History will be made in Washington, D.C., this week, when President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address one day before the Senate holds the final impeachment vote.
Four hours of closing arguments were held Monday, as much for history as any effort to sway votes. The arguments provided one final chance to influence public opinion and set the record ahead of an expected Senate acquittal.
“Impeachment has become the House Democrats’ addiction; their drug, their all-consuming purpose,” said Gaetz.
Speaking Friday at Pace High School after a ceremony announcing local students who plan to attend the service academies, Gaetz – who represents Florida’s 1st House District -- said he hoped the acquittal would provide a cure for the Democrats’ “addiction.”
“But we see in court filings House Democrats claiming that their impeachment investigations in the House of Representatives are not over,” Gaetz said. “And so it may very well be the case that we’re back in the fight. And if we are, I’ll be there to defend the president.”
“I honestly think that [Gaetz] has got it backward; the Democrats, to win, need to motivate voters on the margins. And this is an issue they can use,” said Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University.
“Had the Senate allowed some witnesses; had the process seemed less of a cover-up, I think [Gaetz] might have been right – people would have gotten tired of this,” Zelden said. “But it was so blatant, if gives a new message: this was a cover-up. That’s an easy thing to use to motivate voters for the Democrats.”
In November, predicts Gaetz, the Senate will not flip to the Democrats and Donald Trump will cruise into a second term by a landslide. He bases those predictions on what he calls a “consequence of impeachment.”
“Because I think a lot of voters who aren’t political deeply resent the fact that their needs have not been at the top of the priority list in Washington,” said Gaetz. “Whether those be health care needs, infrastructure needs or housing or childcare needs – we’ve largely been consumed by impeachment instead of the work of the country.”
If the Senate votes to acquit Trump – as most everyone thinks will happen, Zelden contends that by not allowing the witnesses, they put the Senate in play, in a way it wasn’t before. The vote against, he says, will be more damaging for the senators than the vote to acquit.
“The argument that was being made – ‘this is troubling, maybe this is wrong but it’s not impeachable’ – is a plausible argument to make,” Zelden said. “But, it’s a plausible argument to make after you’ve heard all the evidence. People are going to be angry about the process more than the result. Most people who were paying attention expected that result.”
As for Tuesday night’s State of the Union, Gaetz says the president’s address “marks the opportunity to open a new chapter for the country, beyond impeachment and investigations.”
“President Trump is at his best when we are working on the economy; renegotiating trade deals, rebuilding our military, caring for our veterans, and putting the needs of Americans first,” said Gaetz. “President Trump for the State of the Union, has got the opportunity to get us right back on track.”
Nova Southeastern’s Charles Zelden says given Trump’s tendencies, he can go in one of two directions on Tuesday – staying on-teleprompter and thus on-message, or going off-script.
“How he was completely innocent, that this was all a “witch hunt,” said Zelden. “And ultimately attack the Democrats, which will make his base happy [but] energize Democratic voters. And here’s the part we don’t know but it’s likely – frustrate those in the middle, who already have trouble with how he’s acting.”
Wednesday’s Senate vote notwithstanding, Zelden believes another round of articles of impeachment may be unleashed sometime after Inauguration Day next year if Trump wins and more evidence against him comes out. But he adds, the results likely would be the same as now, if the Senate stays in Republican hands.