Dispatch February 5, 2020

Senate Republicans Just Voted To Acquit a Criminal President

Today, every Senate Republican except one banded together to carry out one of the most brazen miscarriages of justice in American history. Despite overwhelming evidence that President Donald Trump criminally abused his power by extorting Ukraine to announce investigations into his political opponents—then orchestrated an unprecedented cover-up of his criminal actions—the Senate voted to acquit Trump without even the semblance of a fair trial.

A bipartisan Senate majority agrees that Trump extorted Ukraine.

If Trump were not president, he would almost certainly go to prison for his crimes.

  • As the House Judiciary Committee laid out, Trump’s extortion scheme involved multiple clear crimes, including solicitation of a bribe and wire fraud, which carry criminal penalties of 15 years and 20 years in prison, respectively. As Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said on the Senate floor, “Clearly, bribery has been committed by this president.”
  • As the Government Accountability Office concluded last month, Trump’s Office of Management and Budget also violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA) by improperly freezing aid to Ukraine—despite explicit warnings from the Pentagon that they were breaking the law by doing so. (Violating the ICA does not result in criminal penalties.)
  • Not only that, as Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) noted on the Senate floor, the evidence the House of Representatives mustered against Trump is “enough to prove extortion in court,” which is also a federal crime.

The Senate is voting to let loose a criminal president who will continue his attacks on American democracy.

  • The day after special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony effectively closed the book on the Russia investigation, Trump, far from being chastened, called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to demand investigations into Trump’s political opponents.
  • Trump’s defense team laid out a terrifyingly authoritarian defense of Trump’s behavior: They argued that Trump can engage in any kind of corrupt quid pro quo to cheat in an election as long as he believes his victory is in the national interest—an argument Trump will almost certainly use to justify further attacks on democracy.
  • Trump’s track record is clear: He solicited interference from Russia in 2016; he tried to extort Ukraine in 2019; and he will do whatever it takes to cheat to win the 2020 election.

The most cowardly of Trump’s defenders, including Collins, Alexander, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), say they think Trump has learned his lesson from impeachment, despite prior evidence to the contrary and Trump’s continued claim that his conduct has been “perfect.”

But they’re right about one thing: He’s learned that he can count on his Senate accomplices to protect him from all accountability—and that he is free to cheat in the 2020 election, no matter how much damage it inflicts on American democracy and national security.