The least-surprising verdict in recent history came down this past week when President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate after an impeachment trial that was never needed nor in any doubt.
The constitutionally mandated 67 votes to remove the president were never going to be there and the only real question was whether there would be any Republican defections. (Mitt Romney of Utah, wringing his hands a bit for historical effect, managed to get a little more press coverage out of the whole shebang by voting “yes” on one of the two counts.)
The trial may have ended Wednesday, but for some people, the hope lives on and the dream shall never die. Two of these groups are the House Democrat impeachment managers and CNN hosts — and in an interview that aired Friday, the two had a meeting of the minds (such as they may be) in which the impeachment managers declared Trump really hadn’t been acquitted, even though he had been just two days earlier.
The seven members of the team sat down with Anderson Cooper on Friday and two arguments for the non-acquittalness of the acquittal:
First, the trial hadn’t been fair, the managers argued, presumably because they weren’t allowed to run the trial like the Marx Brothers routine the House impeachment inquiry had been. Second, the president hadn’t been “exonerated” by the trial — a linguistic conflation of “exoneration” and “acquittal” that’s more than a little misleading.
CNN head Jeff Zucker said in October that Fox News was “akin to state-run TV” because of its slant, so imagine what he must think of this sentence in CNN’s meta-news writeup of the sit-down in which the writer described the president’s post-acquittal address: “The next day, Trump took a victory lap in a vindictive White House speech in which he gave no indication that he considered his actions wrong or regrettable.”
Because Trump “gave no indication that he considered his actions wrong or regrettable,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York gave us the usual spiel about the president being emboldened because Republicans didn’t vote their way.
“And absent any consequences, to the extent that he perceives the acquittal as an exoneration, it’s a fake exoneration,” Jeffries said. “But to the extent that the president perceives it as vindication of his bad behavior, his constitutional crime, his wrongdoing, then there is reason to believe that he will endeavor to do it again.”
The words “exoneration” and “acquittal” were put in close quarters not infrequently during the interview
“I think he’s not been exonerated,” California Rep. Zoe Lofgren said right off the bat.
When asked what she meant by that, Colorado Rep. Jason Crow helpfully mansplained for her: “It’s hard to have an acquittal without a fair trial.”
“And this was the first impeachment trial in American history where we didn’t have witnesses and documents,” Crow said.
“And I think the American people realize that, because, as we sit here right now, there are thousands of Americans walking into courthouses across the country, and they’re taking their oath, and they’re going to be sitting as jurors in trials. And they’re going to hear from witnesses and documents. And they’re asking themselves why Washington and Donald Trump should be any different. And, of course, the answer is, it shouldn’t. And they understand that.”
And they’re going to be asking themselves why are they not senators. And they’re going to be asking themselves why the accused wasn’t brought before them after an impeachment inquiry by the lower house of Congress. And they’re going to be asking themselves why that impeachment inquiry wasn’t rigged so that the accused had virtually no defenses during it.