lofty rhetoric about their “constitutional duties,” Democrats would enjoy much more credibility as this divisive and partisan exercise moves to the Senate had they not made it obvious from the moment Mr. Trump won the election in 2016 that their driving motivation for the next four years would be to manufacture the grounds for his removal from office.

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