WASHINGTON — Aaron Burr famously foresaw it all, in the room where it happens one winter day in 2020: the Senate chamber.
The impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump happens here. The jury is 100 silent senators. We witness the trial in the press gallery. Things swerved when Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz entered the drama to defend Trump, amid a startling new account by John Bolton, his former national security adviser.
Men once wept hearing Burr declare American democracy depends upon the Senate. He was vice president then. Now, I might add, much depends upon the verdict the Senate reaches on a president who would be king.
Burr and rival Alexander Hamilton were Revolutionary War heroes when they were young, riding into battle against a king's soldiers.
They'd know Trump's type — better than we do. They broke from government by one man's personal whims and dark grudges.
Hamilton himself helped frame the congressional impeachment clause of the Constitution as an emergency exit from a corrupt leader.
Brilliant Burr, who killed Hamilton in the tragic duel, stood on the Senate floor to say farewell in 1805. He knelt to declare that if the Constitution should ever perish by "the demagogue," it would expire on this floor.
"This floor!" He shouted and slammed his fist on the floor in a flourish. It's one of the greatest Senate speeches in American history.
Yet it's not history anymore. The Senate Republican block looks ready to let the president walk.
If they can't even muster four (of 53) to vote for witnesses like Bolton, the body in the chamber shall have lost its soul.
If four Republicans join the 47 Democrats, that makes a majority.
Hearing Starr, who led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton with a pitchfork, speak with soft sanctimony was hard enough. Later, Starr promised, we'd hear from Dershowitz, as if a treat.
In the chamber, Starr said a president must commit a "crime" to be impeached. However, he was merciless as a hanging judge in pursuing Clinton for an affair, which breaks no law. His best helper was Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Irony runs rich.
(I observed a day of the 1999 Clinton trial. The Republican Senate acquitted a Democratic president. Senate attention spans were much better before cellphones wrecked our concentration.)
Let's be clear: Constitutional "high crimes and misdemeanors" are whatever the House decides they are in an impeachment. Further, this is no common criminal court.
Dershowitz spent time defending President Andrew Johnson, spared removal by one vote in 1868. Johnson was a scoundrel, but Dershowitz defends a lot of scoundrels.
Neither defender batted an eye at explosive new revelations roiling the Senate. As Bolton finally admits in book form, Trump explicitly linked military aid to Ukraine to its president announcing an investigation into political opponent Joe Biden and his son.
A moment of truth.
That clinches the case House managers made for days before the Senate. Shocking but not surprising, as Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says. Bribing a foreign power to poison fair elections is indeed an abuse of power, a high crime, the House charged. Obstructing Congress is the second trial charge.
Dershowitz, with a straight face, assured senators none of that was a "crime," not even if the new Bolton evidence were true.
Burr's call echoes in the chamber, saying the Senate — the "citadel" of law, order and liberty — must resist "the silent arts of corruption" here, if anywhere.
History has its eyes on you, senators, and if you don't know, now you know. Just listen to "Hamilton" — and Burr.
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