A caller to our office Thursday morning was incensed that one of Tennessee's senators, Marsha Blackburn, left the chamber where she is a juror in the Trump impeachment trial to give a Fox News interview on Tuesday.
Newsweek wrote of Blackburn's rulebreaking, and on Thursday afternoon, Garrett Haake, an msnbc.com correspondent covering the Senate trial, tweeted his own trial observations: "@SenatorBurr has a fidget spinner, @RandPaul has quite the sketch of the Capitol going, and @MarshaBlackburn is reading a book." In a second tweet, Haake noted more about Blackburn: "The book is a standard-sized hard cover. It's flat in her lap so I can't read the cover. She's underlining passages periodically."
Haake and two reporters for NBC later wrote a story about the message of disdain the GOP is blatantly sending with toys, crossword puzzles and books.
But for all of Blackburn's lack of attention to Democrats' presentations, particularly to the very persuadable House manager Adam Schiff, President Trump apparently was glued to the proceedings.
"The president vented his spleen about the process on Twitter, firing off so many posts that he set a record for any single day in his presidency," noted The New York Times in a late Wednesday story. "As of 11:30 p.m., Mr. Trump had posted or reposted 142 messages on Twitter, surpassing the previous record of 123 set in December. Most were retweets of messages from allies and supporters assailing Mr. Schiff and others prosecuting the case."
Did we mention that our president — the one with a renowned short attention span — was tweeting at least part of that time from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean where he was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland?
Never mind the world economy, President Donald John Trump was busy typing insults in all caps at the impeachment managers and telling reporters in his Davos news conference not about world economies but about how he would like to personally attend the Senate trial to "sit right in the front row and stare into their corrupt faces."
Trump also told those international reporters that John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, could not be allowed to testify because he "knows my thoughts on certain people and other governments, war and peace and different things — that's a national security problem."
We would be remiss if we didn't point out that Trump's inattention to all things Davos was not just spleen-venting.
His tweets and the media statements were unmistakable bully commands to the GOP senators now sitting as jurors in his impeachment trial. The tweet barrage screamed that the boss is watching. And we mean WATCHING.
To lemming Republican senators like Blackburn and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, the clarion message was to get out there in medialand and defend me, even if you have to do it in code with spinners, books and crossword puzzles.
To the Republicans who might somehow find a backbone and consider voting to allow new witnesses and evidence, the news conference comment translates: If you vote with Democrats, I'm coming for you.
Here's the thing. That evidence will eventually surface and those witnesses will eventually talk. And when they do, Americans will listen — whether senators do or not. Heck, about 70% of us already are telling pollsters every other day that we think those witnesses and the evidence should be allowed in this trial.
Certainly it's true that most of us think we know how this story will end. It's largely a matter of math.
It will take 67 votes in our 100-member U.S. Senate to convict and remove Trump, who calls himself a Republican, from the Oval Office. The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with Democrats. (Hence, the serial 53-47 votes earlier in the week to quash Democratic amendments for subpoenas before trial arguments actually began.)
Pardon the cliche, but the likelihood of persuading 20 Republican/Trump cult members to convict and remove Trump is like asking a leopard to change its spots.
Convincing American voters that those spots should be rubbed out is not so remote, however.
A new in-depth survey by the Pew Research Center of 12,638 U.S. adults found that seven in 10 Americans believe Trump has definitely or probably done unethical things during his time in office or while he was running for president. And 63% think the president has definitely or probably done things that are illegal. Then there's this: 51% believe the outcome of the Senate impeachment trial should be the president's removal from office.
The survey was conducted between Jan. 6 and 19 — before the trial began. And now the trial is running on all cable stations — and some regular channels — even during prime time.
In plain language, Trump is accused of trying to extort Ukraine to provide him with free opposition research on his top 2020 election opponent in exchange for Congress-allocated, tax-funded military aid to help Ukraine fight invading Russia. He also is accused of trying to cover up that crime by obstructing Congress in its investigation of his actions — think witnesses and documents. All of which will eventually come out anyway. Whether Blackburn reads a book or takes a nap during the trial.
Sure, the president will likely skate — even in the face of diminishing American public opinion of him. Then the Senate will be on trial, and voters will be the jurors.