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Image: Trump's legal team continues opening arguments during impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Attorney Ken Starr speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team resumes its presentation of opening arguments in Trump's Senate impeachment trial in this frame grab from video shot in the U.S. Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2020. HANDOUT / U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters

If Republicans think Trump's Ukraine scandal is over, they're wrong

To see Trump's scandal as an annoyance that's suddenly in our "rearview mirror" is to miss the fact that we're still in the middle of it.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fielded reporters' questions yesterday afternoon, and was asked a question his party has struggled with for months: why should an American president be allowed to press foreign governments to target his domestic rivals?

The Republicans' Senate leader not only chose not to answer, he acted as if the question has been deemed irrelevant. "We've completed it, we've listened to the arguments, we voted, it's in the rearview mirror," McConnell replied.

Around the same time, Vice President Mike Pence -- who, incidentally, was 19 Senate votes from being elevated to the nation's highest office -- added, "It's over, America."

Pence didn't exactly specify what "it" referred to, but if he meant the entire ordeal -- Donald Trump's scandal, the scrutiny of his misconduct, the search for truths the White House and its allies fought to cover up -- has come and gone, the vice president and other Republicans are likely to be disappointed.

The House impeachment managers collectively wrote a Washington Post op-ed that's well worth your time, though it included a line that stood out for me as especially noteworthy.

Throughout the trial, new and incriminating evidence against the president came to light almost daily, and there can be no doubt that it will continue to emerge in books, in newspapers or in congressional hearings.

Quite right. To see this mess as an annoyance that's suddenly in our "rearview mirror," now that a rigged trial has come and gone, is to miss the fact that "we're still in the middle of it," as Rachel noted on the show last night.

The editorial board of the Washington Post is thinking along the same lines, arguing overnight, "In the House, committees that pursued the investigation of Mr. Trump's actions in Ukraine should continue to do so."

There is much that remains unknown, including whether the president extracted favors in 2017 and 2018 from Ukraine's previous government. There is also a public interest in the airing of evidence that the White House has illegitimately suppressed about the pressure campaign against the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The House should subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, along with documents related to Mr. Trump's withholding of military aid from Mr. Zelensky's government.

If court battles are needed to obtain this evidence, the House should fight them. It is vital that Congress's power to conduct oversight of the executive be confirmed. Otherwise, Mr. Trump can be expected to continue a blanket refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations during the remainder of his time in office, thereby neutering what should be an equal branch of government.

It's likely the White House and its allies will accuse Democrats and investigators of tilting at windmills, seeking answers to questions that no longer matter. But the Senate Republicans' stunted trial -- no witnesses, no documents, little serious evaluation of the evidence -- only bolsters the need for House scrutiny.

Had the GOP-led Senate held a more legitimate trial, it'd be easier to dismiss Democratic efforts to get the whole truth. But McConnell & Co. took that option off the table, clearing the way for an investigation that needs to continue.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog