The Temptation of Team Trump
By Susan Schrier Clouse – February 5, 2020 – Acquittal Day
“Danger, danger, danger,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, warned during the impeachment trial of the President. Not hyperbole, danger indeed. While President Trump has been acquitted, the danger continues.
House Manager Adam Schiff made multiple offers during the trial to entice the defense to agree to additional witness testimony, particularly Ambassador John Bolton. Each offer appeared on its face to be good and reasonable but each was roundly rejected by the President’s defense team and ultimately by the Senate. As these exchanges continued, and Schiff kept ‘sweetening the pot,’ their rejections strengthened.
The House Managers began with a demand to hear from Mr. Bolton. He offered for each side to call witnesses. Then the offer was massaged a bit to limit witness testimony for one week with each side having equal time. Schiff drew the Chief Justice into the fray, encouraging the President’s team to abandon his rights and allow the the Chief Justice to decide all issues of privilege and procedure.
The House Managers kept prodding Team Trump to do what was fair, what was truthful, what would result in an impartial verdict, and what would remove the stain of being accused of a coverup. Team Trump’s response was the same: ‘No, no, no – danger, danger, danger.’
As America watched, the pundits prognosticated and the Senators pondered, the House Managers with righteous indignation kept this question front and center: What danger could there possibly be in allowing another witness or even a few witnesses? It’s only fair, right? We need to get to the truth, right? President Trump is guilty unless he proves his innocence, right? Is he afraid of Bolton’s testimony?
Team Trump, however, looked beyond the political implications, beyond the President and even beyond the Presidency in refusing to succumb to the House Managers’ temptations. It became increasingly clear that they were fighting for something more.
I was reminded of a lesson I learned studying the Temptation of Christ. Read it for yourself here at Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13.
The principle here is don’t be distracted by what might seem reasonable or good. Stay focused on what is right. Stay focused on the mission entrusted to you. Jesus’ mission was to save the world. The mission of the President’s team was ultimately to save the Constitution.
Jesus was on mission, sent by His Heavenly Father, to show the world God’s love and in that love to take our sin upon Himself and thereby reconcile us to God. There was a plan. There were things He needed to do. To prepare Himself for the challenge ahead, Jesus had been fasting and praying for 40 days in the Judaean desert. At the end of that time someone, called ‘the tempter” in Matthew and “the devil” in Luke, appeared on the scene and tried to prevent Jesus from completing His mission.
The tempter suggested Jesus use His divine power to change some stones into bread. A reasonable suggestion given the fact Jesus was hungry and had the power to do it. Nonetheless, Jesus stood firm, His answer was no. God’s Word, God’s mission for Him, is more important than food. In the days ahead Jesus would feed others with His divine power, but not Himself.
The tempter offered Jesus unlimited wealth and power over all the nations of the world if only Jesus would worship the tempter instead of God. Jesus stood firm on the truth that only God deserves worship and service. The Father ultimately gave Jesus authority over heaven and earth.
If Jesus could not be tempted by physical comfort or worldly power, perhaps He could be tempted to bend the Father to His will. Jump to your death, the tempter taunted, and God will be forced to save You. The tempter even used Scripture to bolster this suggestion, but Jesus stood firm. No, Jesus said, I will not test God in this way. Jesus put his whole trust in God and for His faithfulness to His mission God raised Him from the dead.
Defeated for the moment, the tempter departed, as Luke wrote, until an “opportune time.”
Like the tempter of Jesus seeking to derail the divine cause, the ultimate goal of Schiff’s temptations of Team Trump were to weaken and destroy the Constitution. Schiff and the other House Managers pretended to wrap their offers for witnesses in Constitutional values of fairness, impartiality and truth – while being unfair, partisan and false. They twisted the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” into the heresy of ‘prove your own innocence.’ They abandoned the principle of due process with their cries that the President must be guilty if he asserts things like ‘executive privilege nonsense’ and other ‘little’ Constitutional niceties. Just like the tempter twisted Scripture, the House Managers continually twisted the meaning of the Constitution to be what they desired and not what the Framer’s intended.
The House Managers tried to sound eminently reasonable. Who wouldn’t want to know the whole truth? You can’t have a fair trial without witnesses. Of course, the Chief Justice is impartial, why don’t you trust him? Behind their entire effort to impeach the president, is the Left’s continuing desire to weaken some part of the US Constitution and the freedoms it protects.
Team Trump stood strong. They said no. They defended the President, the Presidency, the election process, but most of all they defended the Constitution.
Team Trump’s point man in this effort was Patrick Philbin, Deputy White House Counsel. With boldness and courage, strength and calm, reason and clarity, he rebuffed their temptations, called out their heresies against the Republic, and refuted their lies. He protected and defended the Constitution against its domestic enemies.
During the final arguments, Patrick Philbin, said this.
“The House managers’ case for impeachment? Why are they asserting principles like, that only the guilty would assert privileges? That’s not part of our system of law. Why are they asserting that, if the executive resists, that the House has the sole power to determine the boundaries of its own power in relation to the executive – also not something that is in our system of jurisprudence? And why the lack of due process in the proceedings below? I think it’s because as we’ve explained, this was a purely partisan impeachment from the start. It was purely partisan and purely political. And that is something that the Framers foresaw. And I’ll point to one passage from Federalist No. 65. A number of different passages from that have been cited over the course of the past week, but I don’t think this one has. It’s just after Hamilton points out that he warns that an impeachment in the House could the be result of a “persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives.” And then he goes on: “Though this latter supposition may seem harsh, and might not likely often to be verified, yet it not ought to be forgotten that the demon of faction will at certain seasons extend his scepter over all numerous bodies of men.
And that’s very 18th century language. We don’t talk about demons extending their scepter over men. But, it’s prescient nonetheless. We might not be comfortable with the terms, but it’s accurate for what can happen.
And that is what has happened in this impeachment. This was a purely partisan political process. It was imposed by partisans in the House. It was done by a process that was not designed to persuade anyone or to get to the truth or to provide process and to abide by past precedents. It was done to get it finished by Christmas on a political timetable. And it’s not something that this chamber should condone. That in itself provides a sufficient and substantial reason for rejecting the articles of impeachment.
While the image of Schiff in the role of tempter had been floating in my mind during the trial, this quote pushed me to think deeper about what is really at stake here. A demon is extending his scepter over America. The end of the impeachment trial does not mean the tempter has been defeated. The enemies of our Republic are always on the look out for another opportune time. Danger still abounds.
The modus operandi of the Left tempting Americans with the ‘good’ and ‘reasonable’ is nothing new and will continue. We can see it repeatedly, and must be on the lookout for more deception. Think about the Left’s attack on the electoral college, why shouldn’t the president be elected by popular vote, right? Yet that argument undermines the protection of minority rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Think about Left’s attack on the right to keep and bear arms, the only way to control violence is to take away guns, right? Wrong, the only way to reduce violence is to change the hearts, not strip away the rights of all Americans to protect themselves and their families protected by the Constitution.
Think about the Left’s offers of endless free entitlements, we must to help the poor, right? Of course we do, but the best way to eliminate poverty is to lift the poor out of poverty, not provide handouts to keep them there. Free them to follow their dreams, talents and abilities. And the best way to do that is by keeping the power of government limited and the power of the people strengthened as our Constitution was designed to do.
As you listen to the Left, know that behind every tempting offer to fix the problems of America is another assault on the US Constitution. Remember Jay Sekulow’s words, “Danger, danger, danger.”
Postscript: In his post-acquittal press conference, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized that the political goal of the Democrats was to get the Senate to acquiesce to their insidious arguments for witnesses. By tying up the Senate for months and maintaining their anti-Trump drumbeat through the election season, the Left had hoped to turn the Senate. While that may be true, it would have been just another stepping stone toward their ultimate objective – the destruction of the American Republic and our Constitution. Danger, danger, danger.