Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal on procedures for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump sets up an obstacle course designed to exclude damaging evidence and confine discussion of Trump’s crimes to the darkest hours of the night. But it’s far from the only extraordinary bit of pro-Trump illegal-ese to emerge over the extended weekend. On Saturday, Trump’s legal team released a six-page letter calling on the Senate to exercise the most extreme option of McConnell’s proposal and simply dismiss the impeachment without even the pretense of a trial. In the process, they make claims that are extraordinary by any measure, claims that show the real threat Trump poses to constitutional law.
The letter, from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow, supports a 110-page “legal brief” issued by Trump’s team on Monday. Both documents call on the Senate to reject the case submitted by the House—an option that, by a total noncoincidence, is open to Republicans in two ways thanks to McConnell’s proposed rules. Republicans either can vote to dismiss the case outright or can vote to exclude evidence collected by the House, leaving trial managers to argue a case in which their evidence isn’t allowed in the door. Imagine House managers not only trying to make their case after midnight, but doing so after Republicans vote to refuse to admit key elements of evidence collected in the House hearings. (Hint: Give it a couple of days. You won’t have to imagine.)
But the letter does more than just muster all Trump’s dander behind demands that the whole case be dismissed. It also argues that Trump should be able to bully Ukraine all he wants because it’s just “a comparatively small European republic” and the United States is a superpower. Somehow, this disparity of size is supposed to mean that there’s nothing that Ukraine has that Trump would want. He can’t be guilty of extorting Ukraine because its leaders don’t have “vast treasures at their disposal” to “actually buy off the Chief Executive.”
Which seems very much as if Trump’s attorney’s are not arguing about what Trump is. They’re debating his price.
That’s not all. Cipollone and Sekulow aren’t just ready to do away with Trump’s impeachment; their argument is really aimed at the idea of impeachment. According to them, the reasons for impeachment existed when the United States was “a fledgling, debt-ridden republic situated on the seaboard of a vast wilderness continent.” But now we’re all grown up. And if the corruption comes from America … it’s not an issue.