The remorseless, crushing power of the House managers’ evidence, all backed by horrifying real-time audio and video recordings, shuttered any good-faith defense of Trump on the merits of the case. The constitutional defense—that it’s impossible to convict a president if he leaves office between his impeachment and his trial—was rejected by 56 senators yesterday, not least because it defies a quarter millennium of federal and state precedents.
There is no defense. There is only complicity, whether motivated by weakness and fear or by shared guilt. And the House managers forced every Republican senator to feel that complicity from the inside out.
That feeling of complicity will not change the final outcome of this Senate trial. The weak will be no less weak for being shamed by their weakness; those who share Trump’s guilt will not cease to share it because that guilt has been blazed to the world. But at least the House case can restrict the personal and political options of the weak and the guilty. If a senator like Marco Rubio did not feel his world tightening around him, he would not look so haunted. The Republican senators are shrinking before the eyes of the whole country. They are all becoming “liddle.” They know it. They feel it. They hate it. But they cannot stop it.