The Man Who Wasn’t There

David Schoen, lawyer for former President Donald Trump. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

The act of political theatre that played itself out in the Capitol last week was a hybrid of a repeat performance of a mediocre high school play and a color war performance.

Like the first impeachment trial, the ending of version 2.0 was known well in advance. Most of the actors stuck to their predictable, scripted lines, and when they didn’t, the contest sounded more like who can use the highest number of passionate adjectives rather than arguing about the preponderance or absence of actual evidence. There was little doubt in the mind of either team — and the minds of their respective, though not necessarily respectable, army of supporters — that most of the jurors sitting on the case had made up their minds before the case was heard.

One of the few rays of sunshine in this trial was a tangential detail of this trial: The fact that a key part of former President Donald Trump’s defense team was absent on the concluding day of the proceedings. Atlanta-based Attorney David Schoen initially sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, stating that: “I apologize for the inconvenience my request that impeachment proceedings not be conducted during the Jewish Sabbath undoubtedly will cause other people involved in the proceedings. …The practices and prohibitions are mandatory for me, however; so, respectfully, I have no choice but to make this request.”

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, later told the media that “We respect their request and of course will accommodate it.” The trial schedule was subsequently set to halt late Friday afternoon and resume Sunday.

Last Monday, Mr. Schoen withdrew the request — though he stood firm on his non-participation on Shabbos.

“Based on adjustments that have been made on the President’s defense team, I am writing today to withdraw my request so that the proceedings can go forward as originally contemplated before I made my request. I will not participate during the Sabbath; but the role I would have played will be fully covered to the satisfaction of the defense team,” he wrote.

We can only hope that the powerful message sent by Mr. Schoen — that the sanctity of Shabbos is something non-negotiable to a Jew — will reverberate in the hearts of Jews throughout the country and the world, and others will be emboldened by his public example to do likewise in their own professional and personal lives. The fact that the Senate so graciously agreed to respect this request underscores how grateful we ought to be that we live in a malchus shel chessed.

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Now that the performance has come to an end, it is high time for the party that effectively controls both the executive and legislative branches of government to focus on the purpose they were elected for. It is imperative that the focus is shifted away from the happenings of the past to the present and that the political future of the 45th President of the United States should be left to the American voters to decide. From a desperately needed additional stimulus bill to an infrastructure package and immigration reform, there is real work that needs to be done. Instead of looking for new ways to score political points, let them start tackling real issues instead.