The Impeachment Response

Trump has at least one hand on the wheel regarding his legal defense. That could get messy.

Donald's formal response to the articles of impeachment has been released. 

In summary: he thinks they should be dismissed by the Senate summarily on the grounds that he's never done anything wrong in his life and everybody is so mean to him. It was a perfect call. Everybody said it was "good" and "normal"... those are direct quotes from the legal brief, and yes, they put quotes around those individual words.

The thing I find interesting is that this response utterly refutes one of Donald's most-cherished parts of his narrative about the impeachment, which is that he released the memo of his "perfect call" to outfox Adam Schiff after he "made up a fraudulent version" in a hearing. He's referring, of course, to Schiff's paraphrase of the call, which could only have existed after he'd read the partial edited transcript that the White House released.

It was an obvious lie but one that Donald has leaned on heavily and I was curious how it would be handled in the legal response. Now we have an answer: Team Trump is still pretending that Schiff's summary of his conduct was an attempt to trick people as to the literal contents of the call, while (reluctantly, I imagine, on Hair Furor's part) admitting it happened after. 

Not only does the evidence collected by House Democrats refute each and every one of the factual predicates underlying the first Article, the transcripts of the April 21 call and the July 25 call disprove what the Article alleges. When the House Democrats realized this, Mr. Schiff created a fraudulent version of the July 25 call and read it to the American people at a congressional hearing, without disclosing that he was simply making it all up. The fact that Mr. Schiff felt the need to fabricate a false version of the July 25 call proves that he and his colleagues knew there was absolutely nothing wrong with the call.

It of course makes no sense. If the "transcript" of the "perfect call" already existed and was being widely reported, there would have been no point in lying about its contents in public. But it's always been a ridiculous and transparent lie. Donald himself is very fond, maybe inordinately so, of doing bad impressions of people he doesn't like and acting out the scenes he imagines unfolding in the aftermath of various events. He did it with Schiff and Pelosi, in this very case, busting out the claim at multiple rallies that Pelosi had been excited about the call until he released the transcript, and then she, according to him, said, "This is the transcript? That's terrible. There's nothing there."

If the logic that Donald applies to his enemies ever applied to him, he'd be guilty of the same fraud he's accusing Schiff of, but worse. Schiff was trying to get a point across about something he actually had read; Trump was imagining the scene the way he'd prefer it to have happened.

But what's interesting in this is the inclusion of Schiff's "false version" in the legal defense at all. To the extent that they are actually lawyers, Donald's legal team has to know that this is not any kind of legal argument. Only one man could think it would be helpful, so it had to be put in at his insistence. 

I'm not putting it past any of the Senate GOP to humor him and run with it. I'm saying, they'd have an easier time giving him what he wants if the response stuck to what sounds like actual points of law. They could pretend this is all a policy dispute over the limits of executive power vs. congressional power and the nature of impeachment and come to a decision they could deliver with a straight face and probably minimal twinges of residual conscience.

But because Donald insisted on making Schiff's conduct a part of the official argument... well, they can't ignore that. And they can't easily refute it, since the mere fact that it's there means it's important to Donald and he'll be mightily affronted if they don't validate him on that.

If they find their spines and souls and we somehow get a fair trial out of this, this will make their decision easier. If, as is more likely, we see a partisan biased miscarriage of justice, it will be more cartoonishly farcical.

This is only the opening salvo. The one thing I would really watch for is if anyone on Trump's team (either his actual team that is supposed to be representing him or any of the Republican jurors) starts throwing around the phrase "perfect call" on the record. The brief says the call was "good" and "normal" and "perfectly legal" but I did not notice that phrase jumping out at me. I am certain, dead certain, that Donald has at every opportunity been haranguing his lawyers and his Senate proxies to "tell them it was perfect" every chance they get and that he's frustrated every time they don't. 

If that becomes the language of the defense, it will be an indication that they've given up all pretense of steering this ship and are willing to let it crash into the shore. That doesn't mean conviction. It doesn't mean acquittal. It means that whatever happens, however it happens, it will be uglier and messier and more destructive than in the alternative.

We will be watching closely.

Thank you!