Having watched some of Sekulow and Cippolone on TV, I for one found them underwhelming when compared to Adam Schiff after the first chance at direct comparison. Trump’s guys are there specifically because he figured they’d kick ass on TV and make Schiff (and other House Managers) look bland and puny by comparison. Trump doesn’t know much but he has a pretty good handle on what comes across well (or doesn’t) on TV and I can’t for a second think he was pleased with the opening round. In fact, I started to have Kavanaugh hearing (the second one of course) flashbacks.
The Senate Judiciary Committee brought in their “ringer” to do the questioning, and it was pretty clear that after Brewski Brett’s first go-round of questioning before the recess he wasn’t comparing favoraby to Dr. Ford. Trump called over to the Senate and raised hell. More specifically he demanded GOP Senators (and Kavanaugh too) start raising hell. I have no doubt he told then WH Counsel Don McGahn to assure Kavanaugh that Lying Leningrad Lindsay would provide all the “cover” needed. The fireworks we saw when the hired gun from AZ was “benched” and the GOP Senators themselves took over (especially Graham) were as spectacular as they were ugly. Sadly, it amped up the GOP rank & file out there to demand their Senators vote to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination. The fact it amped up our side even more and led to the 2018 electoral landslide seems lost on Trump and the GOP. More on that in a bit.
For weeks now there has been periodic speculation about Trump wanting a huge circus, as in a showy trial with splashy examples of fierce defense of him combined with lots of bogus charges against Democrats. IOW lots of red meat for the base to keep them amped up for HIS re-election. At the same time McConnell, seeing what happened in 2018 and fearing the loss of the GOP majority in the Senate wanted a bland, quick process that would provide little fireworks and hopefully be distant background noise come November. It would seem that in the end McConnell prevailed and convinced Trump to let him run the trial his way.
Alas, ole Moscow Mitch slightly overplayed his hand and even though it looks like he’s going to win on excluding documents & witnesses at the outset (which will make it even tougher to get them approved later) he had to concede at least a little on the outrageous plan he’d sprung on everyone (including it seems many in his own caucus) literally on the eve of the start of the trial. That must have been some lunch meeting the GOP caucus had! However, the fact Yertle had to make handwritten changes to his resolution (delaying the start of proceedings) shows there is at least a modicum of concern within his caucus that they have to show at least a tiny bit of what they think can be sold as fairness to the public at-large. Apparently the changes (three days for opening statements/case presentation instead of two and allowing the House Record of Evidence admitted as part of the Senate Trial) were enough to secure everyone’s vote on the motions taking place today. McConnell will get his wish to exclude witnesses and documents even as new evidence has emerged since the House completed its Impeachment report.
Still, there has been a back and forth going on in the Senate between the House Managers and the President’s lawyers. Leaving aside the legal stuff, on the issue of appearances (Trump’s area of some level of expertise) Schiff kicked Trump’s guy’s asses. And appearances is all Trump cares about. Ms. Lofgren, Ms. Demings and Mr. Crow and Mr. Jeffries have seemed awfully damned good too, and it looks to me like the President’s team doesn’t command the floor the way the House Managers have.
Trump cares about appearances – a lot. A LOT. He wants to see his side destroying the House Managers with (proverbial) flame throwers. He wants fire & brimstone rained down on his opponents. He wants the kind of foaming at the mouth defense Kavanaugh got from Graham, or he’s gotten from certain GOP House members in hearings both during the Mueller probe and the impeachment one. Truth and facts be damned – he wants rabid attacks. The thing is, someone who might come across that way on a TV show/set might not command the “stage” in the same manner standing in the well of the House or the Senate. The same may or may not be true of the difference between sitting on the elevate dais of a hearing room vs. standing in the well. And let’s face it – for any of these lawyers this particular experience is unique because the Chief Justice of the United States is sitting behind them. As noted during the first break this afternoon Cippolone most assuredly tripped over his own dick by spouting what he had to know was a blatant lie with the Chief Justice sitting behind him.
Well, I keep coming back to that first exchange of arguments and the comparison of Schiff and Cippolone in particular. The former was polished and professional and in complete command of his presentation. Cippolone seemed to be awkward by comparison. Unlike other members of the team he didn’t get his job because Trump loved his appearances on Fox. I’ll say it again – Trump ONLY cares about appearances. I hope for what’s left (if any) of our reputation on the world stage his hotel room at Davos has awesome sound insulation because I suspect he’s been bellowing loud enough to rattle the windows.
Going back to the baseball analogy I started with, I can easily imagine Trump as the owner of the team sitting in his skybox during the World Series and screaming his head off at aides to call down to the dugout and get the Manager on the phone because the pitcher isn’t (in his mind) getting the job done. And DEMANDING a relief pitcher & not just any relief pitcher but a specific one. A hard throwing, wild (as in hits a lot of batters with bad pitches) and can anyone think of someone who would fit what Trump surely wants more than Representative “Gym” Jordan of Ohio? It doesn’t matter to Trump that Jordan would be even more out of his depth as a lawyer than the other members of his team. In televised hearings Jordan throws the political equivalent of Molotov cocktails. He offers up the so-called “red meat” that the rank & file GOP craves, and worse responds to. Ok, so part of Trump might want Rudy but even Trump knows how bad that idea is – after all Rudy helped create the mess he’s in and kept pouring gas on the fire as in implicating Trump and the others! So I think it’s Jordan Trump is wanting and wanting right freaking now.
I still think that’s the last thing McConnell wants, since he’s winning the process stuff despite Trump’s team being out lawyered, and coming across as less competent on TV than the House Managers. I suspect McConnell dreads the breaks/recesses as Trump probably has someone standing there with a cell phone as he (McConnell) exits the Senate Chamber. People can probably hear Trump screaming at McConnell from fifty feet away. If, as I suspect instant polls finds the public is responding better to the House Managers than his lawyers Trump will blow a gasket – and blow out McConnell’s eardrums. Personally I’d like to see it happen because I think Jordan would look not only crazy but puny standing at the podium with the Chief Justice up there behind him. And poor little “Gym” would look so out of place having to wear an actual suit coat! Would he be able to prevail on Trump to force McConnell to hold a special vote changing Senate dress code rules so “Gym” can stand there in his shirt sleeves?
Either way, I think it’s possible Trump is doing a slow burn (or maybe one as fast as det cord) and if he hasn’t already exploded an explosion is surely coming. McConnell is preventing a circus – so far. However I think it’s going to grow increasingly possible that Trump will demand the replacement of those currently arguing his case in favor of Jordan and even nuttier GOP types. Poor little Lindsay is a juror and can’t join in which is probably giving both him and Trump a major sad. In the end, if as I think could well happen Trump’s demands for a circus overwhelm McConnell the latter can kiss his Senate Majority goodbye. And a lot of other Republicans will go down to defeat in November all the way down the ballot.
IOW, Trump’s instincts and lack of impulse control & willing to listen to good advice from those trying to help him is good for our side. The problem is the damage an even more unhinged (and yes, he can get much, much worse) Trump might do between the end of the trial and November. There’s already been enough damage that can never be fully repaired. So if I’m right about Trump demanding and getting a different type of “legal representation” in the Senate it’s no cause for celebration.