Trump, allies aim to delegitimize impeachment from the start

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON, DC – They're calling it a circus, a farce and even zany.

President Donald Trump and his Republican allies spent weeks trivializing the House impeachment inquiry ahead of Tuesday's historic unveiling of formal charges against the president.

Where Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton treated the prospect of impeachment as a serious threat to their presidencies, Trump's boosters have tried to brush off the whole thing. Believing that acquittal by the GOP-controlled Senate is all but certain, they're out to convince voters to punish the president's Democratic accusers — or at least tune out the Washington spectacle.

To that end, they have belittled the impeachment process with mockery, schoolyard taunts and an unyielding insistence that Trump did not a single thing wrong. They have stonewalled, refusing to allow witnesses to testify; protested by declining to send their own lawyers to hearings; and dished out the ultimate Trumpian insult: calling the proceedings boring.

In the process, the president and his allies have largely glossed over the substance of allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making light of what is likely to be only the third presidential impeachment in the nation’s history.

It’s a strategy borne of Trump's instincts and informed by the results of polling and focus groups. The president and his allies believe the effort has been effective, especially when it comes to keeping independent voters skeptical of the process. It is also a reflection of the country's increasingly polarized political environment.

"Why would we legitimize this process that the American people can't even follow, aren't digesting,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Monday when asked why the White House had chosen not to participate in the House proceedings. She equated cooperation to “colluding with an illegitimate process.”

She showed her disdain for the effort by accusing Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., of “playing a game of Inspector Clouseau, Secret Squirrel” by waiting so long to unveil the articles of impeachment that were announced Tuesday.