10 February 2020

[Ellis Millsaps] - Some Observations on the Impeachment Proceedings

*ed. note: Da, Ellis, apparently sent this piece to me on Thursday Jan 30th but it must have slipped through the cracks; I never saw it in my inbox. Over the weekend he texted me asking about it & that’s when we realized what had happened. Regardless of it being somewhat outdated, it’s still a good, thoughtful piece, especially Da’s analysis of legal counsel, himself a longtime lawyer. My apologies to Ellis & the TPC readership for missing this one. Also, I know a fair amount of the TPC readership will not agree with Da’s conclusions, but that doesn’t matter. We are, after all, fair & balanced here. It’s what we do. As always, thanks for reading—MBM. 
I haven’t written anything since a week ago Tuesday—I write this on Thursday January 30---- because I’ve been in an impeachment bubble. I’ve watched all of it, from waking till bedtime, except for skipping some of the president’s lawyers’ defense which was hard to watch because I was so embarrassed for them. More on that to follow.

 I watch because I’m fascinated. I’ve been a politics junkie since I was an adolescent. I vividly remember that when NBC’s coverage of the 1972 Democratic National Convention ( which resulted in the nomination of George McGovern) ended, the closing credits were accompanied by ”The Times They Are a-Changin’.”

At 16 I watched with horror and enthrallment as Daley’s thugs beat innocent protesters in the streets of Chicago at the 1968 convention.

At 23 I watched the Nixon impeachment proceedings for months. I was watching when Alexander Butterfield made the jaw-dropping admission that all White House discussions were on tape. I watched Nixon resign.

 I didn’t watch much of the Clinton proceedings ( I had a job then) and although I thought he was doing a good job on the whole I favored his removal from office. Having sex with a young intern and lying under oath aren’t qualities we should tolerate from our president.

So you can imagine where I stand on this round, dangerous socialist that I am, but I’m not here today to proselytize. I have three observations that I’m not hearing from the talking heads.

The first comes from being a rock and roll enthusiast, and I’m apparently the only person in the world to have noticed it. In the opening paragraphs of Adam Shiff’s opening statement he turns the president’s rally song against him. In paragraph eight he says that the framers were concerned about a leader who “practiced in the art of deception” and when he said that I almost fell out of my chair.

“She was practiced at the art of deception/ Well, I could tell by her blood-stained hands.”

           Keith Richards/Mick Jagger ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Wan’t”

Mr Shiff didn’t randomly stumble onto that phrase. He might have independently arrived at “practiced deception,” but when he says “practiced in the art of deception” he knows he’s channeling Keith Richards. If someone else has noticed this it hasn’t appeared on the world wide web.  At least Google doesn’t seem to know.  Morning Joe Scarborough, himself a rock and roller, didn’t catch it nor did Ari Melber who is a veritable hip hop and rock and roll encyclopedia.  

My second observation is as a lawyer. Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, lawyers for the president, said things in their opening statement that they and the entire senate knew to be untrue. We now know that while saying these things (no direct evidence, etc.) they likely knew that in a few weeks John Bolton’s book would belie the bulk of their argument. For this they have my sympathy and admiration.

I know from bitter experience you sometimes are stuck with a client who won’t follow your advice, can’t see the handwriting on the wall, won’t plead guilty, won’t admit the obvious facts and throw themselves on the mercy of the court.

This client puts the lawyer in the position of having to make an argument to the jury that you know they won’t accept. This is the position they were in and it’s why they had my sympathy while watching them. When as a lawyer you find yourself so situated, you just hope you can do it with a straight face and Messrs. Sekulow and Cipollone did it with a straight face and for this drew my admiration.

A side observation: Mr Cipollone is not Trump’s hired attorney, he is White House Counsel and works for the taxpayer. He doesn’t represent Donald Trump personally. He represents the office of the presidency, the institution. If he were faithfully doing his job, he would have been arguing for the removal of Donald Trump—a clear and present danger to the institution—from office, but in Trump’s world,the White House counsel, like the Attorney General, ignores his duty  and acts as lackey for the president. 

Observation three: someone in the national security apparatus thinks that removing this president is a good thing, Of course The New York Times isn’t revealing the source for its leak from John Bolton’s manuscript that Trump told him he was withholding Ukrainian military aid until they announced an investigation of the Bidens, but Bolton isn’t denying it. Bolton says that the only people to see the manuscript are in the national security operation at the White House, ergo somebody there leaked it.

As I write this today, tomorrow we will see whether the senate votes for witnesses. The talking heads are today saying there won’t be four Republican defections. I’m still hoping there will be a crack in the wall. After all there are still 24 hours for Trump tweet. By the time this is published we’ll likely know how it turned out.  

- Ellis Millsaps

*2nd Editor’s Note: Look for Chapters 4 & 5 of Good Cop, Bad Cop - the Novel by Ellis Millsaps, later in the week.