Where we are at

Alan Dershowitz is arguing that:

The procedural posture of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial as it ends is this: the Democrats asked for witnesses to help prove X, and the Republicans refused, on the explicit ground, put forth by Alan Dershowitz, that even if X were proven to be true, it could not — literally could not — be a valid basis for removing a president via the impeachment and conviction process.

This was, to put it in legal jargon, essentially a motion for summary judgment — that is, a procedure by which one party moves to end a proceeding on the grounds that, even if everything the accusing party is alleging is true, there still isn’t a valid legal basis for a judgment against the accused party, so therefore there’s no need for an actual trial.

What the Republicans agreed was true was this: That Donald Trump held up hundreds of millions of dollars of already appropriated aid to another country, because he was extorting that country’s leadership into announcing a fake investigation into the supposed corruption of the son of a political opponent. That’s what the Democrats alleged Donald Trump did, and that’s what Alan Dershowitz argued could not — again, not should not but could not, constitutionally — be a valid basis for removing a president.

Simpler translation:

And there isn’t a single Republican who recognizes the dangerous precedent this sets? To appeal to their naked self-interest, which is all they’ve got for a moral backbone, do they realize that they are greatly weakening the power and importance of the senate in order to strengthen the executive branch into a tyranny?


  1. robro says

    I bet they will when there’s a Democrat in the White House, should they allow that to ever happen again.

  2. kome says

    The Republicans think (not entirely without justification, mind you) they’ve simply won. Everything. That they are basically untouchable now. So they’re not at all concerned about precedent or how much power is being transferred from one branch of government that they control to another branch of government that they control.

    Until the Republicans start facing actual consequences for their actions, they will not do any different than they are now. And, frankly, I don’t even think “losing re-election” is at this point sufficient for that anymore, with how easily and readily politicians simply transition into cushy lobbyist jobs after they’re finished in whatever office they held.

  3. whywhywhy says

    #3 Hadn’t pieced all that together in the way you presented. Always figured the Repubs were acting to protect Trump simply to avoid a tough primary challenge. But your point that as long as they appear loyal to the Conservative brand then there will be a cushy job waiting for them if they don’t get elected. The only way to screw up their pocketbook is to come out against Trump and lose the next election.

  4. Saad says

    do they realize that they are greatly weakening the power and importance of the senate in order to strengthen the executive branch into a tyranny?

    That’s not what they’re doing. They’re only strengthening the executive branch when it’s occupied by a useful fascist. They would have thrown the book at a Democrat president. They’ve discovered they’re not accountable to anyone. They can say on video they’re not going to be fair jurors and they’ll coordinate with the White House and face zero consequences for it.

  5. monad says

    Seriously, what precedent? The Republicans explicitly don’t consider anything they did to Clinton or Obama to determine what is appropriate for Trump. They won’t consider any of their defenses of Trump to apply to any Democratic successor of his. They believe in power, not precedents.

  6. jrkrideau says

    “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.”

    Legislators, especially US ones, do not seem too intelligent though other nationalities are in fast pursuit.

    A few years ago Louisiana instititud some kind of “independent school” voucher clearly intended to subsidize “Christian” schools. The first applicant was reported to be a Muslim mosque in New Orleans.

  7. unclefrogy says

    is this what it is like when we are no longer the leader of the free world?
    will “hail to the chief” become hail Caesar? just as we become just another “market” a large one but not a growing one but one ripe with the corruption that make the rich richer?
    I would like to think that the old saying “it will have to get worse before it gets any better” is true but it don’t feel like it today.
    uncle frogy

  8. weylguy says

    America is the most corrupt and dangerous nation on Earth. The corruption is not widespread, but highly concentrated in the Republican Party and the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the U.S. government.

    The worst part is that they all tend to be professed and devout followers of Jesus Christ.

  9. Allison says

    America is the most corrupt and dangerous nation on Earth.

    Not so sure about that. It’s got a lot of stiff competition for that “honor”

    (Though maybe “dangerous,” given the huge number of weapons, including probably the largest collection of WMDs in the world.)

  10. tedw says

    “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Where have I heard that one before?

  11. aronymous says

    This morning Thom Hartmann mentioned that even retiring senators aren’t standing up to Trump. Since they aren’t going to be voted out of office, why? They are afraid of Trump’s fanatical gun-nut and violent supporters. They are afraid for their lives and the lives of their families. Sounds about right to me.

  12. says

    If Trump is cleared, then could this not set a precedent for the Democratic Party presidential nominee to ask foreign nations to loon into Trump’s own dealings?

  13. springa73 says

    tedw @14

    Yeah, but Nixon would have killed for a Republican Party as subservient and shameless as the current one.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 9 unclefrogy

    …when we are no longer the leader of the free world?

    Sorry unclefroggy, those days are long gone if they ever did exist other that US propagandist minds. It was always which bolly makes a better gang leader.

  15. says

    A few of them probably feel a little bad that everything has been handed over to Trump, but turning the presidency into an untouchable, all-powerful imperial throne is a long-cherished project, one which both parties have helped out with for decades. Thing is, they didn’t think anybody but technocratic insiders like Mitt Romney, the Bushes (with help from Cheney), or the Clintons or Obamas would be the ones to lower the boom and take us into full-bore authoritarian rule. The idea was always that the knife would slice downward only, so long as somebody “tasteful” was in charge. Trump’s sudden accession to the Presidency was unforeseen — at least by technocratic insiders.

    And you can see it: the Republicans have been pushing for this since Reagan at the latest. The Democrats voted for all of Bush’s fascist shit for years — the PATRIOT Act, the open-ended declaration of war in 2001, the creation of the DHS and ICE… Obama continued Bush’s “signing statements” and had a “kill list” and assassinated a US citizen without trial and Democrats were fine with it because they pictured Mitt Romney or Hillary Clinton getting in next to continue the envelope-pushing work, who would only use the jackboots on people who didn’t matter and maintain the pretense of civilization. Now there’s a vindictive toddler in control, blowing all the gaffs and proving all the naysayers right. It’s darkly hilarious, we can laugh at it while we die — the official recognition that we live in a dictatorship wasn’t supposed to happen for a few more electoral cycles, and it was supposed to happen after all the dystopian shit like the Ring surveillance doorbells and Clearview AI was all too much a fait accompli to be challenged. We were all supposed to shrug and say “well, there’s nothing to be done” the way many people do about online privacy.

    The party reactions are exactly up to expectations, too: the Republicans think party loyalty will save them, so they’re just going along to get along, while the Democrats are suddenly waking up to the fact that they’ve been weaving ropes for their own necks for 30 years and are flailing around in outrage. Had the Democrats nominated somebody of Trump’s general demeanor — Lyndon LaRouche, say — and won in 2016, the positions would be exactly reversed.

    As with so much else: this is what the Centrists thought they wanted, and cooperated with Republicans to carry out for decades, and it’s a fucking disaster and always was going to be one, but they’re kicking and screaming and — as you can see from #17 above — desperately trying to pretend it’s everybody’s fault but their own.

  16. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 oddie
    I was tired last night and it was a madrasa, of course not a mosque.

    I don’t know what happened but I think the madrassa withdrew the application. The last thing I remember reading about it, some appalled “Christian” representative was muttering “My constituents will never understand.

  17. jrkrideau says

    @ 18 coreyschlueter

    …could this not set a precedent for the Democratic Party presidential nominee to ask foreign nations to loon into Trump’s own dealings?

    Given the way Trump has treated most countries I doubt if they will wait to be asked. There are probably small, elite, teams in most countries’ justice departments beavering away as I type. If you mainly read/watch/listen to the US media, I doubt you can grasp how mucd Trump is dispised, disliked, and often hated in the rest of the world.

  18. Saad says


    If Trump is cleared, then could this not set a precedent for the Democratic Party presidential nominee to ask foreign nations to loon into Trump’s own dealings?

    No, because Republicans would definitely go for impeachment and removal (and they won’t hold back and play soft like wimpy Democrats do) and so would most Democrats.

  19. Ridana says

    It doesn’t matter what “precedent” this sets, since only Democrats will be bound by it. Republicans can just change their tune as it suits them, just as they have in these proceedings compared to what they were saying during Clinton’s impeachment trial. To Republicans, words only mean what they say they mean at that moment, and can change on a dime as necessary, often within the same sentence. They’ve learned that denial always works, even when confronted in the moment that what they just said was a lie, so they’ll still deny.

    Since they’ve made sure to game the voter pool, and have done nothing to protect the vote, and everything to make it hackable, they have nothing to fear.

  20. Ridana says

    That was supposed to say, “even when confronted in the moment with the video/audio evidence that what they just said was a lie…”

  21. komarov says

    Sorry, but was anyone expecting something to come out of this? Some sort consequences or sanction for Trump, perhaps? Or is everyone just suprised by how blatant this charade has been? Because “blatant” is the key word to describe this entire presidency.

    As for the precedent this may set, I’ll second others here. “Precedent” does not apply to a political party that has no integrity, no accountability and is guided solely by (generally short-term) self-interest. If this situation were ever to repeat with reversed sides and someone brought up Trump, the stance would be, “That was then, this is now, and this is completely different because we said so.”

  22. wzrd1 says

    Welcome to the New Empire, where Trump suspends elections, due to National Emergency of his choice, Emperor, erm, President for Life!
    To be inherited by an anointed child…
    Next up, military mutiny, militias “enforcing” rape, erm, order, cities burning and eventually, an exchange of 1550 thermonuclear warheads when things get serious for the Emperor.

  23. harryblack says

    Precedent doesnt really matter anyway. They will straight faced say its totally different if a democrat does something they dont like and they will vote to impeach. They are covered either way.
    The whole “but if we do x against someone I disagree with, whats to stop them doing the same to someone I agree with” instinct needs to go away. Because unless you (not necessarily ‘you’ PZ!) have been asleep, you must know that they will do what they want regardless and make up the most insultingly flimsy excuses for it.
    What is to stop them? Nothing except overwhelming political power and in some cases being physically restrained.

  24. velociraptor says


    And staying home and/or voting for Jill Stein got you what, exactly? The ‘BUTBOTHSIDES’ plays into the hands of the Fascists, and people like you are enabling them.

    Answer this: Would a Clinton Presidency have nominated a turd like Kavanaugh to the SCOTUS, and any number of Federalist Society trash to lifetime appointments to lower courts? Would it have rolled back environmental protections? Would it be trying to strip millions of Americans of their health care?




    Form your circular firing squad if you must, just remember that everything you claim to hold dear was/is at stake.

  25. canadiansteve says

    Velociraptor @32
    Save your hatred for those who voted for this, not for those that refused to play a rigged game.
    – If HRC had been elected, she would have faced a republican congress and senate and would not have been able to get any judges appointed anyway, not any other legislation that would have been asked for
    – HRC never gave more than lipservice to environmental protections anyway
    – HRC was in favor of greater control of the health care industry by insurance and pharmaceutical companies – would have been about the same result as DJT

    A HRC victory would have strengthened the plutocratic side of the DNC and weakened the progressive side, setting back at least 4 years, if not 8, the development of policies to actually deal with the myriad of problems in the US economy. And during that time the republicans would have continued to build their systems up and next time have gotten a much better candidate to front their machine than the incompetent clown they have
    I remain convinced the democratic party will not be reformed, and that the USA will be a failed state before the year 2100 (I think damage caused by coastal flooding will be the tipping point) but I think that HRC losing actually gave a small opening for progressives to at least try and get in, whereas if HRC got elected no such opening would have existed.

  26. velociraptor says


    Utter hogwash. ‘Refused to play a rigged game’? GMAFB. You didn’t answer my point though – what did ‘not playing’, voting for Stein, Sanders or Harambe get you? Lemme ‘splain something to you. If you don’t show up, they win. Period.

    Because they DO show up. Being pissy because your special hero didn’t win the nomination and not pragmatic is a big part of why we are in the situation we are.

    Again, everything you claim to hold dear is at stake, and even more so now than it was in 2016.

  27. logicalcat says

    Rigged game? Lol.
    Hillary won because theres way to many bernie supporters who are in love woth their own antiestablishmentarian title than they care about changing the system and didnt vote. She won 3 million more votes than bernie.

    At the end of the day having two democrats back to back would have forced the rnc to peddle leftward in order to stay politicaly relevant instead of it being the other way around.

    Ill say this a million time and will never be tired of saying it. We can learn one thing from the Right wingers. When their party wasnt right wing enough they didnt come up with “the system is rigged man”. No they voted in that system and got what they want. And they did this for decades. The left is where it is now because they are politicaly incompetent.

  28. canadiansteve says

    velociraptor & logicalcat
    You two need to realize – the problem may have been 1% lack of Bernie support, but it was 99% HRC problems that caused her not to get elected.

    How many campaign stops in critical swing states?
    How many comments that she favored banksters over ordinary folk?
    How much condescension to those she desperately needed to support her?
    How much support for imperial adventurism?

    I’m not talking about rigged primaries when I say rigged system, I am talking about a rigged economy and rigged political system where ordinary peoples’ concerns aren’t addressed, but the wealthy, the profiteering, and the politically connected get everything they ask for and more. The mood in the US is incredibly anti-establishment because of this.
    Trump is a clown, but he ran as anti-establishment (liar yes, but that was his platform) whereas HRC ran as status quo – establishment poster woman.Despite this, HRC still won far more votes than Trump because he was just so terrible. Imagine if she had just made a few campaign stops in a couple of critical states.

    But go ahead, blame Bernie bros.

  29. velociraptor says

    #35 Very well stated. It will, of course be lost on people like #33.

    #36 – you still haven’t answered my original question. What did your obstinance get you? I’ll tell you, again – a stacked Judiciary filled with Federalist Society trash for decades. Since you seem to be the type that misses the point unless it is applied to your head with a sledgehammer, here it is again:

    One party wants to take healthcare from millions.

    One does not.

  30. canadiansteve says

    My obstinance matters exactly zero – I live in Canada and have single payer healthcare.

    My point is not the relative merits of the two parties – but rather that the situation the USA finds itself in is not the fault of Bernie Sanders or his bros, nor people who refused to vote for corruption, but rather the fault of the DNC for deciding to back a clearly flawed candidate in an election because they thought they had already won.

    Secondly, I disagree with your premise. I think both parties in the US do not want effective health care, it’s just that the democrats are better at pretending they care about it, and furthermore I claim that a neoliberal democratic president, facing a republican senate and congress, would have caved to every republican demand, and the few judges successfully appointed may not have been social conservatives, but certainly would have backed corporate rights over people.

  31. publicola says

    Conservatives seem to come in two varieties: those that believe in hard work, personal responsibility and law and order, while tolerating other points of view(as do most mods and libs); and those who are only interested in control– control of power, wealth, and behavior. It’s this second type that has a stranglehold on our society. They not only want to maintain their own power/status, they want to take away ours. They not only want to maintain their own wealth, they want ours, too. They want to control our behavior while doing whatever they want.They will try to get away with as much as they can. So, no, they don’t give a damn about the country because they are insulated against the harm they cause. They run for office in order to control things to their advantage, not to govern. Their only concern is getting re-elected so that they can maintain this control. The last years of the Roman Republic were like this– Caesar, Crassus and Pompey their analog to Trump, Barr and McConnell. Next came civil war and the Second Triumvirate, then, finally, the Imperium. We must bring down the Oligarchy while we still can.