A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 158th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

The way Senate Republicans have handled the impeachment trial is the inevitable outcome of their decades-long descent into authoritarianism.
President Donald J. Trump honors Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the federal judicial confirmation milestones event, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump honors Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the federal judicial confirmation milestones event, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing every week of his presidency. This is week 158.

The Senate impeachment trial has been exhausting for Americans who have been following it closely. The oscillation between impassioned speeches from Adam Schiff and blatant lies from Trump’s lawyers has been a jarring roller coaster ride to say the least. The stakes could not be higher. Does the President of the United States have authoritarian powers that would allow him to get away with extorting a foreign country and targeting his political targets for personal gain? Republicans say hell yes, as long as he’s a Republican.

While the acquittal vote isn’t until next Wednesday, the trial really came to an end this week, as the coverup was completed. On Friday, Senate Republicans voted down a motion to call witnesses in the impeachment trial by a 51-49 margin, even as former National Security Adviser John Bolton banged on their door with more evidence.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) put the nail in the coverup with the statement he released on Thursday night, in which he conceded that President Trump did what he is accused of but that it doesn’t warrant removal. But an interview Senator Alexander had with The New York Times was perhaps even more insightful as to why he opposed witnesses and will vote to acquit President Trump. Senator Alexander said:

“Whatever you think of his behavior, with the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of Ukraine, and you decide if you prefer him or Elizabeth Warren.”

That statement goes to the heart of why the Republican Party continues to allow President Trump to erode American democracy. It’s not about being held hostage by his base, it’s because his authoritarian actions are in their interest. In other words, you can be as corrupt and un-American as you’d like long as you align with the interests of the Republican Party.

Of course, this isn’t new. For decades, the Republican Party’s embrace of the Southern Strategy, voter suppression, and gerrymandering has been building up to this moment. They created the Trump base. They’ve long recognized that the demographics are shifting away from them, so they need to utilize undemocratic means to maintain power. We are seeing the culmination of these actions. Their embrace of Alan Dershowitz’s argument that President Trump is essentially a dictator is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Let’s dive into yet another Unpresidented week and see how we got here.

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Bolton Confirms Quid Pro Quo

Day 1,103: Monday, January 27

John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland – February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland – February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

Monday’s top stories:

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Trump’s Lawyers’ Throw Gaslighting Spaghetti At The Wall

Day 1,104: Tuesday, January 28

Ken Starr at Trump’s Senate Impeachment trial

Ken Starr at Trump’s Senate Impeachment trial

I covered Trump’s impeachment defense in The Independent:

We all knew President Trump’s impeachment defense was going to be weak, hypocritical, and dishonest, but they really exceeded expectations. I’ve documented and analyzed every day of Trump’s presidency since it began. I’m not surprised by much, but at times even I was stunned by their opening arguments.

Over three days of presentations, President Trump’s lawyers threw gaslighting spaghetti at the wall so that Fox News could peel off what stuck and run them as soundbites for the GOP base. The disjointed nature of the arguments was jarring, as Trump’s lawyers at times contradicted each other. It was also clear they didn’t update their defense after the revelations from former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book were released, which reportedly confirm the quid pro quo at the core of this impeachment case. Many of the debunked arguments were the same we’ve heard for months, but if you listen to Trump’s lawyers closely, their defense unraveled into what appeared to be a slow-moving confession.

First, they claimed President Trump did nothing wrong and his call with President Zelensky was fine. Next, they made the case against the use of impeachment itself. Then, they spread conspiracy theories about the Bidens and essentially claimed that Trump’s push for Ukraine to announce a Biden probe was justified. Finally, they claimed that abuse of power isn’t impeachable and that even if Trump did launch an extortion plot, it wouldn’t have been an impeachable offense. This is an authoritarian view of executive power that believers of the conservative unitary executive theory espouse. It’s intrinsically antithetical to the Founding Fathers’ intentions for executive power.

President Trump’s impeachment defense essentially went from “he did nothing wrong” to “he’s above the law, he did it, and he did it because Biden is corrupt… get over it”. It feels like this Senate trial is an extension of Trump’s alleged extortion plot. To me, it’s clear that what Trump set out to accomplish in Ukraine is being accomplished in his Senate trial by his very own defense team as they smear Joe Biden.

Read My Full Analysis

Tuesday’s top stories:

Dershowitz Declares Trump King

Day 1,105: Wednesday, January 29

Alan Dershowitz at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

Alan Dershowitz at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

Wednesday’s top stories:

Last Day Of Senate Questioning

Day 1,106: Thursday, January 30

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives members of the media a thumbs up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives members of the media a thumbs up as he leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Thursday’s top stories:

An Endorsement Of Tyranny

Day 1,107: Friday, January 31

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, before the start of a meeting with House and Senate Leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, before the start of a meeting with House and Senate Leadership in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

I covered this week’s developments in The Independent:

On Wednesday, Alan Dershowitz basically argued that President Trump was a king. By Thursday, Senate Republicans were indicating they would happily pick up the crown and place it on Trump’s head.

We’ve long known the acquittal of President Trump was all but certain, but how we got there mattered. The arguments from House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers mattered. Whether the trial was fair mattered. In the end, what the American people were given was more akin to a coverup than a trial. Senate Republicans have now acknowledged that President Trump is guilty of what he’s accused of and they just won’t do anything about it.

The two days of the Senate trial’s Q&A session can be summed up in three sentences: President Trump’s lawyers made an authoritarian argument that he’s above the law. The House impeachment managers argued he’s not. Senate Republicans sided with Trump and put a rubber stamp on authoritarianism. As House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) put it, what we saw in Trump’s defense over the course of this trial was “a descent into constitutional madness.”

On Thursday night, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that he would be voting “no” on the resolution to subpoena witnesses and documents. Alexander’s statement was truly stunning, as it conceded that the House impeachment manager’s proved their “overwhelming” case: “It was inappropriate for the President to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.” Lamar said the Senate shouldn’t remove a president for “inappropriate” behavior, reducing Trump’s alleged abuse of power down to the word “inappropriate.”

Read The Full Analysis

Friday’s top stories:

Unpresidented // Authoritarianism / Donald Trump / Impeachment / Republican Party