There is a two-item red hot agenda in Washington, D.C. this week. The first is the upcoming trial for the impeachment of the President of the United States in the United States Senate. The second is the war clouds that are gathering over Iran after our targeted killing of one of their major leaders. The two items are both separate and, at the same time, intertwined.
First, the trial. Even though the Democrats don’t really want to go into it without the ability to call witnesses or subpoena documents, they are probably going to lose that one and the House Dems are just going to have to take their shot and proceed. Once it was clear that Republicans like Romney, Collins and Murkowski were not going to require a preliminary vote to adopt a set of rules before the trial, the Dems don’t have much of a choice other than to proceed, but that doesn’t settle the issue. I grabbed an old copy of the Constitution, the pocket-sized kind you can buy in the drug stores, and looked up “impeachment” and, interestingly, the Constitution doesn’t actually say much. It says the impeachment proceeding is in the house and the trial in the senate with the chief justice sitting as the presiding judge and the rules are set by the senate but it’s not clear what that means. Can either side subpoena witnesses? Do the rules of evidence, like hearsay rules, apply? Can the president’s lawyers claim executive privilege and prevent some—like Bolton—from testifying, or is that just a continuing obstruction of justice?
Since, according to the Constitution, the senate sets the rules and the Republicans are the majority, could the senate just decide to vote not to hear any live witnesses? Or, I would guess, they could vote to override the chief justice if he decided to allow live witnesses. There are lots of questions and very few answers and I’m guessing that a lot of this is going to fall onto the shoulders of the chief justice who is presiding. Since it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Trump will not be convicted, this is all really being played for the voters who will be casting a presidential ballot in November. It’s not what they do but really how it looks to potential voters that counts. I’m guessing that no one is going to challenge any decisions made by the chief justice, but that puts an enormous weight on Roberts’ shoulders.
Overshadowing this is all Iran.
According to White House sources, Iran, led by General Qasen Solemani, was planning to execute some major imminent action and our only alternative was to take out the general to keep it from happening. To be clear, even if that were true, to kill a member of a foreign government on Iraqi soil, before anything has happened, using an armed drone, is an act of war by almost any definition. Our government says they had no choice, because to not act was to endanger and ultimately cost American lives. However, that explanation appears—in last few hours—to be shifting and they seem to be playing down the idea of “imminent.” The question is, do you believe our government or are they simply lying to cover up an order issued by an impetuous president who often seems to act without thinking?
It’s one thing to fire off a provocative tweet; it’s quite another to fire off a provocative armed missile into a sovereign country like Iraq to kill an Iranian we perceive as an enemy, particularly when we are not at war with Iran, much as we may not like them. For my part, I must confess, I just don’t believe our government. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. Why would you believe that killing one person would automatically stop that country from acting? Unless we come up with some very clear proof, to us, their citizens and to the rest of the world, I can only conclude that it’s either incredible stupidity at work or intended action for a purpose other than the one they are claiming. It is all too coincidental—the impeachment trial and the attack occurring at the same time. Trump has proved himself a master of diversion in the past and this looks suspiciously like another ploy from his bag of tricks. As I’m writing this column, a flash came across the news that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were taking credit for a 10-missile attack on an air base in western Iraq that houses American troops. This is something congress has to get into, and quickly, before we end up in another major shooting war to go along with Iraq and Afghanistan.