Adam Schiff’s Closing Argument This Evening

The Joker

Where I come from, the point of an oral argument in court is not, mainly, to convince those who already agree with you: it is, instead, to convince (at least some of) those who disagree with you that you might be (at least partly) right after all.

I caught Adam Schiff’s one-hour prime time speech this evening. Many things might be said, but let me say only of them. The big difference between what Schiff said tonight and what the Republican team will say tomorrow lies in this: Schiff looked the opposition in the eye, implicitly expressed respect for their reason and fairness, and appeared to be actually trying to persuade some of them.

By contrast, beginning tomorrow, Dear Leader’s team will put on a show intended only to persuade the already persuaded, and to give the middle finger to everyone else. Trump’s case is really bad, and would present a problem for any defense lawyer. That said, I could gin up some arguments on his behalf that wouldn’t actually insult your intelligence. But the arguments we are going to hear will be stupid arguments intended only to appeal to stupid people.

A little search of the Google machine this evening shows that Schiff’s wicked strategy—actually trying to persuade the opposition with facts, logic, and appeals to morality, as distinguished from jumping up and down and whooping and hollering—is driving the wingnuts into a frenzy of fear and loathing.

With any luck, the exercise will give the Hogwarts sorting hat process a real kick in the pants. With any luck, white people with college degrees willing to support Brand Republican will become scarcer and scarcer.

Meanwhile, Gabe Sherman reports that all is not going well in Trumpworld. Delusional Don is not doing himself any good:

As Donald Trump’s defense team prepares to make its first arguments on the floor of the Senate on Saturday, top Republicans are increasingly worried that Trump’s lawyers are woefully unprepared to counter Democrats’ meticulous, fact-based case for removing Trump. In the president’s circle there’s not full-blown panic—but there’s worry. “A lot of Republicans think the Democrats have done a very good job,” a prominent Republican who is close to Trump’s legal team told me. “It’s been a lot better than we expected.” Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s fiercest House allies, seemingly spoke for many when he blasted Trump’s lawyers, telling Politico this week that the Trump team’s presentation was worse than “an eighth-grade book report.”

Trump himself is making the situation worse, both with his rages—he set a 142-tweet record on Wednesday—and his insistence that Republicans buy in fully to his defense strategy. “It’s really not helpful,” the Republican close to the legal team said. “Trump is mad at Republicans that they aren’t saying his call with [Volodymyr] Zelensky was perfect. He really thinks his call was perfect. It wasn’t.”

Removing Trump from office remains a distant outcome, but the dynamics of the Senate trial are clearly shifting in directions that are dangerous for the president. A new Emerson poll released on Thursday showed 51% of registered voters support removal, an uptick of two points. A Reuters poll published on Wednesday showed nearly three quarters of Americans want to hear new witnesses. The prospect that former national security adviser John Bolton would testify is alarming Republicans. (Trump and Bolton’s relationship is badly damaged. A day after Bolton left the administration in September, Trump raged that Bolton was “a liar and a leaker,” according to a person briefed on the conversation.) “If witnesses start coming and Bolton is negative, it could win some Republicans,” a source close to Trump told me. “Senators really dislike Trump and are tired of having to go to the mat for him on crazy, batshit stuff,” the source said. “We know if senators took a secret vote today, he’d be removed.”

Trump’s circle is waking up to the notion that impeachment is a serious drag on his campaign. “Impeachment is drowning out all his accomplishments,” a Republican insider said. But impeachment is only one aspect of the problem. Inside the campaign there is an intensifying debate between Trump and his advisers about whether the campaign should run on base-incitement issues like immigration or a moderate-appealing message about the economy that could win back suburban voters. “They’re all trying to get Trump to run on general election issues and not get caught up in side issues,” a source close to the campaign said. “But Trump is focused on other stuff and going after [Joe] Biden.”

The Bottom Line

Even if you are a bad person determined to do bad thing, it turns out that not knowing the difference between right and wrong is a fairly serious handicap in your struggle to achieve your evil ends.

Who knew?