It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
An ice storm gripped Washington Saturday. Sleet pelted the capital city, sealing cars and glazing sidewalks.
But inside the U.S. Capitol, a glacial ice storm frosted the United States Senate. Fifty-seven senators voted to convict former President Trump in his second impeachment trial. The Senate was frozen. Everyone knew before the trial there would never be 67 votes for conviction. It didn’t matter whether House impeachment managers proved their case or not. It didn’t matter if Mr. Trump’s counsel adequately defended him or not.
Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen knew that. The Senate hurtled through this impeachment trial in just five days. The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson bogged down the Senate for three months in 1868. The Senate devoted five weeks to President Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999. Senators sat for more than two weeks in President Trump’s first impeachment trial last year.
This year’s verdict was a fait accompli. The trial would conclude by Saturday afternoon, exonerating the former President. Van der Veen would be headed back up I-95 to his law practice at van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin in Philadelphia. Van der Veen would return to representing people overrun by dump trucks. Defending those accused of DUI and rape.
This would be the shortest impeachment trial for a President in American history.
Much of what unfolds on Capitol Hill is scripted. Rarely are there real surprises. Actual drama. The visitors may hold a six-run lead in the eighth. But you know that the home team is always going to rally in the bottom of the ninth. And then, moments after the Senate gaveled to order Saturday, the impeachment trial took a wild, O. Henry twist.
House impeachment managers demanded witness testimony. In particular, they wanted an interview with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA). The managers hoped to probe the Congresswoman about what she knew regarding a screaming match between President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the middle of the January riot. McCarthy excoriated the former President, demanding he take action to halt the insurrection.
In a statement, the Congresswoman challenged “patriots” who were privy to the conversations to “add” to the record.
Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) described Herrera Beutler’s statement about the McCarthy/Trump phone call “an additional, critical piece of corroborating evidence.” Raskin then called to subpoena Herrera Beutler and her “contemporaneous notes.” He said the Senate could proceed with a deposition via Zoom.
This proposition would open the gateway to dozens of witnesses. It had the potential to delay a verdict in the trial. The “floor” part of the trial would likely go dark as the Senate heard from witnesses from both sides. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threatened a panoply of witnesses.
“I want want to interview (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck (Schumer, D-NY). I want to interview (President) Joe Biden. I want to interview (Vice President) Kamala (Harris). I want to interview (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi (D-CA). I want to interview (House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman) Maxine Waters (D-CA). I want to interview (Sen.) Cory Booker (D-NJ). (Former Attorney General) Eric Holder,” warned Graham on Fox.
The call by House managers to take witness testimony was a political earthquake that rattled Washington. Van der Veen made it clear earlier in the trial his disdain for the DC Beltway.
“This is about the worst experience I’ve ever had down here in Washington, DC,” snarled van der Veen at Raskin on the floor Friday. “There’s nothing fun about it.”
“Man, you should have been here January 6,” replied Raskin.
On Saturday, van der Veen was volcanic in response to the idea of an elongated trial. A scowl folded van der Veen’s forehead into a mogul field worthy of a ski resort. His eyebrows formed a ‘V.’ Van der Veen posited that if Democrats needed to hear from Herrera Beutler, he’d demand “over 100” depositions. Pelosi. Harris. Many others.
“And not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn’t do this hearing by Zoom. These depositions should be done in person! In my office! In Phil-ee-delphia!” yelled van der Veen, hammering the lectern.
The chamber roared in laughter at van deer Veen’s theatrical pronunciation for the City of Brotherly Love. It was like a schoolyard taunt. Up until Saturday morning, Van der Veen had played the Washington game for this trial. But if the Senate insisted on witnesses, he’d shift the affair to his turf. The land of Ben Franklin, Rocky Balboa, Dr. J. and the Phillie Phanatic.
This would be quite a scene.
If Pelosi, Harris and half of official Washington had to trek to Philadelphia for depositions, van der Veen’s law offices would become the most important political venue in Pennsylvania since Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
Some lawmakers were taken aback at van deer Veen’s temper and tactics exhibited on the floor.
“He’s just mad that he’d have to keep working for Trump,” said one House Republican who asked to not be identified. “He wanted this over. Like fast.”
Van der Veen took umbrage at senators chortling at him over his pronunciation of Philadelphia.
“I haven’t laughed at any of you. And there’s nothing laughable here,” van der Veen barked at senators like an Eastern League manager chewing out a second base umpire.
The Senate then voted to accept witnesses, throwing the entire future of the trial off course. No one knew exactly what would happen. Everyone anticipated some sort of a framework to proceed with the trial, including individual votes on particular witnesses.
And, as suddenly as the trial spilled off course, the House impeachment managers and President Trump’s counsel forged an agreement. They agreed to accept Herrera Beutler’s statement as part of the record. There would be no need for additional depositions. No Zoom. No AMTRAK trips to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. No per diems for Philly cheesesteak. No Gobblers from Wawa.
The Senate then voted to acquit the former President in an impeachment trial for the second time in 12 months. But it was the closest verdict in an impeachment trial for a President since senators narrowly acquitted President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result,” declared Winston Churchill.
The same could be said for Mr. Trump – although his detractors will note he’s the only President the House impeached twice.
Van der Veen bragged about the trial verdict in an interview with Fox colleagues Gillian Turner and Griff Jenkins.
“We demolished their case. They were like a dying animal that we had trapped in the corner,” boasted van der Veen.
In an interview with CBS, van der Veen yelled at anchor Lana Zak. He crossed his arms as though he was bored with her questions. Van der Veen dramatically spiked his lavaliere microphone into the ground at the end with the camera still rolling.
The trial was complete. But van der Veen and Mr. Trump’s other attorneys didn’t have to do much to clear their client. The result was set before it began.
Van der Veen was done. He was done with Washington. Way done with Washington. And, he was on his way back home.