President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks
Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for GOP in the age of Trump
This week the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump starts in earnest. But last week's developments were not promising for the many Americans who expect a full and fair airing of the grievances against Trump during the proceedings.
The official trial kickoff was not auspicious. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) swore an oath to be an impartial juror only weeks after he stated publicly that he would not be an impartial juror. It's a wonder that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts didn't chuckle when he swore McConnell in or that a lightning bolt from heaven didn't strike down the GOP leader. But hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for Republicans in the age of Trump, and neither the supreme being nor the Supreme Court's chief justice should have been surprised.
Despite McConnell's solemn oath to be impartial, it's unlikely that he will allow the jurors to hear the testimony of the Trump administration's Ukrainian fixer, Lev Parnas, whose story bears directly on the case against the president.
Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that it was clear that the rot started at the top. He and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at the behest and with the full knowledge of Trump and his national security team, worked tirelessly to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a threat to replace their boss as president. Giuliani styles himself as Trump's troubleshooter. But he's really his troublemaker, because whatever the former New York City mayor does, he gets the president in trouble.
The message that Giuliani sent to Ukraine was clear. You give us the dirt on Biden, and you get the weapons you need to defend yourself against the Russians. So it's hardly a surprise that the president and the Senate majority leader don't want Parnas to testify during the trial.
But if Maddow's blockbuster ratings are a guide, millions of Americans do want to see what he had to say. Maddow had her best ratings ever and she even beat out presidential apologist Sean Hannity, the Fox News Channel host who usually occupies the top spot in the ratings of the evening cable talk shows.
The Trump administration officials whom Parnas identified as his conspirators denied knowing him even though there were pictures of him with the president, vice president and many other members of the president's team.
Parnas talked with Maddow during the same week that the gangster flick "The Irishman" was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. It would be easy to imagine, Giuliani in Robert DeNiro's role threatening the Ukrainian president with extinction if he doesn't deliver the goods on Biden. DeNiro's character would say "You have a nice little country here, but it would be a shame if you didn't play ball and get American weapons to defend yourselves against a Russian invasion."
Hypocrisy reared its ugly head twice last week. The General Accounting Office buttressed the House impeachment case when it revealed that the president violated federal law by withholding the money Congress approved and Ukraine needed to fight off a Russian invasion. The administration claims it held the money because of its concern about corruption in the embattled country. But it's hard to believe that the same president who has turned a blind eye to corruption in his own administration is worried much about corruption abroad.
The question for the Senate is whether Donald Trump abused his power as president by pressuring a foreign government to intervene to help him win reelection. Despite their oaths to be impartial jurors, McConnell and Senate Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have made it clear they want a quick dismissal of charges against the president after the House impeachment managers and his defense attorneys make their cases to the Senate jury this week. No witnesses, no problems.
In the face of GOP indifference, the Ukraine scandal gets more twisted and uglier every day. But justice denied by the Senate is only justice delayed for Americans. The Senate trial is only Act 1 in a drama that will play out though Election Day on November 3.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast "Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon" that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.