Washington

A Trump-empowering act of impeachment

Allen Abel: The Democrats believe they have the moral high ground. But are they setting up Trump for re-election?

The impeachment of President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress is like a Leafs-Bruins playoff series: everybody knows how it’s going to end, but they have to play the games anyway.

Wednesday was Game Six—the formal vote in the House of Representatives on two specific “high crimes,” with all of the Democrats (except one or two) recording in favour of Trump’s indictment, and, of course, the Republicans unanimously opposed.

Sometime in the first week of the first month of the first year of the Roaring Twenties, they’ll face off in the seventh and deciding contest. Spoiler alert: It won’t be the blue team that wins, and the Senate will skate The Donald back to the Oval Office in January or February with a shiny silver grail that reflects his Sunkist hair and perfect teeth.

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Like the S&P 500, Trump’s approval rating never has been higher. This week’s opinion polls suggest that the likelihood of his re-election, like his waistline, is growing every day, even in the fulcrum states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Reduced, in this instance at least, to a partisan rebuke—a mere pinprick rather than a lethal injection—the third formal presidential impeachment in nearly 240 years of constitutional government creeped ever on.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” was the president’s Wednesday-morning Krakatoa. “A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”

What will happen when an exonerated, invigorated, re-elected Trump, who throughout his life has proved himself incapable of contrition or remorse—except in the early death of his alcoholic older brother—breaks bad again, no one can predict. With 91 per cent of Republicans approving his performance and only six per cent of Democrats agreeing, a second impeachment and a second acquittal may not be out of the realm of possibility, come 2021 or ’22, should the Congress remain divided after next November’s elections.

As the House convened on Wednesday morning, it was expected that it would take nearly 12 hours for the chamber to perform its final cumbersome act of the moot, pre-scripted melodrama, with the elderly white men of one team, and the rainbow rabble of the other side, taking turns to make rousing speeches full of tidbits for next autumn’s attack ads and Facebook fulminations.

The president, meanwhile, was on his way to Battle Creek, Michigan, the home of Kellogg’s cereal, where he would spend the evening hours ricing out his usual profane snap, crackle and pop.

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Back to the U.S. Capitol. “Give them wisdom and discernment,” a minister was urging the Heavenly Father before the representatives’ moot and tedious marathon commenced. So vital, so historic, so momentous and so consequential were Wednesday’s final actions in the House that barely one-eighth of the 435 members were physically present when the Articles were introduced for debate. The public bleachers—a hot ticket for Andrew Johnson’s impeachment in 1868—were less than half-filled. If the president claims the biggest crowds ever, he will—imagine that—be lying.

“You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying ‘I pray for the President,’” Trump seethed, excommunicating Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the eve of Game Six. “You know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in the negative sense. It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!”

“If we allow one president—any president, no matter who she or he may be—to go down this path, we are saying goodbye to the republic and hello to a president-king,” was Pelosi’s most recent rejoinder. (It was Mrs. Pelosi, of course, who spent the past year holding off her hottest-headed, Trump-hating Trotskyites, declaring that “unless something is so compelling and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path.” It wasn’t, and they tripped along the dead-end alley anyway.)

“More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” Donald Trump crocodile-teared on Tuesday in a typical outburst of self-pity.

Actually, it wasn’t. Many of the women—and a handful of men—who were accused of demonic practices in Massachusetts in 1692 were hanged whether they pleaded innocent or guilty, leading one of the condemned, a farmer named John Proctor, to (figuratively speaking) tweet WITCH HUNT!!! and complain that our accusers and our judges and jury, whom nothing but our innocent blood will serve …  condemned us already before our trials.

Sound familiar?

“Oy vey,” tweeted the mayor of Salem. “Learn some history.”

RELATED: Trump has survived the ‘witch hunt.’ Now he wants to start his own.

“This a democracy-defining moment,” Rep. Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a floor speech typical of the day. Trump’s impeachment, he went on, was “not just for this president but for every future president.”

“This is a very sad day for all of us,” opposed Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, noting that 58 Democrats voted ‘aye’ on a motion to impeach Trump more than two years ago, back when Volodymyr Zelensky still was a television comedian pretending to be the president of ungovernable Ukraine.

“I oppose proceeding any further,” Rep. Cole proclaimed.

After eleven hours in the chamber, after an enervating ordeal of redundant rhetoric, sarcastic cheering, raucous heckling, insistent gaveling and at least a dozen references to “heavy hearts”—after speeches equating Donald J. Trump both with an existential threat to American liberties and with the betrayed and crucified Christ—the 45th president officially was impeached, joining Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) in the slim annal of ignominy. Richard Nixon choppered out of the White House in 1974 before Congress could expel him, and long before Twitter could amplify his persecution complex to the web, unlike in the case of the incumbent.

On Wednesday, hundreds of impassioned 90-second addresses changed not a single mind. The parties remained Gorilla-glue cohesive, with only tail-ender presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, voting “present” in protest rather than siding with her tribe. The recorded count on the first article (Abuse of Power) was 230 in favour, 197 opposed, plus the Aloha State iconoclast.   

Meanwhile, in Battle Creek, according to a White House press pool report, Trump “riffed about Space Force, nuclear submarines, a military F-35 plane and a pilot that looked like Tom Cruise, the budget deal with Congress and the economy.”

By the time Nancy Pelosi hammered down the second article (obstruction of Congress), her legacy had become entwined in perpetuity with Trump’s—he as the tainted, taunting president, she as the Speaker who had the courage and the caucus to bring him to heel.

Across the Capitol, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was laying out his terms for the president’s final judgment by the legislature. There will be no new witnesses for either side, Sen. Graham stated. He will work toward “the shortest trial possible,” and no new evidence will be presented: “the House record will be the final record.”

“Anything you can do to us, we can do to you,” Graham said he told his Democratic opponents. “We have some people on our side who are just as crazy as the people on your side.”

“Knowing the president as well as you do,” a Maclean’s correspondent asked Sen. Graham, who is Trump’s frequent golfing pal, “do you think he will be chastened or emboldened by this?”

“I talked to him today,” Sen. Graham replied. “I asked him, ‘How are you doing?’

“He said, “I’m being impeached, but other than that, I’m doing OK.’

“He’s a handful, but I do have some sympathy. I think he’s tough enough to get through this. I can’t believe he’s still standing.”

Updated at 9:14 p.m. ET to add voting results, details and quotes

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