The impeachment trial is underway, and politics being what it is, the outcome is fairly well established. Still, these things don’t happen very often (though at this rate I estimate impeachment proceedings could become annual events within a generation). So, there are some ancillary areas to comment on, such as the overwrought political nature of the show, one effect of which is Colorado attracting a bit of attention in the drama.
The main reason for this, of course, is first-term Colorado U.S. Rep. Jason Crow being named as one of the seven House impeachment managers charged with making the case against the president in the Senate trial. Why, one wonders, was Crow among the anointed few? It wasn’t due to his long legislative tenure; he is barely into his second year as congressman. The argument could be made that he is a capable attorney — he is — but it is not as though the U.S. Congress is lacking for attorneys. No, it likely had more to do with his hailing from a swing district in a swing state which the Democrats desire to hang onto than with his prosecutorial skills.
Crow is dutifully playing his part. For the last few days he has chimed in with other Democrats about how “unfair” the proceedings are under Senate Majority Leader. Mitch McConnell, who is in charge of D-Day arrangements. Among the chief complaints is the accelerated nature of the trial schedule, which as amended allows 24 hours over three days to each side for opening arguments. Granted, given the standard congressional pace that could be considered positively supersonic. But unfair? As Rich Lowry pointed out in National Review, both sides are allotted equal time to present their opening statements, and the senator-jurors are allowed plenty of time to ask questions.
Crow recently tweeted that “McConnell is planning to run an impeachment trial: — without witnesses — without evidence — in the middle of the night. That’s not a fair trial. It’s hardly a trial at all — that’s a cover-up.” More than a touch of hyperbole that; whatever time of day this might play out, every cable news channel and network will be salaciously covering it, and if you miss anything, the late-night comedy shows will be happy to catch us all up.
The brouhaha over witnesses is more interesting. Impeachment is ground that has been rarely stepped on, but it is not new, and is spelled out in the Constitution. Impeachment is done; the House has acted, which is where the case for convicting the president was to have been made and therefore ought to be lapidary. As in the Clinton impeachment there is no reason to call witnesses in the Senate trial except for theatrical purposes — which, inasmuch as this is a political event, can be politically useful.
The consternation over witness begs the question of Crow and his fellow House Democrats: If the case was not good enough, why vote to approve the articles of impeachment? The time to subpoena witnesses and establish an evidentiary basis for conviction was during the House proceedings. Congressional Democrats appear guilty of the very sin of impatience with which they are charging Sen. McConnell. In pursuing this line, Crow and the others seem to risk an invitation to reject the entire motion against President Trump on the grounds that the House acted prematurely.
Then there is the attention given to Colorado’s two U.S. senators. It is curious that most of it has been aimed at Sen. Cory Gardner, since of the two he has been the most silent on the issue, befitting his role. That has not arrested multiple attempts to accuse him of pro-Trump prejudice in the matter.
Contrast Gardner’s approach with that of Sen. Bennet; way back in May of last year, Bennet said during a CNN town hall that “the president, in my view, committed impeachable offenses.” On Dec. 10, while the House Judiciary Committee was still considering the articles of impeachment, he released a campaign statement saying, “if the evidence of the president’s wrongdoing and abuse of power continues to remain consistent with what we’ve seen, it’s likely I will vote to impeach.” On the day the House voted to adopt the articles his official statement was that “there is clear evidence that President Trump abused his office and obstructed Congress.” Honest statements, perhaps, but if predisposition is a sin deserving of scrutiny, Bennet has certainly earned it more than Gardner.
This also, incidentally, sounds like a man who, despite his party’s protestations, doesn’t feel the need for additional witnesses.
Gardner is properly channeling his inner Thomas More — displaying loyalty but not compromising his honor — in taking the quiet approach. Bennet may have done well to follow his lead.
Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.