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Starr Redux

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I have to admit that my jaw dropped this morning when I learned that one of Trump’s defense lawyers is going to be none other than Kenneth Starr.

Those of us of a certain age remember Starr well. He was the Special Prosecutor in charge of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. When the Whitewater case he was trying to build against Clinton—corruption—collapsed completely because it was a lie to begin with, Starr found another way forward. A gossipy woman named Linda Tripp brought to his attention that Clinton had been having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Monica had a dress as evidence. Starr pounced.

Clinton’s trial was disgusting and nauseating, not because of Clinton (he had an affair; so what?), but because of Starr. To begin with, Starr had an off-putting way about him; arrogant, small-minded, nasty. And then there was the sexual nature of the case itself. Starr, it turned out, was a prurient little man, obsessed with sexual details of body parts, bodily fluids, specific sexual acts. Like the censors of old, who seemed to get off on the things they were deploring, Starr came across as a smutty weirdo, with secrets of his own to protect.

It didn’t take the public long to figure all this out. They didn’t like Starr, not one bit. He was creepy, an old perv, a bit ludicrous. Whenever he talked about sex, one wanted to take a shower: that was the effect Kenneth Starr had on the American people. The result was that Clinton was vindicated in his Senate trial, and went on to enjoy his highest popularity ratings ever. He ended his second term on a high note, while Kenneth Starr—disgraced, embarrassed, humiliated—was banished to become the dean of a Christian law school in Southern California, about as far from the nation’s political center as one could get.

But he’s baaaack!

Think of the irony. Here’s Starr, once so contemptuous of Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affair that he wanted to remove him from office, now representing a man who is, as far as we know, the most adulterous, sexually-voracious president in American history. Starr, who painted Clinton as a depraved predator, now will defend the man who bragged about groping women’s pussies, and who pays off porn stars to keep silent about his sexual escapades with them. Is there some cognitive dissonance here?

Well, everyone in our American way of life deserves a good defense, so let’s give Starr—and Trump—a pass on that one. Let’s muse, instead, on precisely what Trump’s defense is going to be.

First of all, it will be noteworthy for what it is not: a refutation of the facts. No Republican has disputed the essential facts: the Congress voted to give Ukraine weapons and money to fight the Russians. Trump, facing a tough re-election campaign, in which his most-feared opponent is Joe Biden, wants to smear Biden with something, anything, to drain off just enough votes so that he can narrowly win (as he did in 2016). Trump, through intermediaries and, eventually, in that notorious phone call, tells Zelensky the aide will not be forthcoming unless Zelensky announces he’s investigating the Bidens. That was Trump’s crime, now verified by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.

That’s why he’s being impeached (the second reason is his obstruction of Congress). So there’s not a single Republican defender who has said Trump did not do these things.

Instead, the Republicans are fighting in the court of public opinion. It’s a P.R. battle, not a legal one. The Republican argument goes like this: It doesn’t matter if Trump broke the law. What matters is whether or not Americans are upset enough about it. If they are, then they’ll bring pressure on Republican Senators to remove him from office. If Republican Senators sense this pressure, they’ll side with Democrats. But, so far, they’re not sensing it—with the possible exceptions of Collins, Murkowsiki and Romney, and they may end up siding with Trump.

So this is all political, which is the way impeachment is supposed to be. For the life of me, I can’t see any way that the American people, including the voters in Maine, Alaska and Utah, will support the Republican agenda of coverup and repression of evidence. It’s so horrible what Trump is doing, including his wag-the-dog killing of Soleimani. Politicians have always played partisan games, but I’ve never seen anything as deplorable as what Republicans are doing now. Everybody knows exactly what’s going on. The crime is continuing right in front of our faces, and these Republicans seem proud of their brazenness. They may get away with it in the Senate—in fact, there’s no doubt they will. But Election Day is just ten months away, and I feel stronger than ever that a massive Blue Wave is going to sweep Republicans from power, and give us a Democratic president and Congress. Then we’ll relaunch investigations: into Barr, into Pence, into Giuliani. Republicans will call it a witch hunt. I’ll call it Justice.

  1. Nancy Brown says:

    Many Republicans in the Senate have flat out admitted that they will never vote to acknowledge that the charges are true much less remove Trump from office. Mitch McConnell says without fear of consequences that he is working directly with Barr and other advisors close to Trump to develop a defense that will reflect the wishes of the White House. Leaving Barr’s comments and positions aside for this discussion, it is still true that he has gone way beyond advising a president to being more of a defense attorney for him. We saw and heard the senators swear an oath to be impartial jurors and to listen to the evidence with an open mind. If Clinton denying having sex with Monica Lewinsky led to his impeachment for lying under oath, what should be done with an entire political party sitting in judgement of someone they have already said they would not convict? Isn’t this perjury as much as what Clinton did? This whole thing is a travesty and Trump’s cult still calls it a witch hunt. I am ashamed for the GOP senators because we know they are too corrupt to feel shame about themselves over their improper behavior and the damage they’ve done to the system of justice concerning the president.

  2. The traitorous republicans will vote to acquit. That will leave us with one option: to win big in November. We have to hand the republicans and their fuehrer, trump, a crushing, humiliating defeat!

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