Alan Zendell, January 22, 2020
Conservative attorney George Conway described Adam Schiff’s presentation of the House’s case to remove President Trump from office as an incredibly coherent and comprehensive narrative, something the president’s defenders don’t have. Much like the James Carville-Mary Matalin show that entertained us during the Clinton administration, Conway and his wife Kellyanne continue to ride a political see-saw in full view of the American public. It takes a while to adjust to the bizarre image of one of the president’s most loyal defenders telling us Trump has never done anything wrong, while her husband calls him a pathological liar who is incapable of telling the truth and describes the Republican Senate’s approach to the impeachment trial as an outrageous sham.
It’s tempting to wonder whether the George and Kellyanne Conway we see on television with such violently opposed opinions about this president really coexist in the same household or if their loud disagreements are merely a public relations scam aimed at post-Trump celebrity. But I’d rather focus on what George Conway has been saying today. Kellyanne has repeatedly said Trump can do no wrong.
The pundits at both political extremes aside, the general consensus is that House Manager Adam Schiff did a masterful job of laying out the case against Trump in the context of the intent of our founders. The latter feared that a future president might abuse his or her office for personal gain or refuse to abide by constitutional limitations on executive power. In short, the country had just spent eight bloody years fighting to free itself of a despotic king, and their highest priority was assuring that there would never again be one in America.
George Conway made essentially the same points today. If we didn’t know better, we might assume he was on Schiff’s team, but we do know better. Twenty years ago, Conway was one of a number of prominent Republicans who pushed for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and his negative opinions about Trump aside, there is nothing to suggest that he has changed his political stripes. He, like a small number of Republican holdovers from before Trump hijacked and remodeled the party in his own image, remains committed to the conservative principles his party once stood for – things like integrity, respect for law, and reverence to the Constitution.
I am heartened by this. If voices as disparate as Adam Schiff’s and George Conway’s believe Donald Trump has abused his office and committed impeachable offenses, it’s possible that the small number of Republican Senators who believe as Conway does will stand up to Mitch McConnell and demand a real trial with witnesses and evidence. It’s difficult to be entirely objective on the issue of impeachment, but it’s even more difficult to listen to Adam Schiff and not find his presentation compelling.
The Republicans cannot contest the facts in the case because the entire world has seen and heard them. President Trump himself seems to believe the facts exonerate him as he openly brags about his actions and claims they’re all perfect. And it’s virtually impossible to listen to Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s tirade on national TV in which he said of course there was a quid pro quo, that’s the way business is done and not take notice.
Mulvaney told us to get over it, but Schiff and George Conway believe that getting over an obvious attempt to ask a foreign government to interfere in our elections and illegally extort them to do so by withholding Congressionally mandated aid against Russian aggression is an invitation to undermine our Constitution. They ask whether if that precedent is allowed to stand and future presidents with a Senate majority aspire to be kings, what will be left to stop them?
Nothing has really changed for months, except that the impeachment trial is finally underway. 53% of Americans who had opinions other than “I don’t know” now believe Trump should be removed from office, and upwards of 75% want to hear key administration officials with direct relevant knowledge testify. Given all that, let’s focus on what really matters.
No one ever expected the Senate to convict the president, and now that we’ve entered 2020, it’s fair to say that the outcome of the impeachment trial is almost moot. What is not moot is November’s election. Trump and his supporters in the Senate fear that if Americans are allowed to see all the evidence they will punish Republicans in the ballot box. That happened in a big way in 2018, when Trump was merely facing growing disillusionment with his values and behavior.
Let the Senate vote to not remove him from office. That’s the peoples’ job, anyway. If the facts come to light for everyone to see, the voters will assure Trump’s tenure as president ends a year from now.