Thursday, November 21, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to work the "jury."

In a highly unusual move for him, Trump had lunch with a group of Senate Republicans. They included the ones generally considered most likely to consider voting to remove him from office, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

In and of itself, this is neither improper nor illegal, in the way that a criminal defendant meeting with jurors in his trial would be. Impeachment is a political process, and senators are not really "jurors" in an impeachment trial. (This has been a favorite excuse of senators recently who have not wanted to have to defend Trump's actions to reporters.)

But Trump seems to want all the rights and privileges of a criminal defendant with none of the risks. He's repeatedly complained he's not getting "due process" in the House impeachment inquiry. This isn't true: he's just refused to participate (which is probably wise, from a legal standpoint, since he'd be extremely likely to perjure himself), and he's tried with mixed results to keep other witnesses from testifying. 

He's also withheld evidence from both the Russia investigation and the impeachment inquiry, something a criminal defendant would be unable to do. Trump has even argued in federal court that he can never be investigated for any crime while in office, much less indicted.

The lunch came after a morning tweet in which Trump said that people who did support the impeachment inquiry were "human scum" and that he would survive the process because the trial would be conducted on his "turf," meaning the Republican-controlled Senate.

51% of Americans support impeachment and removal, and 70% believe Trump did something wrong, according to the most recent poll. Trump hasn't said whether he thinks all such people are "human scum."

How is this a bad thing?

  • Dehumanizing the leader's political enemies is what authoritarians do.
  • Innocent people who control evidence or witnesses that prove their innocence usually don't refuse to share it with the world.
  • Voters might get a little tired of the most powerful person in the world complaining about how unfair things are for him.
  • The president is not above the law.