In one of his many outbursts of utterly phony outrage at an irrefutable prosecution point, Trump impeachment defense counsel Bruce Castor, waving his arms, looked around frantically, and exclaimed “Jiminy Crickets!”. Ever the researcher, I made an effort to determine the meaning of this lawyerly proclamation.
Jiminy Cricket is a fictional character created by Italian writer Carlo Collodi for his 1883 children’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio, adapted by Disney into an animated film in 1940. The story is about a wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy, and is accompanied through childhood by a wisecracking cricket, appointed by the Blue Fairy, who follows Pinocchio on his adventures as his official conscience. Jiminy continually scolds Pinnocchio about his habitual lying, so he can achieve his dream and transform himself from a wooden puppet into a real boy. In the film, Jiminy sings “When You Wish Upon a Star“, which became Disney’s famous signature song.
But of course that’s just a cartoon. In the modern, real world version of the story, former President Donald Trump’s adventure in his second impeachment trial, it worked the other way, as Mr. Trump, the irrepressible liar, transformed his legal defense counsel into a wooden puppet, lying his way from one end of the trial to the other.
The House Prosecution team advanced its step-by-step timeline of Trump’s long march to January 6th; inciting violence at his campaign rallies beginning in 2016; continuing through his entire administration; insisting on election fraud through the 2020 campaign; continuing after his loss at the polls; whipping his base into a riotous frenzy January 6th; then egging them on to the Capitol invasion; continuing still as top Congressional leadership frantically demanded he call off his violent mob; remaining defiant in his lie about the election still.
Trump’s impeachment defense counsel, unable to refute any of the overwhelming and devastating evidence against his client, became more and more frantic, sarcastic, disparaging the House Prosecutors; continuing tactics of delay, distraction, disruption and obstruction; manufacturing and repeating false arguments faster than prosecutors could defeat them; insisting variously that Antifa led the riot and then that the rioters were bringing religion to the Capitol; continually denigrating all of the prosecution’s irrefutable evidence as “Fraud”; “Made Up”; “Fabricated”; “Hoax”; “Fable”; “Charade”; “Vendetta”; “Doctored”; “Phony”; declaring the impeachment shows Trump “has no first amendment rights”; denying the riot was an insurrection against the government, then later stating it was, but insisting Trump “had nothing to do with it”.
Then, in his final summary, Trump’s attorney asked the Senators to focus on four specific points of the defense, all devastated by evidence and law, as presented at trial:
- Trial Not Constitutional – The Constitution empowers the Senate to make this determination, and they did, by vote of the Senate, as supported by logic, by the Constitution, by impeachment precedent, and by all current Constitutional scholarship.
- Freedom of Speech – Trump is not protected by his first amendment rights in inciting violent insurrection against the government; criminal law standards do not apply to impeachment of a President in dereliction of the duty he is bound to by his oath of office.
- Division of Charges – A technical criticism that each specific charge in the impeachment article must be separated so they can be voted separately.
- Due Process – The U.S. Senate is empowered by the Constitution to conduct an impeachment trial under specific procedures and rules that it determines; continual reference to criminal and civil court trial procedures is not relevant.
The simple truth is there is no defense, or it would have been offered. Equally clear, no amount of evidence, testimony or documentation would have convinced more than a few Republicans to vote to convict Trump, as they pronounced prior to the trial, because they are afraid of Trump and his base of voters.
One scrum occurred at the very end of the trial, after defense counsel, waiving his arms and pounding the air, furiously demanded evidence of Trump’s dereliction of duty to protect the government’s leadership after it was clear they were endangered by Trump’s mob. A late-publicized call from a frantic Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, trapped in his office as rioters were breaking in, angrily demanding Trump call off his violent mob, revealed that Trump refused to do so. When the Senate voted to hear from witnesses about this account, defense counsel immediately threatened to call 100 witnesses to his office in Philadelphia for depositions, causing an outburst of laughter from the jury of Senators.
After the vote to acquit, Mitch McConnell took the floor and made a stunning, lengthy statement, condemning Trump’s heinous acts, stating Trump was “personally, practically and morally responsible” for the attack, based on his “intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories . . . endorsement of wild myths of catastrophic results of a secret coup” . . . “continuing his unconscionable, thundering attacks as the mob assaulted the capitol in his name, under his banners, screaming loyalty to him, beating cops” . . . “only Trump could end it . . . his aids begged him . . . allies called him . . . and he did not act . . . he did not do his job . . . he watched television, happy as the chaos unfolded . . . even after his own Vice President was in danger . . . he did not tell the mob to leave . . . his mob interpreted his tweets as further inspiration . . . his half hearted call for peace only came later . . . even then he kept repeating his lies” . . . “his voters’ support is not a shield against criticism . . . this is an insult to millions of voters . . . one person provoked their rage . . . in order to overturn the result of an election . . . or torch our institutions on the way out.”
After re-making the prosecution case for Trump’s absolute guilt in inciting an insurrection against the government of the United States, just minutes after the vote for acquittal, McConnell went on to construct the thinnest of arguments for his – and the other Republicans – vote to acquit Trump. That is the argument, defeated ad nauseam, that the Constitution did not allow an impeachment of the President after he leaves office. Again, the Senate is empowered to decide this point, and did so by vote of the full Senate, but McConnell hangs his position on the thin reed that many Republicans do not believe it. Even though it was McConnell, as Majority Leader, who delayed the trial until after Trump’s term of office expired. Another twisted interpretation of Constitutional law, for the purpose of protecting, not Trump, but himself and fellow Republican Senators, who are so wholly intimidated by Trump’s angry and devoted voter base, that they threatened McConnell’s position as leader of their party after the next mid-term election they hope to win.
And so Donald Trump remains defiant, continuing his insistence that he won the election; his government-in-exile decamped to Mar-A-Lago, holding a $250 million campaign slush fund, determined to punish his political enemies, and to reactivate his voter base, vowing to continue his political crusade.
This is as close as America has ever come to its own Reichstag fire; an effort at a coup attempt by assault on the parliament; blaming of a third political actor; near assassination of senior government officials; to undoubtedly have been followed by declaration of emergency powers. Somehow, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican Party, has found a way to publicly declare Trump guilty of all charges, while constructing an illegitimate excuse to acquit him. This is a complete betrayal of our Constitution and our Republic. We will only know later if this was a historic, momentous fracture in our system, another step in the complete breakdown of our democratic institutions. But what we know with certainty now is that the Republicans’ acquittal of Donald Trump for impeachable crimes they acknowledge he committed, represents the political endorsement of the legitimacy of mob rule, truly a defining moment for the Republican Party, and for America.
I think that Trump is so damaged by his own public conduct over the past five years that he will never be re-elected to public office. But if this is not the future that unfolds, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans will never be absolved of their own dereliction of duty under their own oaths to protect and defend our Constitution. In the meantime, I am suggesting that all KULTURONOMY readers contact the Blue Fairy, and request rapid dispatch of a reinforcement of singing crickets, to provide a conscience to the nation’s Republican leadership, so that they will stop lying about all matters of our politics, and they can become real public servants.