On impeachment, head-in-the-sand stance now even harder to defend

The latest evidence in Trump's Ukraine scandal just made it tougher for Mitch McConnell to stick to his head-in-the-sand posture.
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By Steve Benen

On the eve of the House sending articles of presidential impeachment to the Senate for a trial, the House Intelligence Committee unveiled additional evidence, including materials the panel received from one of Rudy Giuliani's controversial associates, Lev Parnas.

As Politico noted, "The material released on Tuesday contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and other documents that underscore the close relationship between Parnas and Giuliani, who was actively pursuing an effort last year to push the Ukrainian government to announce investigations targeting Trump's political rivals."

That's true, though it's not all the materials underscore.

It's a little tough to summarize all of the revelations, but by any fair measure, they paint an extraordinary picture, with details that we not only didn't know, but also might have found difficult to even imagine. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, for example, was apparently under some kind of surveillance, and might have even faced unspecified harm.

There's also a document in which Giuliani assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the Republican lawyer was operating in Kyiv with the "knowledge and consent" of Donald Trump, reinforcing suspicions about the American president's role in the Ukrainian scheme, and doing fresh harm to White House talking points.

There's plenty more. The latest evidence also suggests, for example, that Ukraine's top prosecutor was prepared to offer Giuliani anti-Biden dirt if Giuliani's White House friends recalled Yovanovitch, an ambassador who fiercely fought against corruption.

In theory, all of this evidence would be welcomed by senators who are eager to come to terms with the facts, get the whole story, and understand the degree to which the sitting American president may be corrupt and/or guilty. In practice, it's not quite working out that way. Consider Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) arguments on the Senate floor yesterday:

"We've arrived at a simple contradiction. Two things cannot be both true: House Democrats' case cannot simultaneously be so robust that it was enough to impeach in the first place, but also so weak that the Senate needs to go fishing.

"If the existing case is strong, there's no need for the judge and the jury to re-open the investigation. if the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place."

I'm not sure which is worse: the idea that McConnell was sincere in presenting this argument or the idea that he knew his pitch was absurd, and he presented it anyway.

There is no contradiction. House Democrats compiled a case and collected materials, despite unyielding White House stonewalling. The result was a bulletproof argument, bolstered by extensive documentary evidence, pointing to Trump's guilt.

But just as criminal investigations continue even after a grand jury approves indictments, the evidence against the Republican president continued to mount, even after the articles of impeachment passed. Both things can be true: the case was strong enough to impeach, and the case can grow stronger still after articles were approved.

McConnell, hardly a fool, must know this. His annoyance seems to be rooted in the fact that Democrats are asking him and his GOP colleagues to consider the totality of the case against Trump -- including newly released materials and hearing from witnesses whom the House were not allowed to speak to -- which is the one thing Senate Republicans cannot do if they're determined to keep the president in office.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog