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This Is the Way It Ends, Not With a Bang But a Whimper

This is a big deal, a clear impeachable offense, and it's depressing that Republicans do not acknowledge this.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) walk though the U.S. Capitol on February 8, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) walk through the U.S. Capitol on February 8, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

When I learned that Senate Republicans had blocked witness testimony for the impeachment trial, I was reminded of the concluding line from T.S. Eliot's 1925 poem, "The Hollow Men:" "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." I wasn't surprised that Republicans voted to let Trump off the hook; I was surprised that their coverup was so brazen.

Throughout the Impeachment Trial, I have been hoping that some Republican would take the moral high ground and recognize Donald Trump's perfidy.  It's not like Trump was accused of a sexual indiscretion, and then lying about it; Trump was accused of jeopardizing national security for political gain, and then obstructing the investigation.  This is a big deal, a clear impeachable offense, and it's depressing that Republicans do not acknowledge this.

In the end there were 49 votes to allow additional testimony, and 51 votes against.  Two Republicans voted with 47 Democrats: Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins.  They both grabbed onto political "escape outlets" that had been proffered by the Trump's legal team.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), explained why he voted against witnesses this way:

"I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution's high bar for an impeachable offense... It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate."

In other words, Alexander had made up his mind and saw no need for additional evidence. Rather than describe Donald Trump's action as "unlawful," Alexander deemed them "inappropriate."  Wow.

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), defending her vote against allowing witnesses, said:

"The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena... Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don't believe the continuation of this process will change anything."

Trump's legal team offered wavering Republican Senators two escape outlets:  Lamar Alexander took the first, arguing that Trump did something wrong but it was not impeachable.  Lisa Murkowski took the second escape route, arguing that the process was so flawed that it was not possible to have a fair Senate trial and, for that reason, no further testimony was needed. ("This is how it ends, not with a bang but a whimper.")

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Now, the Senate will likely vote to "acquit" Donald Trump.

Observing Donald Trump over the past 4 years, we've learned he's an escape artist. Time and again, when we thought damning evidence would bring Trump down, he's skated away. (It's one of the reasons his behavior is so outrageous; Trump believes he can get away with anything.)  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resisted starting impeachment proceedings because she was afraid they would fail and Trump would be emboldened.  Then came the whistleblower complaint and Pelosi had no choice but to launch an impeachment initiative.  Next week, The Impeachment Trial will end.  What will the consequences be?

Trump may be emboldened but we still have John Bolton to hear from.  On  January 26th, the New York Times revealed: "President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton."

Remember that Donald Trump has long asserted that his (now) famous July 25th phonemail with Ukrainian President Zelensky was "perfect" and "there was no quid pro quo." ("Unclassified Memorandum of Telephone Conversation" between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky)  For most of us, one phrase sticks out: In return for the promise of U.S. assistance, Trump requested, "I would like you do us a favor," and asked Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.  Trump's defense team asserted that this phrase was innocent and Trump did not intend to tie a Biden investigation to the provision of military assistance.  Bolton can refute this.  Bolton apparently had a conversation with Trump where Trump said there was a quid pro quo,  That's a big deal.

But beyond this, the Republican Senators have thwarted the will of the American people.  On January 28th, Quinnipiac reported: "Three-quarters of registered voters think witnesses should be allowed to testify in the Senate impeachment trial...This includes 49% of Republicans who think witnesses should be allowed to testify, 75% of independents and 95% of Democrats."  Most voters wanted to hear more evidence but Republican Senators blocked this.

Ultimately, if voters feel cheated, they will take out their ire on Republican Senators who are vulnerable in the 2020 election: Collins (Maine), Ernst (Iowa), Gardiner (Colorado), Loeffler (Georgia), McSally (Arizona), Perdue (Georgia), Tillis (North Carolina), and possibly McConnell (Kentucky).  If voters feel the Senate Impeachment trial was a coverup, then on November 3rd the American public can express their anger by voting out these Senators, and Donald Trump.

Voters can chose to end this dreadful episode with a bang, not a whimper.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mis-identified the two Republicans who voted with Democrats. That has been corrected.

Bob Burnett

Bob Burnett

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley Quaker, activist, and writer.  In other life he was a Silicon Valley executive — co-founder of Cisco Systems.

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