House Managers Finally Lose Touch with Reality: 'The President Is Not Exonerated'


The least-surprising verdict in recent history came down this past week when President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate after an impeachment trial that was never needed nor in any doubt.

The constitutionally mandated 67 votes to remove the president were never going to be there and the only real question was whether there would be any Republican defections. (Mitt Romney of Utah, wringing his hands a bit for historical effect, managed to get a little more press coverage out of the whole shebang by voting “yes” on one of the two counts.)

The trial may have ended Wednesday, but for some people, the hope lives on and the dream shall never die. Two of these groups are the House Democrat impeachment managers and CNN hosts — and in an interview that aired Friday, the two had a meeting of the minds (such as they may be) in which the impeachment managers declared  Trump really hadn’t been acquitted, even though he had been just two days earlier.

The seven members of the team sat down with Anderson Cooper on Friday and two arguments for the non-acquittalness of the acquittal:

First, the trial hadn’t been fair, the managers argued, presumably because they weren’t allowed to run the trial like the Marx Brothers routine the House impeachment inquiry had been. Second, the president hadn’t been “exonerated” by the trial — a linguistic conflation of “exoneration” and “acquittal” that’s more than a little misleading.

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CNN head Jeff Zucker said in October that Fox News was “akin to state-run TV” because of its slant, so imagine what he must think of this sentence in CNN’s meta-news writeup of the sit-down in which the writer described the president’s post-acquittal address: “The next day, Trump took a victory lap in a vindictive White House speech in which he gave no indication that he considered his actions wrong or regrettable.”

Because Trump “gave no indication that he considered his actions wrong or regrettable,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York gave us the usual spiel about the president being emboldened because Republicans didn’t vote their way.

“And absent any consequences, to the extent that he perceives the acquittal as an exoneration, it’s a fake exoneration,” Jeffries said. “But to the extent that the president perceives it as vindication of his bad behavior, his constitutional crime, his wrongdoing, then there is reason to believe that he will endeavor to do it again.”

The words “exoneration” and “acquittal” were put in close quarters not infrequently during the interview

“I think he’s not been exonerated,” California Rep. Zoe Lofgren said right off the bat.

When asked what she meant by that, Colorado Rep. Jason Crow helpfully mansplained for her: “It’s hard to have an acquittal without a fair trial.”

“And this was the first impeachment trial in American history where we didn’t have witnesses and documents,” Crow said.

“And I think the American people realize that, because, as we sit here right now, there are thousands of Americans walking into courthouses across the country, and they’re taking their oath, and they’re going to be sitting as jurors in trials. And they’re going to hear from witnesses and documents. And they’re asking themselves why Washington and Donald Trump should be any different. And, of course, the answer is, it shouldn’t. And they understand that.”

And they’re going to be asking themselves why are they not senators. And they’re going to be asking themselves why the accused wasn’t brought before them after an impeachment inquiry by the lower house of Congress. And they’re going to be asking themselves why that impeachment inquiry wasn’t rigged so that the accused had virtually no defenses during it.

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And what Jason Crow is saying is, they’re not going to understand that. They’re not going to understand that impeachment was an inherently political process that isn’t a criminal trial. They’re not going to understand the Democrats wanted to turn it into the same three-ring circus the House impeachment inquiry was. Or maybe they will understand all that, and this is a fatuous argument.

Equally fatuous was the equation of “acquittal” and “exoneration” by the impeachment managers.

“Well, and back to the acquittal part of this, I would consider that fake news, because we did not have a fair trial,” Florida Rep. Val Demings said.

“The president is not exonerated today.”

It’s interesting you would call “acquittal” fake news, Rep. Demings, considering even CNN’s been calling it that (since that’s what it was) and I thought calling the media “fake news” was eroding trust in our most critical institutions.

Beyond that, I think we should look at the deliberate intermixture of two similar-but-distinct words throughout the entire interview. As per Merriam-Webster:

  • acquittal (noun): a setting free from the charge of an offense by verdict, sentence, or other legal process.
  • exonerate (verb): to clear from accusation or blame.

Now, for most intents and purposes — but not all — Trump has been exonerated, the official accusation and any chance of statutory blame being placed upon him have both been lifted. However, short of evidence that proves precisely the frame of Donald Trump’s heart and mind as he chatted on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, there can be no total exoneration from two charges that technically aren’t even crimes.

So, in an extraordinarily weaselly way, the House impeachment managers are right. They’re right, however, in the same way that almost no defendant — save on those episodes of “Law & Order” where the maid confesses on the stand to murdering the accused’s husband because of a broken-off affair — is ever truly exonerated.

There’s always someone, somewhere, who has a bit of doubt as to whether or not you did it. In the case of Trump, if you’re a Democrat, I can guarantee you probably think he’s guilty as the day he took office.

But acquittal? Oh, yeah, that totally happened. And it wasn’t just one of those routine procedural votes merely covered on C-SPAN. If you wanted to avoid watching the epic fail last week of three years worth of impeachment saber-rattling, you had to turn on Netflix.

If you can make people believe these two words are one and the same, however, the hope is that things get muddier over time. Was the president actually acquitted?

Well, I mean, there’s all this doubt — and here’s a 10-year retrospective special with Anderson Cooper interviewing the same seven House impeachment managers, and they certainly seem sure about it to me…

To the extent they believe this, however, the Democrat House impeachment managers have lost reality’s orbit and drifted off into that comfortable space where it all kind of worked out because, hey, the president’s forever marked as having been “impeached” and history will vindicate them. After all, they’ll get the media to write it.

No. Acquittal happened. The fever dream has died. The circus tents have taken up their stakes and packed themselves up. You can have a few more days of talking about how “vindictive” the president was and how brave Mitt Romney is. And then, yet again, this all goes away.

I’m sure there will be some fresh outrage to replace it, mind you, but I can’t really think of where you go after impeachment.

Can Pope Francis call an inquisition? Does the Vatican still do that? Does it have jurisdiction?

And, if the answer is yes on both counts, would it be possible to schedule it around the time of the Republican National Convention? That’d be stellar. The Democrats don’t have the specific heresy yet, but give them a few weeks and it’ll work itself out.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture