What will be left of the impeachment power after the Senate’s acquittal of President Trump? Not much. What will be left of the Senate’s reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body? Same answer.
Same scary answer.
The two are interconnected, of course, but my point is not that the Senate was obligated to convict the president. Conviction and removal from office are warranted, but that was never a realistic possibility. And a reasonable senator with an eye on the electoral calendar could have concluded that it would be better for the country to let voters decide.
What a reasonable senator could not do was what happened here: wholesale shirking of the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to assess — which includes a responsibility to obtain — all the evidence of potential wrongdoing. Senators offered up an unconvincing grab bag of excuses for this dereliction of duty:
That the House didn’t do its homework and it wasn’t the Senate’s job to make up for that — as if the Senate had not been entrusted with the “sole power to try” impeachments. That it would take too long and distract the Senate from its other pressing work — as if there were anything more important, and as if the Senate were actually doing anything beyond ramming through judicial nominees.