Relief But No Release

Trump’s gone, but we’re still in the grips of a deadly pandemic. And that’s got to come first.

Meaning as close as possible to 100% of the focus of everybody in the federal government should be on two things:

  1. Getting vaccines to people
  2. Getting money and food and maybe even jobs to people

So while it’s absolutely essential that the Senate proceed—at some point—with Trump’s impeachment trial, maybe not now?

I realize Democrats and some Republicans want to get the Trump years behind them, and not allow him to continue to cast a bloated shadow.

But if Senators can find even one extra hour in the day to do an impeachment trial, maybe they should be using that time instead to figure out more and better ways for:

  1. Getting vaccines to people
  2. Getting money and food and maybe even jobs to people

The glib explanation by Democrats that they can “multitask” just doesn’t fly. Nor would Democrats be “caving” if they didn’t do Trump’s trial right now. Or anytime soon. He’s gone. COVID isn’t.

And it’s not like Americans will start feeling warm feelings about Trump if the impeachment trial has time to marinate. If you’re worried the more time passes the more Republicans on Capitol Hill will rally around Trump because they’re cowards who are afraid of losing his base, they already are, and the starting point wasn’t very encouraging anyway.

I’ve seen some very good stories recently marveling that Senate Majority Leader for all of Trump’s term, Mitch McConnell, has suddenly taken to speaking out against the former President and his actions. But that’s an easy one: McConnell unexpectedly lost control of the Senate, mainly because Trump blew up Georgia and lost if for him because 2 Democrats got elected there. And McConnell himself just got elected for 6 more years. Think he’d be doing the same right now if he had to run in 2? And he hasn’t even said if he’ll vote to convict Trump.

Also as I pointed out in an earlier column, even though some Republicans in the House did join Democrats to vote to impeach, they represented just 4% of all House Republicans. 96% voted not to. And that was just a couple of days after they themselves were under attack; fearing for their lives.

And details about the sedition Trump tried to do in his final days aren’t going to become less as time goes on. Trump’s tenure isn’t going to age well. More and more damning stuff is bound to come out as investigations by journalists and attorneys general continue, and people who were close enough to Trump to know what was up, feel more comfortable talking as they get further and further away from the mayhem. Or are compelled to talk.

In fact, I wrote that above paragraph on Friday, and since then the New York Times broke a huge story about how Trump tried to turn the Justice Department upside down in his very final days in office, and only apparently didn’t because top people at the DOJ threatened to resign en masse if he did. And then the Wall Street Journal added to it with a story that Trump wanted the DOJ to directly ask the Supreme Court to overturn the election for him. These stories aren’t a “coda” on Trump’s lunatic last days. These are just a little bit of what’s left to find out.

The only question I don’t know the answer to is whether Senate trials have to occur within a certain period of time following impeachment by the House. I’ve read all the applicable laws I can find, and they only say the Senate leader must set a date, but doesn’t really seem to say what that date must be. Are there potential due process issues if that date is way out into the future? I don’t know. I’ve asked several constitutional lawyers but haven’t heard back yet; I’ll update if I do. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) NY has already agreed to push the trial start date back a couple of weeks to February 9, so why not push it back to June? Or October?

And Schumer says he wants to make it quick, so it doesn’t take up too much time right now. So why not make it less time consuming right now, by waiting?

Sure there’s risk in doing that: with a stand-alone trial, presumably at a quieter time in the overall health of the nation, you’d be risking thrusting Trump back into a position of political and social prominence, even if it’s not in a good light. But that’s a miscalculation: Trump’s trick was never about keeping himself in the spotlight. It was about controlling the spotlight so he could get it off of him: flipping it around on whomever it was he wanted to attack and defame. Now it would shine clearly, nakedly on him.

And then instead, in February, force Ted Cruz and his ilk into the spotlight by compelling them to actually do an old-fashiondly filibuster in an attempt to kill a Coronavirus relief bill that aims to get more cash in people’s pockets, and more food to hungry families. See how that goes for them. Rather than creating an easy path for them to grandstand about how Democrats care only about revenge and power.

Because the focus of everyone—regardless of party—should be razor sharp right now. Yes, of course President Biden must get his cabinet approved, so the Senate has to work on that.

But then, if there truly aren’t enough Senate-y things left for Senators to do every day once they’re done working to rid the country of COVID-19 and alleviate its deep economic impact, then they can use that time to call up their constituents who have lost family members to the disease, and console them. It’s an ever-growing list.

Or, there are nearly two dozen MDs and other medical professionals serving in Congress right now, let them use their multitasking time to help staff up FEMA vaccination clinics.

Or, find new ways to mobilize those Americans who are waiting for vaccines and out of work. Hire us now and start training us so when there is sufficient vaccine supply available, staffing won’t be the problem that prevents clinics from operating 24/7. 

Or, for those who may have medical conditions that make it difficult to leave their homes, hire and train them to do suicide prevention or domestic violence counseling, which is often better done remotely.

I know this is probably a bit naive, but I also keep thinking many of the people who’ve been hardest hit in terms of employment: restaurant and airline and hotel workers, for instance, are also among the most incredibly well-versed Americans at operating and managing reservations systems. So why not figure out a way to leverage that expertise in building out and managing appointment scheduling, and logistics for on-site vaccinations?

And why not leverage the engineering prowess of companies like OpenTable and Yelp and even Amazon to build out the software that’ll be necessary to get everyone who wants to get a vaccine through swiftly? Those companies have got all of the smartest people in the country already for that kind of stuff. And they’ve already probably got a lot what needs to be built, already built in their own proprietary systems.

Also, Trump’s impeachment trial deserves its own distinct moment in history. Any attempt to do it as a half-measure will be remembered as half-assed. Not saying it’s not important or essential to do, just…

Take care of the people.