As I See It: Senate impeachment trial is full of surprises

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By Elpidio R. Estioko

At a time that the Democrats are losing esteem and hope in their move to add witnesses in making their impeachment case against US President Donald Trump, a bombshell surprisingly popped up making their hope alive again! A New York Times story said the military aid to Ukraine was tied up to the investigation of then Vice President Joe Biden, presidential rival of Trump and his son Hunter, for corruption in Ukraine. .

This development was in addition to the latest pronouncement of former Security Adviser John Bolton that he is willing to testify if summoned by the Senate. This is also in addition to the initial surprise bombshell given by Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, also saying that there is quid pro quo. These developments are complicating the issue of coming up with new witnesses in the Senate trial.

During the final argument of House Manager Chuck Schumer, two of the more likely GOP senators inclined to vote for additional witnesses (Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) were reportedly alienated by Schumer’s use of words in his closing statement. This should have been a big blow to the Democrats’ clamor for witnesses but with the latest revelation of Bolton’s book, it may have resurrected their move to call for witnesses in the trial. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who initially want Bolton to testify, said the report about Bolton‘s book strengthened the case for witnesses.

I think there will be other surprises to come since there’s a lot at stake in this Senate trial. The President and his legal panel seem to have been hiding them to come out to build their case of avoiding new witnesses and coming up with a quick resolution of the articles of impeachment in favor of Trump.

Will this convince the senators to change their mind? Well, if they really are truly committed to what they were sworn to uphold the constitution, I think they need to reconsider their decision which is leveled along party lines by voting to add witnesses in the trial. I don’t see any reason why they won’t! This will eventually shed light on the veracity of the two articles of impeachment. Isn’t that the main goal of the trial?

Or, do we have to wait for other surprises to come?

Now, I think, once witnesses are allowed, there’s a lot of repercussions along the way. Aside from Bolton, White House Chief of Staff John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, another material witness, might be added to the witness list and so with the rest who were first-hand witnesses of the issue at hand.

Another repercussion is Trump will exercise his executive privilege over Bolton stopping him to testify. At the rate its going where a lot of surprises are coming from Bolton, the President will most likely exercise his executive privilege to bar him from testifying. Will this be allowed? Well it remains to be seen and I’m sure the known lawyers of Trump will fight for it to the hilt.

Of course, will this be enough to convince the senators to change their already made up mind to exonerate Trump and change it to removing Trump from office? I don’t think this may happen but if you have some senators to at least side with the Democrats, even just a few to show bipartisanship, the effects leading to the November election will be enormous.

But, the biggest surprise, if ever, is for the senators to rally behind the Democrats and muster a two thirds vote to impeach and remove Trump from office! I know this is a very remote possibility, knowing the GOP senators sticking with Trump, but who knows? As I said, the Senate trial is full of surprises and the Bolton book may have opened a can of worms, so to speak, and… anything may happen between now and the day of reckoning when the jurors will vote for the witnesses and eventually the two articles of impeachment after the presentation of witnesses.

So, with the latest development, there is a sudden shift of positions by both parties who are now changing their respective strategies and making sure their arguments and defense are amended to address the latest documents that came out lately. I’m sure that from the president’s side, his lawyers will re-focus their defense in responding to the Bolton book by arguing “that the president was justified in seeking the investigation because of a history of corruption involving the company.”  On the other hand, the Democrats will hammer on this book and other related developments to convince the senators to vote for witnesses.

How about the American people? Well, the latest CNN polls showed a 51% in favor of impeachment but surprisingly, the new development didn’t have any dramatic impact yet on the American people. Since it just happened lately, no polls have yet shown any result. I’m sure, a poll will come out any time now to show how it affected the American people.

For accurate impact, these latest developments need to be communicated to the American people in order for them to weigh in. They need relevant information to decide whether they go for the two articles of impeachment or not. Communication is the key, so both parties need to reach out to the American people so they have an honest-to-goodness factual assessment of what went on for people to decide on the issues. The American people will then assess the relevant information and decide for themselves on how to resolve the two articles of impeachment.

As the trial progresses, we expect more surprises until the trial comes into a halt and a verdict is made! Hang on readers!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.)

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