The Impeachment Tiebreaker: Four Thoughts

INTRODUCING GUEST COMMENTATOR

John Miller is Pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC. More of his writings may be viewed at www.chapelwithoutwalls.org. The Views from the Edge is pleased to republish this social commentary. Photographs have been added by Views from the Edge.

COMMENTARY BY JOHN MILLER: The Impeachment Tiebreaker: Four Thoughts

This short essay was begun on Saturday morning, Jan. 25, 2020, starting at 12:27 AM. This was after the writer had nearly overdosed on the prosecutors’ wrap-up, and listening to the three major cable news networks’ commentary on the proceedings.

The House Managers (i.e., the prosecution) finished their presentation on Friday evening at about 10 PM, Jan. 24,  in what has been alleged to be the impeachment trial of President Trump. On Saturday afternoon the President’s lawyers (i.e., the defense) will begin their presentation regarding the defendant (i.e., the President).

The House of Representatives prosecution team has claimed almost ad infinitum that the President has prevented more important witnesses and documents from appearing in the Senate trial. They claim he desperately does not want anyone to testify, or to have any incriminating documents to be placed into the trial record. Therefore, they say, with no further evidence presented, there can be no proper trial. 

Up to now nearly all CNN/MSNBC/FoxNews talking heads have said they think that none of the 53 Republican Senators will capitulate on the impeachment vote, and that the President therefore will be cleared of all charges. The CNN/MSNBCers postulate that will prevent a genuine impeachment trial if witnesses and documents are suppressed. The FoxNewsers are delighted if the suppression occurs, because “the impeachment hatchet job” will have ended.

But let us suppose that the magical number of three Republicans were to vote to allow witnesses and documents. Further, imagine that no suddenly timorous Democrats were to vote to suppress the potentially damaging evidence. Then what would happen?

Thought Clump # 1

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will try to hurry this trial through to its conclusion as soon as politically practicable. Might the sitting judge in the trial, Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court, rule that constitutionally an honest impeachment trial necessitates that witnesses and documents be provided? Should he conclude that? Constitutionally, could he make that ruling? He will have heard every word uttered in this historic proceeding, and thus such thoughts might be running through his head. No one can know at the moment what he is thinking, nor perhaps is it yet fully formed within his brilliant mind. Nevertheless, those might be very interesting questions upon which Mr. Roberts might now be cogitating.

Thought Clump # 2

If a majority of at least 51 Senators of both parties vote to produce new witnesses and documents, Chief Justice Roberts would not be the tiebreaker on that issue. Instead, the 51+ Senators would assume that role. Thus witnesses and documents would be subpoenaed.

Thought Clump # 3

If Adam Schiff and the House Managers are as effective as CNN and MSNBC (but certainly not Fox News) say they are, and witnesses and documents are subpoenaed, there is a very slight possibility that a two-thirds majority of at least 67 Senators might convict Donald John Trump of the two Articles of Impeachment after a considerably-longer-than-predicted genuine trial. Mr. Trump then would be removed from office. This, however, is so slight a possibility that those who favor such an eventuality should probably stifle such apparently outlandish thoughts.

RADICAL Thought Clump # 4

Should the Senate exonerate the President, as expected, in effect the entire constitutional concept of separation of powers itself will then indirectly have failed in the impeachment trial. Are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches separate but equal? However, the Senate will astonishingly have found that the executive branch has the sole ultimate power in American government, with Congress and the federal courts clearly being only also-rans in constitutional governmental authority. It could be argued that such a conclusion might even be colossally irresponsible. The Chief Justice might also conclude that before the trial concludes.

In that instance, Chief Justice Roberts, representing his understanding of the Constitution and the judiciary, might rule that the Senate is constitutionally required to subpoena witnesses and documents before the impeachment trial can end.

Furthermore, the Chief Justice might decide such a ruling would eliminate the appearance of political partisanship, which in these rancorous times would be a Very Good Thing. He might say that only then would the Senate be a in a valid position as a one-hundred-person jury to vote fairly and equitably on the innocence or guilt of Defendant Trump.

Were any of these hypotheticals actually to happen, would that be a completely unforeseen result in these tense, tedious days, or what? Keep listening and watching, citizens. The fate of the republic hangs in the balance of Lady Justice.

Dynamite at the Sushi Bar

I go to Sake Sushi‘s Happy Hour and strike up a conversation with a stranger. We look to be the same age. Turns out it’s his birthday. “Well, happy birthday!” I say. “How old?”

“A lot older than you,” he says. “I don’t think so,” I reply and ask “How old?” “Seventy-two,” he says. “Gotcha by four years,” say I. “I thought you were maybe 65,” he says. I love this guy! So began last night’s friendly conversation that took us outside our respective comfort zones.

We live in bubbles that burst even while celebrating a birthday — separate bubbles that collide when CNN is served with drinks on the big TV screen in front of the sushi bar.

“Fake news,” he says. “Just a pack o’ lies.” I have a feeling this isn’t going to go well. “So where do get your news?” “I don’t pay much attention to politics,” he says. “As long as the economy is good. That’s all I care about. Business is booming. I’ve made a lot of money the last two years.” 

What little news he gets is from a different bubble from the one I live in. “We’re in big trouble,” I say. “What you’re calling an economy is not an economy; economics is not measured by the stock market. There is only one economy — the planet and everything in it — and it’s not doing well. It’s only a matter of time.” 

“Where do you get your news?” he asks. I answer that I get it from as many sources as I can. “Ever watch FOX News?” “Every once in a while. As little as possible,” I say, and now we’re both out of our bubbles that make us both “Bubble Boys”. The conversation turns to the occupant of the Oval Office he credits with the booming economy. “He’s going down,” I say. He laughs. ‘No way,” he says, and changes the subject to Barack Obama as a failed president. “He almost destroyed the military,” he says. “Obama made us weaker. Trump inherited a mess. He’s turned it around. America’s strong again.” He’s ex-military, a former Marine once stationed for eight year in Okinawa.

General Jim Mattis

I call his attention to the number of Generals who have left the Trump Administration. He knows nothing about that. I mention General Mattis. “Mad Dog? Great General! The best!” he says. “What about him?” I ask whether he’s read Secretary of Defense Mattis’ letter of resignation. He hasn’t. He has no knowledge of Mattis’ disagreement with the president’s policies. I urge him to read it. He says he will.

The wait person brings a large paper sack with a take-out order of his favorite Japanese dish. “It’s not on the menu,” he says. “Just ask for ‘Dynamite’. I guarantee you’re gonna love it!” “So it’s the ‘Dynamite Roll’?” I ask. “No, it’s different. You have to ask for it.” “So, if I ask for ‘Dynamite’, will they know what I’m talking about?” “The American girl won’t. Ask one of the Japanese guys. They’ll know. Get some and take it home. I guarantee you’re gonna love it!”

The mere thought of Dynamite puts us in the same bubble. We’re Bubble Boys in one bubble: the global economy of shared taste buds. As he rises to leave for home, I thank him for his Dynamite recommendation and the conversation, shake his hand, and wish him a Dynamite 72nd Birthday.

Next time I wander over to the bar at Sake Sushi, I’ll ask for Dynamite . . . and two Martinis.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, February 1, 2019.