The word “charade” is deﬁned as “an act or a pretense put on to make something appear different than what it is or a word or phrase that is acted out.”
To wit: President Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial in the United States Senate. With millions of Americans looking on via television, 100 senators were required to be silent and some passed the time playing crossword puzzles or defying the ban on electronics by using smartwatches or sleeping — a not-guilty verdict outcome almost assured.
Even before the proceedings began, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., admitted in an interview with Fox News that there would be “total coordination” with the White House and that there was “zero chance” of a conviction. Trump stacked the deck in advance by blocking all federal ofﬁcials and documents from becoming part of the trial. The Senate must decide whether to defy him, as the Democrats have been demanding but, for that to happen, 51 senators must agree, which means that even if all 45 Democrats and the two Independents, they still need four Republicans to side with them. Three or four have expressed interest in hearing more evidence but, even if they join with the Democrats, all that will do is give Republicans an opportunity to insist that they have been taking the proceedings seriously.
For blocking witnesses and refusing to release documents, the House impeached Trump on a charge of obstruction of Congress. The House also impeached him for abuse of power in withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, a key ally locked in a war against Russian aggression. But even if all 43 Democrats and the two Independents vote to convict on this charge, they would need the support not of four but 20 Republicans – for a two-thirds majority, as the Constitution mandates. That is very unlikely, given Trump’s grip on the Republican party and his habit of campaigning, or threatening to do so, against anyone who opposes him. Besides, some Evangelical leaders insist he was sent by God and is untouchable.
Some supporters have likened the impeachment to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Salem witch trials. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., went further, saying, “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded to this president in this process.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that Republicans seem unwilling to discuss what the Democrats say is compelling evidence they have provided but they have been quick to denounce perceived breaches of protocol. When Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., asked whether a “cover up” was taking place, Senator Susan Collins of Maine wrote a protest note which made its way to the presiding ofﬁcer, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who chided both sides and called for civility.
Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and other Republicans were offended when Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that “CBS News reported last night that a Trump conﬁdant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ I don’t know if that’s true.” Collins “looked directly at Schiff, shook her head and said, ‘Not true,’” the Associated Press reported. Murkowski called Schiff’s comment “unnecessary,” adding, “That’s when he lost me.”
The “head on a pike” reference had to be galling because the Democrats have maintained that not convicting Trump would allow him to rule like the monarchs of old, who were known to have their enemies’ heads put on a spike. Trump, they have argued, would feel free to do whatever he wants with impunity if acquitted.
It was Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World,” who wrote, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” Or, as Queen Gertrude said in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
It all seems to be not just a colossal waste of time but a costly one at that. Taking into account the salaries of the 100 Senators, the 10 House managers, the Chief Justice and staff, the impeachment trial is costing taxpayers more than $2 million a week. That would be of little consequence if the outcome was not a foregone conclusion. But, then, that is how a charade works.
So why have the Democrats allowed themselves to take part in this charade? For one thing, they probably see it as fulﬁlling their oath of ofﬁce.