Trump is getting the band back together

Matthew Walther

Alan Dershowitz is not the first name that comes to mind when I think of draining the swamp. The great bog (sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "Acela corridor") that stretches from Washington, D.C., all the way north to Boston is full of strange and fascinating creatures — vicious snapping turtles, will-o'-the-wisps, skunk apes, mokele-mbembes. Few are more at home in that brackish environment than the millionaire celebrity law professor whose clients have included the producers of Deep Throat, O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow, and Harvey Weinstein.

This is why I find it so amusing that Trump has decided to add Dershowitz to his impeachment defense team. Why not have the guy who was recently sued by the Democrats' counsel in Bush v. Gore (among other winning causes) in your camp? And if you're going to do that, you might as well add the person who stage-managed the last cynical partisan open-ended investigation of a president to culminate in impeachment? Ken Starr has nothing better to do with his time. Neither, apparently, has Robert Ray, another Whitewater veteran, or Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general best known for her fundraising controversies, her involvement with Scientology, and her lobbying on behalf of the government of Qatar. That's right, folks. Trump isn't just getting the band back together — he's turning it into a supergroup, like Blind Faith or The Highwaymen. Even Jeffrey Epstein would have been jealous.

It is not entirely clear to me whether Trump understands what the hiring of Dershowitz and these others will suggest to his supporters. Some of them, no doubt, are willing to adopt the cynical view that swamp monsters are better at fighting in that terrain than those accustomed to more agreeable hydrologies. But goodness knows how it will go down with the InfoWars/QAnon/reddit contingent, who believe that Trump's official achievements in office are of far less importance than his battle against an international gang of satanic pedophile billionaires, nearly all of whom have been on cordial terms with Dershowitz (to say nothing of Bill and Hillary Clinton). Maybe it's just a matter of keeping your friends close and your alleged demon-worshipping rich sex maniac enemies on the White House payroll.

Either way, though, one thing is certain. Trump's Senate impeachment trial will live up to the carnivalesque expectations that some of us had for it. Ratings for the House phase of these proceedings dropped off toward the end, for the not-very-surprising reason that hearing a dozen different third-hand accounts of a short telephone call is not compelling television. This will not be the case with this group. It might even be enough to change the president's mind about having witnesses. It is certainly difficult to imagine that Trump would be able to turn down the chance to watch Joe and Hunter Biden cross-examined in front of a hundred million viewers by an old cable news hand like Dershowitz. (This is to say nothing of the possibility of bringing Rudy Giuliani in to do his bear-baiting routine.) Trump knows what his audience craves because he shares their appetites.

That doesn’t mean his Republican allies will, though. (It is impossible to see John Roberts being comfortable with something so undignified.) What about Mitch McConnell? So far it has seemed to be the case that McConnell wants more than anything else to be on the side of the White House when it comes to impeachment. If Trump wants it over with quickly, so does Mitch. If the president wants a clown show, Mitch is Barbra Streisand.

If Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi know what they are doing they will insist on a swift and quiet acquittal here. Tut-tutting about how the president and his minions have turned an august judicial process into an over-the-top spectacle is not going to get them anywhere, especially with their otherwise reliable media allies. The alternative is allowing Trump to be the ringmaster of a circus that could last for months.

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