Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Image: AP/Gerald Herbert)

Donald Trump keeps making history — this time around it’s as the only person to be tried twice for impeachment by the US Senate.

His defenders, of course, have condemned the proceedings. They argue the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. They claim his first amendment right to free speech protects him. They deny he violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States by inciting a mob to storm the Capitol.

All this is utter nonsense. Trump hasn’t just left a trail of evidence confirming his culpability; with his own words and actions he has all but delivered a signed confession.

None of this matters to the outcome. That is preordained. It is clear to everyone that the fix is in. Trump will be acquitted, albeit by a minority of senators.

Therein lies the real sham. His supporters have decried the prosecution as a show trial, harking back to the concocted hearings during Stalin’s great purge, or the theatrical rantings of the Nazi judge Roland Freisler who presided over the People’s Court.

But they overlook a glaring distinction: those infamous tribunals were condemned as show trials because conviction was a given. Their purpose was to use the power of the state to crush opposition. Evidence was immaterial. Innocence was not an option.

Trump’s impeachment case is the mirror image. His guilt will be whitewashed, regardless of the facts.

Upon receiving the article of impeachment from the House of Representatives, every senator was required to take the following oath: “I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, then now former president of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws, so help me god.”

Despite this pledge, Republican senators have openly advocated on Trump’s behalf even before any testimony. In a genuinely fair and impartial case, this would be cause for immediate disqualification to sit in judgment. At the very least, such naked conflicts of interest would require jurists to recuse themselves. This won’t happen.

On the trial’s opening day, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida busied themselves with paperwork, paying scant attention to the evidence and barely glancing at the video highlights of the January 6 insurrection. They have only one Florida constituent on their minds. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the maskless libertarian physician, doodled on a notepad. Together with eight of their GOP colleagues, they rejected even the proposed trial rules, which had been agreed earlier on a bipartisan basis between the respective party leaders.

Just one month ago a horned, bare-chested self-professed shaman carrying a spear sat in the presiding officer’s chair in their Senate chamber while these same senators cowered in a bunker. Now they won’t even pretend to care.

How far the world’s greatest deliberative body has sunk.

Trump could admit to the charges against him on the Senate floor and he would still be acquitted.

But the senators won’t hear from him. Unlike an actual show trial, the defendant is not even required to attend this pantomime. A more apt description would be a no-show trial.

There was a brief window in the aftermath of the insurrection when some Republican senators wavered. On January 19 Mitch McConnell, then Senate majority leader, denounced Trump for instigating the riot.

“The mob was fed lies,” he said. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

This was a powerful signal of intent and a direct acknowledgment of Trump’s culpability. It was clear McConnell saw this moment as an opportunity to break Trump’s grip on the Republican Party. But it didn’t last. Base voters lashed out at their leaders, and their leaders folded. As Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Marjorie Taylor Greene have all declared, the GOP is Trump’s party now.

In the real world we don’t allow juries to be rigged, defendants not to appear at trial, and laws to be blatantly ignored. But in Trumpworld anything goes.

While America is moving on under President Joe Biden, Trump still has enough Stockholm senators in his pocket to escape justice. Again.

When Trump declared that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any voters, we laughed at the absurdity of that notion. No one is laughing now.