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It turns out that the spectacle in the Senate is no less revolting at a distance than it was close up. At the end of the day, when the White House’s defense team finished putting on their ragbag of a “case,” when Jay Sekulow got to do his Sean Hannity cosplay one more time, and when Pat Cipollone got to run some video of what some of the president*’s accusers said 20 years ago—when defense counsel Ken Starr was chasing Bill Clinton’s penis all around the Beltway, and when the current president* thought Starr to be some sort of freakazoid—what really was left was the simple fact that the president*’s side Has The Votes. There likely will be no witnesses, no documents produced. At this point, John Bolton could parachute onto the Capitol dome and not draw a second glance from any Republican sitting in judgment in this mock tribunal.
I still could be wrong. Consciences could come sit upon enough members of the Extremely Troubled Caucus in the Republican majority to force McConnell’s hand, but I never thought that was the way to bet. We will have two days of questions from the senators. Then a motion to hear witnesses will be made, and it likely will fail, probably 51-49, because a couple of GOP senators will get a pass to vote “yes,” and then the president will be acquitted in time to lie about almost everything come Super Bowl Sunday Right Here On Fox. And after that, week after week, month after month, more and more evidence will emerge as to his guilt on these charges and a hundred others, because he is not going to go straight. The man was born far too crooked.
The last day of the defense’s presentation was as full of lies, distortions, and constitutional whoopie-cushions as the two days preceding it were. (At one point, Jay Sekulow tried to wedge the concept of executive privilege into the Bill of Rights.) One moment particularly got to me because it involved a pebble that had been in my shoe ever since last summer. When the Ukrainian scheme was uncovered, the White House released what essentially was a memorandum for the file that allegedly summed up the famous conversation between the president* and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That document, of course, makes no mention of the obvious shakedown that subsequent evidence has proven existed. It also has this passage right in the middle of it.
A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation.· (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty “Officers and-NSC policy staff assigned t_o listen.and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation. The word “inaudible” is used to indicate portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.
Despite that obvious disclaimer, the president”s camp insisted on calling the memo a “transcript.” In fact, they called it The Transcript. “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!” the president* tweets once every couple of days. All through all of the House committee meetings leading up to the trial, Republicans repeatedly referred to “the transcript,” as if this memo were dispositive of the president’s innocence. The actual transcript, it seems, was locked up in a secret server in the White House. This made the president* look like he was stashing the goods on himself so, as things were winding down on Tuesday, White House lawyer Patrick Philbin decided to take this on.
They are accusations that were brought up somewhat recklessly in any event and we cannot close without some response to them. And the first has to do with the idea that somehow the White House and White House lawyers were involved…In some sort of cover-up related to the transcript of the July 25 call because it was stored on a highly classified system. So let me start with that. The House managers made this accusation that was something nefarious going on…
Here was Philbin admitting that what his side of the case had been referring to as The Transcript for five months actually was not a transcript of any kind. The real transcript was stored in a highly classified system, and he proceeded to claim the president* was right in having done so. Of all the insults to human intelligence upon which the defense built its case, this was one of the cornerstones. Of course, because they Have The Votes, the defense team could cop to this in the same way that they inadvertently spent the afternoon concocting a rock-solid case for having John Bolton testify under oath by raising questions that only he could answer. When you Have The Votes, returning your own serve is very easy.