The Atlantic Politics Daily: From the Trail to the Trial

Impeachment is likely dispiriting for the crop of lawmakers who, after dropping out of the 2020 race, find themselves sitting silently as one among 100.

It’s Tuesday, January 28. Mitch McConnell reportedly said during a private meeting that GOP members don’t have the votes to block impeachment-trial witnesses.

In the rest of today’s newsletter: This is surely not how Kamala Harris or Cory Booker had planned to spend their January. Plus: Fearing the moderate.



From the Trail to the Trial

The president’s legal team concluded its defense today. The impeachment trial now enters the questioning phase, and may involve new witnesses.

While historic and momentous, the trial is in no way a glamorous opportunity for the senators. But the proceedings are likely especially dispiriting for the crop of lawmakers who, after dropping out of the 2020 race, find themselves sitting silently as one among 100.

At least one senator was spotting dozing off last week. Another brought a fidget spinner to manage boredom. Another was spotted filling out a crossword puzzle.

The plight of two wannabe presidents—Cory Booker and Kamala Harris—both of whom had the resume of a proper 2020 heavyweight, is especially stark, my colleague Todd Purdum writes:

This is surely not how either big-name Democrat had planned to spend the third week of January: in the political equivalent of their parents’ basement, having flunked out of the presidential race they’d approached with such high hopes last year.

Their backbench neighbor, Michael Bennet, who is still running but has long struggled for traction, languished in the same psychic dunce’s row, listening listlessly.

Todd also caught up with Booker himself last week:

Booker was waylaid in the Senate subway by the veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz and a group of 11 international students. When I asked the senator how it felt to be stuck in Washington and not in Iowa, he fixed me with a mock-hurt gaze and said, “Really? You trying to poke my sadness?”

Booker went on, “Look, it’s definitely heartbreaking that things had to end, but at the same time, I cannot escape my gratitude for the experience. It’s been really wonderful.”

Read Todd’s full piece about the wonderfulness of the experience here.

—Saahil Desai

(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

President Donald Trump pats Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the back as they deliver joint remarks today on a Middle East peace plan, which, among several other proposals, expands Israeli territory.



1. “I am haunted by the fear that nominating a moderate will ensure Trump’s reelection.”

Electability seems to dominate the presidential pitches of moderate Democrats. The likes of Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg have positioned themselves as safer options for the general election.

But what Democrats need in this moment is a passionate progressive to persuade citizens not to sit out the presidential contest, Ibram X. Kendi argues.

2. “Due process protects the life, liberty, and property of private citizens. It does not create a right to occupy the White House.”

Because impeachment deals with a public office and is not a substitute for a criminal trial, the Trump defense team’s claim that the president is being deprived of due process isn’t really coherent, the political scientist Greg Weiner argues.

3. “Permeating every moment of Harvey Weinstein’s trial is the disturbing history of sexual-assault prosecution in America.”

Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes about this watershed moment.



The Doomed Project of the Novel American Dirt

What does it mean for a story about an immigrant woman and her son’s escape from drug cartels in Mexico to be told by a white woman? Hannah Giorgis explores the limits of such fiction.

What good, after all, does the mere acknowledgement of migrants’ essential humanity do for those whose lives have been shattered—and in some cases, ended—in large part because of punitive U.S. immigration policies? Are the tens of thousands of migrant children held in government custody, some of whom never see their families again, to feel comforted by American Dirt’s limp exhortation to the average reader—or by Oprah Winfrey’s selection of the novel for her famed Book Club?

For those whose lives are not shaped fundamentally by the indifference of others, empathy can be a seductive, self-aggrandizing goal.

Catch up on the controversy, and read Hannah’s full piece, here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an associate editor on the Politics desk and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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