WASHINGTON: If there is one lesson history teaches us, it’s that Republicans can be relied upon to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With the Democratically-controlled House voting to impeach President Trump, it falls to the Republican-controlled Senate to conduct the trial.
That is if Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever gets around to filing her chamber’s bogus articles of impeachment with the Senate.
For his part, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he is willing to try the president under the same conditions that applied to President Bill Clinton back in 1999.
“All 100 senators agreed on a simple pre-trial resolution that set up a briefing, opening arguments, Senators’ questions, and a vote on a motion to dismiss. Senators reserved all other questions, such as witnesses, until the trial was underway… Put first things first, lay the bipartisan groundwork, and leave mid-trial questions to the middle of the trial.”
There’s just one problem with McConnell’s offer. It was Senate Democrats who set the conditions for Clinton’s trial.
In his book “Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment,” the late David Schippers, then-House Judiciary Committee Chief Investigative Counsel, was less than kind to the Senate’s Republican leaders.
You see, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Republican from Mississippi, was less than happy that his House counterparts dropped an impeachment trial in his lap.
“You’re not going to dump this garbage on us,” he angerly told the GOP House managers (impeachment prosecutors). You know, we’ve been discussing this with Democrats, and everybody wants a fair hearing, but we don’t want to spend weeks on this. We can’t just shut down the Senate. We have important matters to address.”
In other words, trying Clinton for perjury, subornation of perjury, witness intimidation, and hiding evidence (all actions falling under the definition of obstruction of justice) were trivialities when compared to passing pork-laden legislation.
One Senate Republican negotiating with the House managers was Ted Stevens.
You may recall how Stevens broke down in tears when Congress rescinded his wasteful $398 million “bridge to nowhere” for his state Alaska. (The Bridge to Nowhere: A National Embarrassment)
After hearing a Senate trial could take several weeks to unfold, Stevens was furious.
“What do you mean, five weeks? You’re going to bring the Senate of the United States to a screeching halt for five weeks? While we are trying this, bombs are falling on Iraq.”
The overly dramatic Stevens was reminded the Senate didn’t have much in the way of business for two months.
When GOP Rep. Henry Hyde said he had ten to fifteen witnesses he wanted to testify, a Democratic Senator objected strenuously. But Hyde reminded him,
“Senator, your rules provide for a trial – for witnesses and evidence to be taken.”
The Democrat in question leaned back in his chair and said with great confidence,
“We make our own rules.”
No witness testified at trial.
That’s because in the end, Sen. Lott deferred to one particular Democratic senator to craft the rules for Clinton’s Senate trial. That Democrat was the Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden.
David Schippers’ description of the House/Senate negotiations above is spot on:
“When Lott talked about bipartisanship, we know he was waving the white flag.”
It does not bode well that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises to abide by impeachment trial rules cobbled together by Joe Biden and the Senate’s big-spending Republican eunuchs.
But to President Donald Trump’s credit, he is herding Capitol Hill’s skittish GOP cats into something of a cohesive, roaring lion. Perhaps he can goad the normally docile McConnell to turn a sham impeachment trial into a show-and-tell indictment of Democratic Party corruption.
A prospect that would no doubt send chills up the spines of the mainstream media, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and the ne’er-do-well Hunter Biden.
You only get one shot. Try not to screw this up, Republicans.