Democrats were wrong to silence impeachment witnesses

ADVERTISEMENT

America needed to hear Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. We needed to hear her voice, repeating what the former president said to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the Capitol was under siege.

In one of the bravest moves we have seen in politics lately, the Republican congresswoman from Washington state was willing to go on record and tell what she knew about Donald Trump’s state of mind during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

She stepped forward on her own and asked that others whom she knew had similar information find the courage to do the same. Perhaps some would have done so, if given the chance.

Clear from beginning

Beutler deserved an opportunity to speak under oath, clearing all doubt that she was telling the truth. She deserved her moment in history as someone willing to put country before politics, even if it made her an outcast in her own party.

But Democrats would not allow it. Though they held the power to give her a voice, they chose to silence her. They decided that compromise was better than fortitude.

The quest for bipartisanship has always been the Democrats’ Achilles’ heel.

It was clear from the beginning that Democrats would lose their case against Trump. Not even a video deposition from Herrera Beutler would have persuaded Republican senators to impeach the former president they hold so dear.

But the House managers put on a convincing case. After the Democrats’ presentation, every Republican senator knew that Trump had not only incited the riot but did nothing to stop it even when his own vice president’s life was in danger.

Beutler’s account

Uncertainty was not the issue. Cowardice was. On the eve of closing arguments, Beutler threw them a lifeline. She confirmed in a tweet that McCarthy had spoken with her and other Republicans about the tense telephone conversation he had with Trump as rioters were swarming the Capitol.

McCarthy called Trump from his office to ask him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, Herrera Beutler said. Initially, Trump falsely claimed that the rioters were far-left antifa members. But McCarthy insisted that they were Trump supporters, she said.

“That’s when, according to McCarthy, Trump responded, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” her statement said.

The congresswoman said she had shared the conversation with her constituents many times in an effort to explain why she was among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13.

She called on others to come forward too.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she tweeted.

Beutler told CNN that she believed Trump’s lack of a response during the insurrection confirms where his mind was at the time.

“That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn’t care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry,” she said.

Beutler denied

But rather than allow Beutler to give a deposition on Zoom that could be played during the trial, Democrats decided it would be just as effective for an impeachment manager to read it into the record.

That’s what Republicans wanted.

It was not in the GOP’s interest to have a witness that would force them to further justify an acquittal they knew Trump did not deserve. They could not risk a prolonged trial that might allow others to step forward and tell the truth.

They wanted a compromise, and Democrats, as they always do, accommodated them. Democrats could then boast that the vote, 57 guilty to 43 not guilty — though not enough to convict — was the most bipartisan impeachment vote ever.

It should be clear to Democrats by now that the GOP has no interest in working with them. As far as Republicans are concerned, compromise means getting Democrats to give in to whatever Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants.

The McConnell barricade

McConnell has no intention of working with Democrats on any issues. He made that clear on Feb. 13.

After the trial, McConnell admitted that he believes Trump is guilty, yet he voted to acquit him on a technicality.

“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said.

“Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”

Still, he decided that in this case, the question was moot “because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.”

Perhaps McConnell thought that speech would make him appear heroic for standing up to Trump. Instead, McConnell laid out a case for why Democrats must never trust him.

Deserved her moment

In other words, McConnell said, “I know right from wrong, but I will never do the right thing. I am a political demagogue who loves power. Everything I do over the next two years will be about regaining my control in the Senate.

“I have no intention of working on behalf of the American people. I will only do what’s in my own best interest.”

In that regard, he is no different from Trump.

Herrera Beutler could not have changed McConnell’s vote, or any other Republican’s. But hearing her speak would have restored a fraction of the confidence Americans have lost in the political system. It would have made us feel a bit better about the future.

McConnell, McCarthy and politicians like them represent the worst of Washington. Herrera Beutler represents the best of it.

She deserved a chance to speak. And Americans deserved the chance to hear everything she had to say.

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

ADVERTISEMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here