With time running down to one week, the Trump team of five defense lawyers has quit. True, such shakeups are par for the course for Trump. (Get Guiliani on the phone!) In this case it appears to be a split over the departed lawyers’ advice to defend Trump from the impeachment charge (inciting an insurrection) by arguing that Trump’s free speech was protected and that impeaching a president who has already left office is unconstitutional. The alternative that Trump appears to have been pushing is to use the trial as another opportunity for him to shout that the election was rigged.
As the New York Times reported: “Mr. Trump had pushed for his defense team to focus on his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, one person familiar with the situation said. A person close to Mr. Trump disputed that that was the case but acknowledged that there were differences in opinion about the defense strategy.”
The unintended consequences keep accumulating from the Democrats decision to push forward with a second, retro-impeachment. It seems certain to lose in the Senate, thus exonerating Trump yet again. Worse, it looks like a ripe opportunity for the Mad King to keep rallying his Stop-the-Steal supporters, raise money, enforce political fealty, and swell his mailing lists. A televised Senate trial is almost as good as Twitter for the muzzled Don.
In both the Clinton and Trump impeachment trials there was a fatal drift into farce. Even so, parties will find it hard to resist the temptation, if only for all the negative attacks on the other party they generate, and for the ways such episodes put the awkward defenders of the impeachee in their own electoral jeopardy. Nor is there an easy Eject button to push. Who says the arts are suspended by COVID, when there’s plenty of opera buffa in Congress?