Donald Trump has been looking forward to impeachment—not the part that involves the upcoming vote in the House, and certainly not the part where more than a dozen witnesses appeared before the House Intelligence Committee to confirm that, yup, he done it. Bigly. What Trump is looking forward to is the trial in the Senate, his home turf, Mitchville, the land where, hell, they don’t have anything else to do anyway but indulge Trump in his fever dreams.
From the moment that the whistleblower whistled, it was inevitable that Trump would be impeached for his efforts to extort Ukraine. It was inevitable because the evidence against Trump is enough to convict even someone who hadn’t already demonstrated a pattern of lying to Congress, bullying his way through all occasions, and looking for the personal angle of every aspect of the nation’s business. It was so inevitable that the White House and Republican leadership in the Senate have been meeting for weeks to “strategize” over not just what information Trump should provide, but also how the whole trial can be modified to best suit Trump.
That’s still going to happen. There’s absolutely no doubt that McConnell will do everything in his power—which, when it comes to this proceeding in the Senate, is everything—to make sure that Trump never has a bad day and that every moment of the trial becomes an opportunity to go after Trump’s opponents. Only… they may all be there to be persecuted in person.
While House Republicans would gladly run random witnesses through on spits to please Trump, or just to please themselves, the idea that Trump is going to turn the Senate trial into an endless parade of everyone who ever crossed him is getting a bit of pushback. Trump’s “communicator,” Pam Bondi, made it clear this week that Trump expected a lineup featuring Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, the intelligence community whistleblower, and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff to sit down and take a drubbing. However, it appears that that might not work out. Because while McConnell can set every step of the process on his own, the appearance of a witness requires a majority vote. And right now it looks like there are just enough Republicans who can’t figure out a “win” in conducting a senatorial circus and will vote to keep these nonwitnesses off the witness list.
This doesn’t mean Trump isn’t going to get his auto-exonerating show trial at which more time will be devoted to the DNC’s nonexistent server than to Trump’s actual efforts at extortion. And when any idea of a reasonable trial in the Senate leans on characters like Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, thoughts that the circus might be halted should come with a “Warning: Spines certain to collapse at the slightest pressure” sign. But there are some signs that Trump isn’t going to be perfectly happy with his day in court.
Trump has made it clear that he wants the Senate trial to take place immediately, and McConnell seems to be attempting to oblige him on that point. The Republican Senate leader already informed the public that the trade deal that the House managed to pass while still working on impeachment is simply too, too much for him to handle. So it’s being shelved until after the impeachment is complete. That could mean that Trump gets one of those things he really craves: himself on every Christmas morning television in America. Like the Grinch, the pre-spirits Scrooge, and leftover stuffing all rolled into one.
As CNN reports, there are other points over which all the strategy sessions don’t seem to have put the White House and the Senate in perfect sympathy. Trump wants a show, but McConnell doesn’t seem to have enough control over his party to deliver the plotline Trump is after. So instead, McConnell just wants it over. Quickly.
But Trump doesn’t want it over, dammit. He’s come this far, doing all that stonewalling, obstructing, not cooperating, and more stonewalling. All that hard work of noncooperation has to be worth something, and he wants his show. According to CNN, Trump wants “a dramatic event.” He wants live witnesses. He wants tough cross-examination. He wants to see people hurt… so no one will ever think of doing this again in his second term. Or his third.
In the end, Trump will probably get what he wants, complete with clown cars and people shot out of a cannon. Because if there’s one thing that’s absolutely been clear from even before the day he rolled into D.C., it’s that Trump has completely cowed the Republican Party. Those few who didn’t buckle under found themselves standing along among “friends” who had suddenly developed a keen interest in anything but backing them up. It’s been a Darwinian process designed to select for the weakest and most sycophantic, and it’s been pretty darned effective.
McConnell may make some noises about the dignity of the Senate, but that ship sailed long ago. At least two Supreme Court seats and a scadzillion lower court judges ago. In the end, Trump will get what he wants, because Republicans are in the business of giving it to him.
Strike up the band. Raise that big top. And get prepared.