Imagine a man who is accused of a crime and faces a trial. Imagine the man has connived to prevent testimony from several key witnesses, and that he has met privately with the jury foreman — who promises openly that he will work hand-in-glove with the accused man during the trial. It would not be a huge deductive leap to conclude the man fears a fair trial, because he is guilty.
That is precisely what President Trump has done with the impeachment proceedings in Congress. It's yet another sign among many that he is guilty beyond any question of trying to blackmail Ukraine into subverting the 2020 election.
To review, President Trump withheld about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until its government promised to start a fake investigation into the Biden family. We know this because the aid was indeed held back until the scheme came to light, and from testimony describing the effort from acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, National Security Council Ukraine specialist Alexander Vindman, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who actually participated in the plot. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself implicitly confirmed Trump pressured him to smear the Bidens — indeed, he was going to go along with it in despair until the plot became public.
(There is also no evidence Biden actually abused his power as vice president as the conspirators allege — on the contrary, his efforts to remove a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor made scrutiny of his son's business dealings there more likely, not less.)
The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has admitted to demanding Ukraine look into Biden, and Trump's acting White House Chief of Staff has also acknowledged the whole scheme. Trump himself has all but admitted his guilt, saying in response to accusations that he demanded Ukraine dig up dirt on Biden that "[I]t's very important to talk about corruption. if you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?" The memorandum the White House released describing the call between Trump and Zelensky also contains an unmistakable veiled blackmail demand.
That is unquestionably why Trump has prevented his top officials from testifying before the House impeachment inquiry. Giuliani, Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vice President Pence were all party to the conspiracy, while former National Security Adviser John Bolton was (oddly) dead against it, according to other testimony. Yet Trump has prevented any of them from testifying before the House — and when Bolton said he would be happy to come before the Senate, Trump quickly said he would try to restrict what Bolton could say through claims of executive privilege.
Trump claims that, no, he would really like all his close associates to testify, but the welfare of future presidents prevents it. "I am fighting for future presidents and the office of the president. Other than that, I would actually like people to testify," he tweeted. This is absolutely preposterous. In addition to the gigantic conflict of interest here, and the fact that he lies pretty much every time he opens his mouth, Trump is probably the most nakedly selfish person ever to occupy the White House (and that is saying a lot). He's a guy who ran out the budget of his own bodyguard service nickel-and-diming them for staying at his own properties and renting his own golf carts. One would struggle in vain to recall a single instance in which Trump has ever taken the slightest move to benefit anyone outside himself or his immediate family.
At any rate, after a president is impeached, the Senate conducts a trial (which requires a two-thirds vote to convict and remove him from office). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised on Sean Hannity's Fox News show — which is akin to Saddam Hussein's state propaganda TV except Baghdad Bob had considerably more concern for the appearance of neutrality — that: "Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel ... There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can." The fix is in.
McConnell also recently met privately with Trump to discuss impeachment, and announced on January 7 that he is prepared to conduct the trial without any agreement with House Democrats about calling witnesses. He implicitly argued that it would be breaking Senate precedent to call witnesses — which would be true except for the niggling detail that witnesses were called in every single one of the previous 15 Senate impeachment proceedings. (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has refused to send over the articles of impeachment until there is such an agreement.) Any trial run by McConnell is so obviously going to be a sham that even a couple Republican senators have expressed concern about a fair process.
This is not the behavior of an innocent man who wants to clear his name. Trump whines that the impeachment is an unfair "Democrat Scam," but as we have seen, in reality the process is heavily biased towards him — the Senate is controlled by Trump's shameless allies, and it is virtually impossible to imagine them voting to remove him from office no matter what came to light at the trial. No, this is what someone does when he wants to avoid any discussion of his flagrant abuses of power or Republican senators having to take embarrassing votes revealing themselves as amoral political hacks. The man is guilty.
Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.