As a cer­tain pres­i­dent might say, the trial was, well, ‘rigged!’

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Twit­ter, @Mil­bank.

In the end, they didn’t even pre­tend to take their oaths se­ri­ously.

Sen­a­tors were in­structed “to be in at­ten­dance at all times” dur­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s im­peach­ment trial. But as the Demo­cratic House man­agers made their last, fruit­less ap­peals Fri­day for the Se­nate to bring wit­nesses and doc­u­ments, sev­eral of the body’s 53 Repub­li­can sen­a­tors didn’t even bother to show up.

“A trial is sup­posed to be a quest for the truth,” lead man­ager Adam Schiff (N.Y.) pleaded.

Thir­teen GOP sen­a­tors were miss­ing as he said this. Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Ron John­son (Wis.) chewed gum.

Man­ager Val Dem­ings (Fla.) re­minded them that this would be the “only time in history” that an im­peach­ment trial was held with­out wit­nesses or rel­e­vant doc­u­ments.

Twelve Repub­li­can sen­a­tors were miss­ing. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Dan Sul­li­van (Alaska) and Tom Cot­ton (Ark.) joined in the chew­ing.

“The Amer­i­can people de­serve to hear the truth,” in­sisted man­ager Sylvia Gar­cia (Tex.). By now, 15 Repub­li­can sen­a­tors were miss­ing.

Man­ager Ha­keem Jef­fries (N.Y.) spoke from the well. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wear­ing cot­ton chi­nos for the oc­ca­sion, pe­rused a magazine.

“Please don’t give up,” man­ager Zoe Lof­gren (Calif.) urged. “This is too important.”

At the start of the im­peach­ment trial, Trump’s Se­nate al­lies limited me­dia cov­er­age to hide from pub­lic scru­tiny. Then they made sure the trial would end with­out a sin­gle wit­ness called or a sin­gle doc­u­ment re­quested. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the clinch­ing vote against wit­nesses, de­clared be­fore Fri­day’s ses­sion be­gan, “I don’t be­lieve the con­tin­u­a­tion of this process will change any­thing.”

It was all over but the shout­ing. And now sev­eral of those who had rushed Trump to­ward ac­quit­tal wouldn’t even grant the cour­tesy of lis­ten­ing to the House man­agers. (They re­turned, cu­ri­ously, when Trump’s de­fend­ers had their turn in the well; Paul put away his magazine.)

This was an ugly end to an ugly trial. It be­gan with bold promises by the pres­i­dent’s lawyers to prove there was no quid pro quo in his deal­ings with Ukraine. When for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton’s man­u­script, with first­hand ev­i­dence of the quid pro quo, made that im­pos­si­ble, key Repub­li­cans fell back to a new po­si­tion: Trump’s guilt doesn’t mat­ter.

“There is no need for more ev­i­dence to con­clude that the pres­i­dent with­held United States aid, at least in part, to pres­sure Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens; the House man­agers have proved this,” Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., de­clared late Thurs­day. But the choice of “what to do about what he did,” Alexan­der said, should be “in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

What an el­e­gant solution! He ac­cepts that Trump is guilty of cheat­ing in the elec­tion — and, there­fore, his fate should be determined by the very elec­tion in which he has cheated.

It’s like a sprinter, caught dop­ing be­fore a com­pe­ti­tion, be­ing told his fate would be determined by hav­ing him run the race.

Rigged!

Now that the Se­nate has ac­cepted the White House ar­gu­ment that Trump’s cheat­ing in the elec­tion is “per­fectly per­mis­si­ble,” why wouldn’t Trump con­tinue to cheat? Why would any­body have faith that the 2020 elec­tion will be on the level?

But on the Se­nate floor, those on the GOP side who both­ered to at­tend (the Demo­cratic side was largely full through­out the day) were tran­quil. Cory Gard­ner (Colo.) edited some text.

John Neely Kennedy (La.) looked at news clip­pings and a bar graph. Mike Lee (Utah) tapped his watch and stud­ied its glow­ing screen. John Bar­rasso (Wyo.) struck up a chat. Oth­ers bus­ied them­selves with read­ing.

At the start of Fri­day’s ses­sion, Se­nate Chap­lain Barry Black re­minded the sen­a­tors that “we reap what we sow.”

In their cow­ardly, 51-to-49 vote Fri­day even­ing to speed a guilty pres­i­dent on his way to a hasty ac­quit­tal while sup­press­ing the ev­i­dence, Trump’s pro­tec­tors planted the seeds of a poi­sonous har­vest in Novem­ber.

In their cow­ardly vote to speed a guilty pres­i­dent on his way to a hasty ac­quit­tal while sup­press­ing the ev­i­dence, Trump’s pro­tec­tors planted the seeds of a poi­sonous har­vest in Novem­ber.

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