This weekend, President Donald Trump’s defense team took the spotlight in his impeachment trial to begin their attempted defense of their boss. They’re operating under the shadow of a continuously growing stream of evidence, including a recently revealed tape of Trump seemingly demanding that then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch be “taken out.” (That tape was revealed by personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas.) Now, during a conversation on CNN this weekend, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara (who got fired by Trump himself) has expounded upon the “Pandora’s box” of revelations about Trump that could still be on the way.
Trump’s defenders have ardently fought against including new witness testimony or evidence in the Senate trial itself, but some of it is coming out anyway.
Bharara noted, discussing the tape:
‘I think it shows the language that Trump used, what his state of mind was. You know, if you look at the strict transcript of the tape, arguably, you could say, look, there was an ambassador, claimed to be bad mouthing the president and claimed he’ll be impeached. By the way, there’s no evidence of that.’
But, that’s not where the story ends. The tape does not just reveal mundane palace intrigue. Rather, it’s an indication of the large web of Trump’s work to usurp the powers of the presidency for his own personal interests.
‘The problem this is not existing in isolation… it is significant because it suggests that there are other tapes or other evidence that are going to be coming out in parallel fashion to the trial… What’s fascinating to me, that I’ve never seen in a regular criminal trial, you have these proceedings that conclude, and all this other evidence comes out that comes out that sheds light on the proceedings and also may make it more difficult for Republicans to be able to argue that they were right in preventing witnesses from testifying. So, there’s a whole bunch of Pandora’s boxes I think that could still be opened.’
No matter this conclusion from Bharara, Republicans have already indicated that they’re prepared to completely ignore any new evidence that emerges. This past week, a reporter confronted prominent Republican Sen. John Barrasso (Wy.) with a question about the new tape, and he dismissed it as just another piece in what will no doubt be lots of evidence against the president.
As Vox’s Aaron Rupar aptly summarized:
‘Republicans have moved the goalposts from “Trump did nothing wrong” to “welp, it’s just inevitable that there will be unceasing new revelations about Trump’s abuses of power and that’s fine with us”‘
Republicans have moved the goalposts from "Trump did nothing wrong" to "welp, it's just inevitable that there will be unceasing new revelations about Trump's abuses of power and that's fine with us" https://t.co/nTcUnFQ6TT
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 24, 2020
That’s in addition to the continued opposition to that new witness testimony for the trial. Democrats need four Republicans to defect from the majority party line to secure a majority in favor of witnesses. The moment of truth on that question will come after opening arguments conclude and Senators submit their initial written questions. Perhaps conscious of the large stream of new evidence against the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) punted the witness question until after that stage.