Fast Forward 3 Years

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By Benjamin M. Adams on December 5, 2017    @BenAdamsO_O

It’s the middle of 2020 and Trump is still President of the United States, although it’s hard to understand how or why this happened.

Robert Muller’s investigation is all over except for the crying. Mueller rolled up everyone in his path. Flynn was a devastating witness against Trump and everyone in Trump’s inner circle. In the spring of 2018, Manafort followed Flynn’s lead and cut a deal with Mueller in exchange for a reduced sentence. Manafort and Flynn both testified against Kushner. In March of 2018, Jared Kushner was indicted, perp-walked, and charged with a laundry list of crimes that included lying to the FBI, money laundering, violations of FARA, and the Logan Act. Over the next 10 months, while Kushner spent his days and nights staring at 25 years in prison, nearly every other character in the script flipped on Trump — McFarland, McGahn, and Cohen. As each flipped, Trump sent angry tweets calling them haters, losers, and (mais oui) purveyors of #FakeNews. The six months leading up to the 2018 midterm election were a cavalcade of stories, speculation, and rumination about the corruption of Trump and his associates.

The 2018 midterms proved as bad for the GOP as even the direst of modeling had foretold. In November of 2018, the Democrats took the House with a 20+ seat margin. Republicans also got absolutely crushed in Senate races, barely salvaging wins in Utah and Alabama and nowhere else. Due to the nature of Senate turnover, where one-third of the chamber seeks re-election every 2 years, the drubbing that the GOP took still left the Senate Republicans holding 45 seats.

That’s when the fun started.

It was the first week of December, 2018. Paul Ryan, sensing the stench of history descending upon him, used the lame duck session of the 115th Congress to ram though a hastily written, single-count Article of Impeachment against Trump.  He thought he was dumping the whole thing in Chuck Schumer’s lap, but McConnell made other plans. He scheduled a trial in the Senate for the last week in December, with a one-day recess for Christmas day. Ryan’s impeachment bill was a disaster. It listed only one count of Obstruction of Justice, even though Mueller’s preliminary findings had indicated at least six impeachable offenses. McConnell was trying to make lemonade.

It took a few days, but it eventually dawned on Trump that he had two weeks to round up 34 Senate votes or else his presidency was over. Even though the midterm elections had just concluded, Trump then went into full-scale campaign mode, holding rallies in multiple states every day for two weeks. He visited the state of any Senator that was considered “in play” on impeachment. He also visited deep red states, energizing himself and his base in the presence of adoring crowds.

In the second week of December, 2018, with the nation already frenzied in anticipation of the approaching lame-duck impeachment trial, Justice Bryer announced without warning that he was leaving the Supreme Court effective immediately. The Supreme Court now consisted of 8 members. Before Bryer left, the Court was comprised of 4 conservatives, 4 liberals, and Anthony Kennedy. Now there were 4 conservatives, 3 liberals, and Anthony Kennedy. Most of the media focused on who would fill the vacant seat. Court watchers understood that the balance of power on the Supreme Court had already shifted.

Trump wasted no time exploiting the opening. The following day, by early morning tweet, he nominated Senator Mike Lee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. As the battle lines were being drawn over Lee’s coming nomination fight, the SCOTUS rumor mill was busy with rumblings about a pending case being re-conferenced and re-written following Bryer’s departure.

Those rumors proved prescient. At the end of the third week of December 2018, SCOTUS announced its decision in the religion case — in which one of the arguments turned on substantive due process grounds.  The 5-3 opinion decided the case on First Amendment grounds, but it contained an explosive footnote stating that 4 members of the 8-member Court had voted for an opinion that would lead to the overturning of both Roe and Obergefell. Just like it had done in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court transformed right before our eyes into a purely political body — sending a clear and unambiguous message: Confirm Mike Lee and we will roll back abortion rights and protected status for LGBT.

The SCOTUS decision immediately galvanized support in Trump’s direction. Trump’s rallies in the red states grew bigger and more intense. The anti-Trump protestors came out in force as well. Violence broke out at several rallies. Trump then began to retweet racially charged videos (often fake) which featured scenes of black or brown skinned people brawling with cops and Caucasians. For two straight weeks, CNN aired literally every second of the Trump anti-impeachment rallies. For the same two weeks, CNN featured a countdown clock, marking the number of minutes until the impeachment trial was to begin. Trump continued rallying and tweeting about the empty SCOTUS seat while relentlessly stoking racial and ethnic tensions. In no time at all, the base was drunk with thoughts of vindication and ascendence.

The Senate impeachment trial started on time in the last week of December of 2018. It only lasted 4 days. Each manager supporting Trump used his time to talk about partial-birth abortion and men who wanted to use women’s bathrooms. Each speaker praised Mike Lee and referred to him as the next Justice of the Supreme Court. Throughout the process, Mitch McConnell continued to tell reporters that he had the votes to confirm Mike Lee. McConnell still had 52 in his caucus, thanks to the razor-thin victory that had propelled Roy Moore to the Senate.  McConnell was also emphatic about another point — that Lee’s name would be immediately withdrawn from consideration if Trump was convicted by the Senate.

On December 28, 2018, the Senate voted on the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. When the voting was done, 17 Republicans voted to convict Trump and remove him from office. Mike Lee, Roy Moore and Mitch McConnell all voted to acquit. The final tally was 65-35, and that is the story of how McConnell helped Trump survive the lame-duck impeachment.

Just minutes after Trump’s acquittal by the Senate, McConnell announced that hearings for Mike Lee’s nomination were to take place during the second week of January. Those confirmation hearings did take place and they were an ugly, epic mess. Protesters infiltrated the hearings, which ultimately had to be closed to the public. At one point, a blue state Senator accused a red state Senator of committing treason. In turn, he was accused of murdering babies. The Lee nomination escaped Committee on a party-line vote. McConnell scheduled a floor vote for the following week, on the penultimate day of the 115th Congress.

The vote on Lee’s nomination to the Supreme Court was wild beyond belief. In the days leading up to the vote, it became clear that Collins and Murkowski were both leaning no. That left 50 votes against Lee, but with Pence ready to break any tie, the opposition still needed one more Republican vote in order to defeat Lee. Several Senators were open in their disdain for Trump and any of that group might have opposed Trump’s nominee just to screw Trump. The problem is that all of those Senators — Flake, McCain, Corker — had a close personal relationship with Mike Lee. Not one of them wanted to vote against Mike Lee. Grudgingly, the commentariat began to admit that the Lee nomination had been a masterstroke by Trump and that Lee was probably going to be a fifth conservative on the Supreme Court. Roe and Obergefell were Dead Precedents Walking.

The floor vote on Lee’s confirmation started at 3:00 P.M.. Never before had so many people tuned into C-Span. The first part of the vote happened fast and furious. In the blink of an eye, there were 48 votes against Lee but then no more. The entire progressive world was in a state of shock and dread as the yes votes climbed to 47. A few minutes later, Collins and Murkowski added no votes. The vote stood 50-47 and the left had about 8 minutes of euphoria. The high was short-lived and followed by a bad crash — the sight of Flake and Corker walking onto the Senate Floor together, giving Mike Lee a big slap on the back, and then holding their thumbs up together and voting yes. It was now 50 no votes and 49 yes votes when McCain entered the chamber. Twitter exploded as McCain ambled over to Mike Lee, put his arms around Lee, and embraced him. One could literally feel the entire progressive world coming to pieces. McCain then let go of Lee, turned to the Senate bean-counter, and jutted his arm out — revealing to the world a thumb pointing down.

That is the wild story of how the Lee nomination was defeated, but it certainly doesn’t explain why. That question was answered just thirty minutes after his vote, when McCain faced the cameras. He waited until the room was entirely quiet before beginning his remarks.

“I’ve been asked to explain my vote,” he says. “I’ve spent the last two (2) years reading multiple reliable reports about President Trump and his team cooperating with Russia at the expense of American policy, American values and American ideals. The list of blatantly anti-American actions taken by Donald Trump — starting with his illegal collusion with Russia during the campaign and continuing not only into the transition but even into his presidency — is nothing short of astounding. Among the many things we have seen reported, President Trump refused to implement the sanctions against Russia that were duly enacted by this Congress. All of this leads me to believe that Mr. Trump was somehow ensnared in a Russian compromise plot and ultimately he was captured by it.” McCain then paused before concluding his statement: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

The lame duck session ended the next day with McConnell giving a long and tearful speech about loyalty and honor and how the Democrats do everything out of partisanship. The following week in D.C. was a normal one: Adam Schiff was elected Speaker of the House, Trump nominated Jeanine Pirro to the Supreme Court via twitter, and Melania returned to New York where she filed for divorce. The real fireworks started a few weeks later.

By the middle of February, Trump’s daily tweets about #JusticeJeanine grew edgy and dark. He cast his struggles in apocalyptic, biblical terms and the right wing media ate it up. At the same time, two things were happening. First, several bills of impeachment were rapidly advancing through the House which was now controlled by the Democrats. Second, there were reports that Kushner was discussing a possible deal with Mueller. All of the House impeachment bills contained an obstruction of justice charge, which had also been included in Paul Ryan’s lame-duck impeachment bill. In early March of 2019, the House passed a Bill of Impeachment containing five counts against the president. Trump had been impeached for a second time in less than 90 days.

Trump then fired his entire legal team, except for Jay Sekulow. He brought David Boies on board with a reported seven million dollar payment made by the Trump 2016 Inaugural Committee. Boies and Sekulow immediately sued the U.S. Senate. They made a bunch of ridiculous arguments, but one of them was not absurd — that the Articles of Impeachment were invalid because they included a charge for which Trump had been acquitted. Essentially, they argued this was double-jeopardy for the POTUS. Since this last assertion was credible, SCOTUS granted cert and issued a temporary stay of the impeachment trial. Over the next several weeks, the eight (8) member Supreme Court heard arguments, deliberated and then delivered a split 4 to 4 opinion. The Court could neither bestow legitimacy on the impeachment proceedings nor could it declare them unconstitutional. Senate Democrats moved ahead with impeachment, but the Republicans took the position that they had won at SCOTUS. They announced a boycott of all impeachment proceedings.

Majority Leader Schumer announced that an impeachment trial would take place in June of 2019. Nobody understood the long delay. It appeared to many that Schumer was rattled by the boycott threat. Two days later, however, Kushner turned on Trump and cut a deal with the special prosecutor. Kushner’s signed statement was 75 pages long and  implicated Trump in a hideous web of lies, corruption, and crime. By then Kushner had moved back to Manhattan. His sentencing was set for June, the same week as Trump’s second impeachment Trial.

Everyone spent the next two weeks speculating about how Ivanka must be getting her own divorce papers ready against Jared, but something unexpected happened. Ivanka publicly resigned from the White House and returned to New York to be with her husband. A week later, Ivanka gave an interview sitting next to Jared in which she recounted years of abuse at the hands of her father. The stories were emotionally jarring. Over the next 72 hours, Ivanka Trump became a hero to the left. President Trump’s approval rating cratered to 25%.

At the end of May 2019, Trump withdrew his nomination of Jeanine Pirro. The following day, he nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Insisting that an 8-member Supreme Court was a national emergency, Schumer them pushed the impeachment trial into September of 2019 so that the Garland confirmation hearings could take place first. The Garland hearings took place at the end of June and they were sedate and civil. There were no protesters. Garland was confirmed in July and moved into his SCOTUS chambers on the same day.

Several days later, Schumer delivered a speech on the Senate attacking Mike Pence for his role in the Russia cover-up and questioning if impeaching Trump makes sense in light of Pence’s guilt. He worried about the instability of impeaching both the President and the Vice-President. Citing the need to “regroup and re-assess,” Schumer then pushed off Trump’s impeachment trial for another 90 days, at which point Trump nominated 27 liberal judges to the Federal bench. The Senate confirmed every nominee almost immediately.

In January of 2020, Schumer made a statement that an impeachment trial might be “counterproductive” with an election “around the corner.” Following Schumer’s announcement, Trump nominated another 35 liberal judges to vacancies on the federal bench. The impeachment trial was once more kicked down the road, ostensibly to allow the Senate to work on the new nominations. By March of 2020, each of the 61 of 62 nominees had been confirmed and the impeachment trial had been postponed to May.

By the end of March, it was clear that Trump would not be the GOP nominee. He had tried to run for re-election but was so disorganized that he didn’t manage to get on the primary ballot in several states. Trump was outmaneuvered by Rubio, Bush and Kasich — the candidates opposing Trump held GOP debates without him. Trump held “counter-debates” which none of the networks covered, except for CNN. On the Democrat side, the ticket came together early. Kamala Harris decisively defeated Sherrod Brown for the nomination and then tabbed him as her running mate. The governors of their respective states, Jerry Brown and Richard Cordray, were poised to appoint replacements in the event of a Democratic victory.

By May, Trump was mathematically eliminated as a possible GOP nominee and he rejected the idea of running as a third party. Whispers in D.C. told about a “deal” between Schumer and Trump. Schumer had the votes to convict Trump and remove him from office, but Schumer agreed to let Trump complete his term provided that Trump not run for re-election and further provided that Trump would nominate any judge Schumer wanted. The deal was sealed when Congress passed a law, with veto-proof majorities, that prohibited the President from making a first strike with nuclear weapons.

It was all part of a very craven calculus, but the nation was exhausted and needed a break. By June of 2020 the world knew definitively that the Trump presidency would be over in six more months. Unfortunately, those six months played out like garbage time in the NBA. People who had thought Trump was the lowest form of life had no idea how much lower Trump was destined to go.

Those six months passed with Trump conducting twitter warfare against literally hundreds of people and groups — journalists, senators, governors, his wife, his former lawyers, the FBI, celebrities, and no less than 12 NFL owners. He angrily engaged several twitter parody accounts. At one point, Trump leveled a barrage of 16 tweets at a parody account that he thought was North Korea. Another time, the President of the United States retweeted an account that featured a dick pic for an avatar. (He later deleted it.) Even though his divorce wasn’t close to final, Trump mused about possible romantic interests. He even floated the idea of an Apprentice-style competition to pick the next First Lady. He sent out a midnight twitter poll asking the question, “Who is the Real First Lady?” The choices were Ivana, Ivanka, Melania, and You Don’t Need One.

Within a week of becoming a lame duck, the Russians dropped all of their Kompromat. They had no use for it anymore, so it was basically just the Russians having fun at Trump’s expense. There wasn’t much but there was definitely a video of Trump in a room with 2 girls peeing on a bed. The video was grainy and dark. One of the girls looked like she could have been 14 or 15. The whole thing was creepy AF, as they say. There was really no end to the madness of Lame Duck Trump. People became sort of numb to it and they did so in a way that kind of defied reason. So here I am at my computer, on the eve of the 2020 election, recounting for posterity these last three years. America will have a new president-elect tomorrow, but part of me stills pray that this is a sim and someone is about to hit the button that says “Reset to 2016.” If that happens, this post will seem like a big joke to anyone who reads it but that would be a small price to pay to erase my memories of these last three years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Benjamin M. Adams
Recovering Attorney, Dad of Six, Concerned Citizen

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