Schiff's closing argument to Senate Republicans: "You are decent. He is not who you are"

I’m … reasonably sure he doesn’t believe this, especially since there are now enough Republicans on record that they intend to vote to acquit to ensure that the president isn’t removed. But it’s clever of him to set up the Democrats’ post-impeachment talking points this way. The goal of the “sham trial” and “cover-up!” messaging that’s already rolling out is to accuse swing-state senators like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner of complicity in Trump’s behavior. The more they can tie Republicans downballot to POTUS then in theory the more they can leverage Trump’s personal unpopularity against them. So here’s Schiff drawing a big bright-line distinction between Trump and Senate Republicans, seemingly contra the sentiment of his party’s voters, and promoting it on his own Twitter feed. Truth and decency matter to you, he tells them. You’re not the same as Trump.

…unless you vote to acquit, that is. Schiff’s ready for the PR war.

The most amusing part of his spiel is how he strains to emphasize the importance of a single vote. A single man or woman of courage can make history, he warns them, amid a passage about the Founders and America’s essential decency. “Is there one among you who will say, ‘Enough’?” There is in fact exactly one among them who might say “enough,” who’s likely susceptible to exactly this sort of pitch, and Schiff knows it. He’s aiming this squarely at Romney.

And judging by this WaPo report on last week’s GOP deliberations on calling witnesses, it might pay off for him.

But at this [caucus] lunch on Thursday, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) was getting visibly annoyed [at the arguments against calling John Bolton].

If this is meant to persuade me, Romney told his colleagues, it’s not helpful, according to two officials with knowledge of the exchange. The senator, a near-lone GOP voice in seeking witnesses for the trial, felt as if other Republicans were singling him out…

Receiving testimony from Bolton was a “no-brainer,” he believed, according to an individual familiar with his thinking who, like others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to speak frankly.

“Here we have somebody who has obviously talked about this issue with the president who may have helpful information,” the person said, summarizing Romney’s thinking. “So why wouldn’t we want to hear from him?”

There’s really only one reason not to hear from him, and that reason isn’t great. According to Vanity Fair, Trump’s planning revenge on both Bolton and Romney even though the latter hasn’t showed on his cards on removal yet:

“It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week. “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.”…

“Trump has been calling people and telling them to go after Bolton,” a source briefed on the private conversations said. The source added that Trump wants Bolton to be criminally investigated. A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Trump believes Bolton might have mishandled classified information. According to a former official, the White House is planning to leak White House emails from Bolton that purportedly allege Bolton abused his position at the National Security Council. The official said that West Wing officials have discussed releasing emails “showing [Bolton] was doing pay-to-play,” the official said. A person close to Bolton dismissed the story. “John plays things straight,” the person said.

I continue to believe Romney will find some reason to acquit, probably the idea that we’re too close to an election to trigger that degree of upheaval. But I bet Schiff’s lecture here worked on him a bit. Romney is the only way left for Democrats to salvage something from this process: The vote to acquit Trump is very likely to be bipartisan at this point but there’s a chance that the vote to remove will be too, which would let Pelosi and Schumer save a little face. That chance is Mitt and that’s who Schiff is playing to here. His speech was effectively for an audience of one.

This wasn’t the strongest bit from his closing argument, incidentally. The key passage can be viewed between 7:30 and 12:00 of this clip when he says that the idea of letting the voters sort this out doesn’t cut it. Simple reason, he says: If you leave him in office, Trump will try to cheat again before November to a 100 percent probability. Right. And Trump would regard anyone who didn’t try to maximize his advantage the same way as a chump and a sucker who doesn’t have what it takes to win.