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America Is Lucky Bolton Didn’t Testify During Impeachment

It's better to suspect that the Constitution is deeply imperiled than to remove all doubt.
June 19, 2020
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(Ilustration by Hannah Yoest / photos: GettyImages)

1. Better Lucky Than Good

I’m going to swerve on John Bolton’s initial revelations:

America is tremendously lucky that Bolton did not testify during impeachment.

Walk down that road with me for a moment and pretend that Bolton had testified, under oath, to everything that’s in his book.

Now ask yourself: After intaking that information, how many Republican senators would have voted to convict President Trump on the articles of impeachment?

My guess: One.

That’s it. I do not believe that any of this information would have changed a single Republican vote.

So in that timeline, the Senate would have ratified not just Trump’s Ukraine scheme, but even worse as acceptable behavior by an American president.

The practical effect of which would have been to reduce the constitutional mechanism of impeachment to its component atoms with no hope—none—of every reconstituting it.

Instead, we are now in a timeline where, in theory, Republican senators who voted to acquit Trump can say,

“Gosh golly gee, I had no idea the president had done such wicked things. If only only I had known, then of course I would have voted to convict.”

This won’t be true and in any case, I suspect that most Senate R’s won’t take that line.

But it’s there for them if they want it. It’s a viable position.

And if they were to take it it would at least leave open the theoretical possibility that the U.S. Senate is willing to impose some oversight on the actions of the chief executive.

Better to keep your mouth shut than remove all doubt, etc. etc.

Yes, I’m grasping at straws. Yes, this is a distinction with very little difference.

But I think about Bolton’s possible testimony the same way I think about the possibility of finding a tape of Trump saying the n-word:

If it had happened, then Republicans would have defended it and it would have collapsed yet another set of norms.

By not having it, we can at least hope that, at some point in the future, some of these norms might be restored.

2. Pandemic Reminder

I know it’s hard to keep track of, with everything going on, but there is still a pandemic.

Every six days right now, COVID-19 is killing about as many Americans as were killed on 9/11.

And this week our official death toll surpassed the number of U.S. dead in World War 1.

It’s very hard to get our arms around what the real state of play is on the virus. Looking at numbers of confirmed new infections is a function of testing, as well as infection rates. Looking at number of hospitalizations is a function of behavior and availability.