Like so many contentions of the president’s legal team, this is malarkey thinly draped with plausible-sounding distortions of facts, rules, court opinions, and the Constitution itself.
Perhaps nothing can persuade Republican senators to convict President Donald Trump, but on Friday, as Representative Zoe Lofgren deftly explained why Trump’s blanket defiance of every House subpoena and request for witnesses was an impeachable obstruction of Congress, the mood in the room noticeably shifted. I had the good fortune to be sitting in the Senate gallery to witness this myself. Republican senators whose attention had wandered refocused one by one until—unusually for this trial—the entire Senate was listening intently to an argument and seemed to be considering it seriously.
The reason for the sudden attentiveness is not far to seek. Representative Lofgren was telling senators of both parties that Trump’s response to the House investigations that led to his impeachment was not merely a middle finger raised to Democrats, but an affront to Congress as a whole. She made clear that, left unrebuked, Trump’s defiance will gut the constitutional authority of both House and Senate not merely to check the personal excesses of any given president, but to oversee the entire executive branch. In short, Lofgren was forcefully reminding Republican senators that Trump is a threat to their own legitimate constitutional power.