I have to admit I didn’t watch most of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. The article of impeachment from the House was hastily and carelessly drafted and contained so many flaws and self-inflicted wounds that it would have been dismissed nolle prosequi in any courtroom in America. It certainly had no chance in the evenly divided U.S. Senate to achieve anywhere close to the required two-thirds vote needed to convict. It was all just WrestleMania with old, out-of-shape wrestlers.
But the dog woke me up early that final Saturday morning of the “trial,” and since nothing else was on TV I decided to tune into the latest episode of kangaroo court. When the closing arguments started, the news alerts began popping up that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had informed his caucus he intended to vote to acquit President Trump since he felt the Senate had no jurisdiction over a private citizen. Ironically, it was McConnell himself who decided that the trial would not start until after the “inauguration,” but whatever.
Now, anybody who knows Mitch McConnell knows that when he announces how he intends to vote on a big issue, he’s essentially telling his GOP colleagues how he expects them to vote. He knew that there would be a few defectors, and maybe even a surprise, last-minute turncoat, but he was basically instructing the conservative wing of his caucus to remain on the reservation. Nevertheless, this announcement set off a chain of events that threw the entire Senate into chaos for a solid hour.
Desperately Fending Off Acquittal
When House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) heard the news about McConnell’s forthcoming acquittal vote, he knew all hope was lost. Raskin knew that if his sheepish performance had failed to convince the GOP leader, then he had no prayer of getting to the magic number of 17 Republican votes to convict Trump. It was over. But in a last-ditch, delusional attempt to throw a Hail Mary, Raskin made an ill-advised motion to call as a witness U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).
The previous night, Herrera Beutler had tweeted a double-hearsay statement regarding a phone call that allegedly took place between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Trump during the January 6 Capitol invasion. Even though McCarthy disputed the details of the call as Herrera Beutler described them, Raskin decided it was a last-minute necessity to call her as a material witness despite an already adopted resolution excluding witness testimony. Raskin wanted to deny Trump’s lawyers the opportunity to call witnesses, something that also would not be allowed in a real court.
The Senate voted 55-45 to allow Raskin’s witness—and subsequently descended into chaos because nobody could answer the simple question of what they had just voted on. Were both sides allowed to call witnesses or just the House managers? If only one side was allowed, it would be a direct assault on due process and paint the entire trial in an even more illegitimate light than already illuminated it. If both sides could call witnesses, the trial, potentially, could have dragged on for months and crippled the ability of Congress to pass any meaningful legislation in the meantime. The Senate was called into recess while the leadership tried to sort things out.
Fortunately, I have Hill staff relationships on both sides (as well as with nonpolitical staff) and I was able to create a text message ping-pong game with enough people to get as close to a play-by-play of events as anybody who wasn’t there.
First, I was told that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was absolutely livid at Raskin both for blindsiding him with the boneheaded move for witnesses and also for potentially putting Trump’s lawyers effectively in control of the Senate for weeks or months. Schumer reportedly was screaming at the House managers in the Democrats’ cloakroom so loudly that he could be heard from outside the thick wooden doors.
Meanwhile, McConnell and his Republicans were being jocular and poking fun at the lack of critical thinking and political calculus displayed by Raskin and his lollipop guild of weak House managers. I also learned that not only was Kevin McCarthy willing to testify as to the erroneous narrative of the January 6 phone call with Trump, but also Herrera Beutler was now stating she would not feel comfortable testifying under oath to the verbatim truthfulness of her tweet. She claimed her tweet was a “paraphrase” and that she did not want to be in a position to perjure herself.
So, on a day that should have been a procedural wrap-up culminating undoubtedly in acquittal, Raskin had now put his entire party, not to mention the agenda of the Biden Administration’s first 100 days in jeopardy. Schumer reached out to McConnell and the Trump lawyers with his proposal to put the pin back in the grenade that included abandoning the admission of witnesses in exchange for allowing Herrera Beutler’s statement into the official record. Trump’s lawyers happily agreed, knowing that they were now mere hours away from victory. After a few more reprisals in political grandstanding, President Trump was acquitted for an unprecedented second time by a vote of 57-43.
Hill Swamps and the Bayou
Since I’m from Louisiana, one of the most interesting sidebars from the day was, of course, Senator Bill Cassidy’s surprise vote to convict. Cassidy stood arm in arm with Trump during his administration, traveled on Air Force One with the president to Louisiana several times, featured Trump in his reelection commercials, and frequently draped himself in MAGA at every opportunity.
Cassidy raised eyebrows after the election when he said President Trump should abandon his legal challenges to the many controversial post-election events that led to the media declaring Joe Biden the winner. Cassidy was easily reelected last November against token opposition, and President Trump won Louisiana by a comfortable 18-point margin.
But Bill Cassidy shocked his own state by voting to allow the impeachment trial to continue, despite earlier voting for a motion to not have a trial altogether and rather go directly to a vote. Not only was this an exercise in duplicity reminiscent of John Kerry’s famous 2004 quote, “I voted for it before I voted against it,” it is the type of move that justifies the American people’s consistent single-digit approval rating for Congress.
When it came to the final vote, Cassidy committed a mortal sin by voting to convict, despite no credible evidence or witnesses to the single charge by the House. In fact, the president’s lawyers even caught the House managers doctoring their own so-called evidence, using Photoshop to create checkmarks on non-verified Twitter accounts and changing dates to create false context.
There is no way Cassidy was unaware of this prosecutorial misconduct. My phone started blowing up from dozens of outraged political players from across Louisiana. I must admit I was equally surprised at his vote, especially since just the week before the vote I had predicted during an interview on One America News that Cassidy would vote to acquit despite his recent head-scratching procedural votes. People were talking about censure, political retribution, even recall elections. (Federal officeholders cannot be recalled. Only Congress can remove a member, a federal judge, or a president, so recall is a no-go).
Regardless of Cassidy’s reasoning for his surprise vote, he will be the senior senator from Louisiana for at least the next six years unless he decides otherwise, but his next homecoming sounds like it could be extremely uncomfortable. I had heard that this was going to be his last term anyway, and that Schumer had offered to keep him in the loop on forthcoming healthcare reform in exchange for publicly breaking from Trump. But those are all rumors. Cassidy has already been censured by the Louisiana Republican Party as well as by the Republican Executive Committee of his home Parish of East Baton Rouge. I would expect more formal decrees like this in the coming weeks, and his speaking invites to dramatically decrease. Don’t be surprised to see Cassidy change his party affiliation to Independent in 2021.
Believe it or not, there are still a few Democrats outside of the cemetery gates in Louisiana, so I’m sure Cassidy will get a hero’s welcome from that small crowd. But the most dangerous part of Cassidy’s flip-flop is that it gave false hope to an already radicalized left-wing whose bloodthirst for all things Trump goes beyond social media vitriol. It was only a few years ago that a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter heeded the violent calls of left-wing darlings like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and shot Cassidy’s delegation mate, Steve Scalise (R-La.).
False Hope for the Haters
Based on the left-wing meltdown following Trump’s second acquittal, especially from Hollywood, it seemed as if they were the only people on the planet who didn’t know how this movie was going to end. Toying with the fragile emotions of the mentally unstable cult of Trump-haters is not only wrong but potentially deadly. As a physician, Dr. Cassidy should be held to a higher standard. But the swamp has him now, and not the one in Louisiana.
Either way, it’s going to be a very interesting six years for Cassidy. Despite a slew of billboards going up around the state burning him in effigy, Cassidy solidified his turncoat status last week and claimed that Trump wouldn’t be the GOP nominee in 2024. I remember when he said the same thing about 2016. This, despite consistent polling showing that the overwhelming majority of Republicans consider Trump to still be the leader of the GOP, and the far and away favorite to be the 2024 nominee should he choose to run.
Fact is, the “America First” faction is the only functioning segment of the Republican Party. The rest are just afterthoughts. If Trump runs in 2024, he will easily clinch the GOP nomination. If he doesn’t, then whomever he anoints will get the nod. This is why Trump continues to shoot down suggestions about forming a new political party: he already owns one. As for the rest of the rumors I’ve decided to share with you from “Stupor Saturday,” well, here on the bayou we like to say that rumors are usually just premature facts!