Pitts: Trump’s acquittal will have an asterisk
Dear Mr. So-Called President:
A few words in advance of your upcoming acquittal.
That that’s how your impeachment trial will end is, as we all know, a foregone conclusion. The proverbial fix is in.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told us as much in December when he announced he was coordinating with the White House on your defense. “I’m not an impartial juror,” he said. Then, one month later, he takes a solemn oath to be an impartial juror.
Such is public integrity in the Age of Trump. So yes, this trial is rigged like a Russian election, and you’re about to be acquitted. But it will be an acquittal with an asterisk.
If you wonder what that means, you should ask O.J. Simpson, who did not commit murder. Of course, he did commit murder, at least insofar as the court of public opinion is concerned. A 2015 poll found that most Americans — including a majority of African Americans — believe Simpson did, in fact, savagely butcher his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in 1994.
After a sensational trial that began 25 years ago this week, he was acquitted by a jury of his peers. But a quarter-century later, one is struck by how little that means.
Yes, the verdict had the not-insignificant effect of saving Simpson from prison. But it did not vindicate him, did not restore him to the public’s good graces. Simpson, a once-beloved athlete, actor and TV pitchman, remains more loathed than flesh-eating bacteria. The stink of what he legally did not do permeates his Twitter feed when he tries to opine on football (“Killer post, O.J.” goes a typical response). It will be the first line of his obituary.
That’s not just because of the murders. In a way, it’s not even just because of the acquittals. No, the other reason O.J. Simpson will never be redeemed is that he was acquitted even though people could see with their own two eyes overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
You see, folks don’t like it when you pour dishwater on their heads and tell them it’s rain. They take that personally. So his will always be an acquittal with an asterisk. As will yours.
You face vastly different circumstances than he did as you go on trial for trying to strong-arm Ukraine into helping you smear Joe Biden and then obstructing Congress as it tried to investigate. But this much is the same: We can see with our own two eyes overwhelming evidence of your guilt. It’s there in testimony, text messages and even that telephone transcript you keep insisting is “perfect.” New evidence is pouring out daily like the jackpot from a slot machine.
Yet McConnell has already announced that he and his fellow Republicans have a tub of dishwater at the ready.
Fine. It is what it is. But understand this: A preordained acquittal isn’t much of an acquittal at all. Granted, as Simpson was spared confinement in public housing, you’ll be spared eviction from same. As with him, this is not an insignificant victory.
But it is a deeply defective one — the only kind this corrupted process has to offer. What you don’t get is that the Senate verdict is not the only one being rendered here. In some ways, it is not even the most important. No, in a sense, the most important verdict will be rendered by jurors in the court of public opinion, still wet from dishwater pretending to be rain. That verdict is unlikely to be kind.
Something to think about when you send out the all-caps tweet with the dubious spelling, crowing about beating the rap. You’re going to think you’ve been vindicated, but you won’t be.
And you never will.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.
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