Defenseless

Defemse

Renato Mariotti, The President Has No Defense: After the Ukrainian envoy’s bombshell testimony, the best Trump can hope for is mercy.

Mr. Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor. His observations are not strikingly original, but nevertheless merit attention—at least attention by me, because they are very much in line with what I have written. Mariotti writes, in part,

If I were one of the president’s lawyers, I would counsel him to admit the obvious—essentially to plead guilty and admit this was, in fact, a quid pro quo—and try and convince Congress and the public that it is not as bad as it looks. In my experience, defendants who stubbornly try to deny the obvious in the face of overwhelming evidence rarely convince anyone. 

Pompeo has a lot of explaining to do. When interviewed on Sunday by George Stephanopoulos, Pompeo looked like a deer in the headlights, awkwardly pausing and refusing to answer fundamental questions about his role. Pompeo argues executive privilege, and it’s unlikely a court battle to compel his testimony would be resolved quickly, but pressure could mount for his testimony as the impeachment inquiry advances. Unlike some others in Trump’s inner circle, Pompeo has future political aspirations and reportedly has weighed a run for U.S. Senate in Kansas. He can’t afford to be Trump’s fall guy.

Neither can Sondland, who in his prior testimony didn’t display the defiance and disdain that characterized the Congressional testimony of Trump allies like former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Taylor’s testimony was full of damaging details about Sondland, like his insistence that calls with Zelensky were not transcribed. In Taylor’s account, Sondland comes off like someone trying to hide conduct that he knew was wrongful.He will have difficulty explaining why our nation’s envoy to Ukraine was not permitted to read the transcript of Zelensky’s call with Trump until it was released publicly two months after the fact.

It is clear from Taylor’s testimony that more is to come. A smart defense team would get ahead of this by admitting that there was a quid pro quo, falling back to the argument advanced by some on the right like Tucker Carlson—that the conduct was wrong but that impeachment is too severe of a remedy.

If Republicans quickly admitted what Trump did but insisted that they wanted the American people to decide Trump’s fate in [November], they might reduce the damage and move past this episode, assuming they had the votes in the U.S. Senate to prevent conviction. If Trump refuses to allow them to adopt that strategy, he becomes Republicans’ own worst enemy. Because if Taylor’s testimony is any guide, they will reach that point eventually, and the road getting there will be rocky for the administration. [emphasis added]

That’s Thinking One Step Ahead in the Chess Game. What About a Couple of Steps More?

There’s going to be a trial in the Senate.

Who on God’s green earth is going to be lead counsel for the defense—charged with putting on a coherent case that a third grader of modest intelligence might possibly believe?

And who will Trump’s witnesses be? Giuliani? Mulvaney? Sondland? Pompeo?

A Really Big Shew

As Ed Sullivan used to say, it’s going to be a really big shew.