To Impeach Or Not to Impeach

Alan Zendell, October 23, 2019

The latest Quinnipiac University poll, released this morning, found that 59 percent of registered voters believe President Trump acted in his own interest and against the interest of the United States in his dealings with Ukraine, and 48 percent supported his removal from office. 55 percent now support the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, while Trump’s overall approval rating has slipped to 38 percent.

The results are a snapshot of voter sentiment from last week, prior to yesterday’s devastating testimony by acting Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Taylor corroborated the whistle blower complaint that started all this and offered excruciating detail providing context that painted a bleak picture for Trump. Perhaps more significant than the numbers themselves is that all three poll results continued negative trends that have been consistent since the last week in September.

That’s important because Senate Republicans read those trends, and Trump’s fate ultimately rests with them when (not if) the House votes to impeach him. Until now, those same Senators, with just a few exceptions, have marched in lockstep in their public statements supporting Trump, but conventional wisdom says that will change if Trump’s approval numbers continue to go south.

And here’s something even more interesting that was reported by the Conservative website, The Daily Caller. The Caller polled all fifty-three Republican Senators, asking if they would rule out removing Trump from office when the impeachment trial lands in the Senate. Only seven of the fifty-three were willing to state unequivocally that they would. Of the other forty-six, about half gave equivocal responses, meaning they wouldn’t go on the record until they heard all the testimony, while the rest chose not to respond at all. As in the Quinnipiac poll, almost none of the results to The Caller’s inquiry reflected reactions to Ambassador Taylor’s testimony.

I’m not a fan of hypothetical speculation, but this is an opportune time to ask a couple of “what-if” questions. By now, every American is clear that impeachment trials are not necessarily about breaking laws, and the standards of proof and evidence have little resemblance to those used in criminal court trials. Impeachment is one hundred percent political, which means each Senator will be weighing the evidence of harm to the nation against his or her own political future. In the simplest terms, if they feel vulnerable to Trump’s base, and they see that base holding firm, it’s going to take a mountain of damaging testimony to get them to vote for removal.

What if the downward trends for Trump continue? How bad do his approval numbers have to get before Senators perceive Trump’s base as soft enough to not threaten their own re-election chances? In other words, when will it be safe for integrity to win out? The Republican Party used to be all about conservative defense of the Constitution. But in this administration, Senators like Jeff Flake, who believed in that kind of conservatism have largely been forced into retirement.  

Until now the Republican defense of Trump has officially been along the lines that impeachment is simply a partisan reaction to a president Democrats hate. But the testimony heard by the House this week was given by career diplomats and State Department professionals who are the most apolitical people in government. There was clearly no partisanship in Ambassador Taylor’s testimony, nor did the DNI Inspector General find any in the whistle blower’s complaint. So let’s assume, for the sake of argument that the deluge of damaging information from professionals with no political ax to grind continues.

Republican Senators may find themselves as exposed as the emperor with no clothes as they defend their positions before the court of public opinion. Will integrity win in the end? How many will execute their sworn responsibility to defend the Constitution?

Though most people (including me) previously predicted that Trump would never be convicted by the Senate, I recall feeling the same way in 1973. We all knew Richard Nixon had committed felonies in office, but as we’ve said, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” doesn’t imply what it might mean in criminal court. In the end, the Republican Senators who had supported Nixon throughout the Watergate inquiry found that they could not any longer. Nixon’s resignation was a result of his Senators telling him he had no choice but to quit. So who knows? Just when things look darkest……….

In the end, the real question may be what Trump does if he finds his back to the wall with nowhere to turn. He’s threatened civil insurrection more than once. I wouldn’t put it past him to call his base to arms.

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Cleaning Up Trump’s Mess

Alan Zendell, October 17, 2019

Mitt Romney’s remarks on the Senate Floor were perfect. He described President Trump’s impulsive withdrawal of American forces from Syria as a bloodstain on the annals of American history. He said what most Americans were thinking as they heard the president spin and distort the events of this week almost beyond recognition: “The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. Serious questions remain about how the decision was reached precipitously to withdraw from Syria and why that decision was reached.”

Romney called for immediate hearings by the Senate to determine exactly how we got to this point. The remarkable thing about what he said wasn’t the words themselves, but  that it was a Republican Senator from a very red state who uttered them.

I and many others have long believed Trump’s support in the majority Republican Senate was razor-thin and based on the fear of his base by those who are up up for re-election in 2020. The Senate’s partisan gridlock over Trump has always been about the tug of war between the desire to be re-elected and the constitutional responsibility of protecting the nation. Most Senators are as embarrassed and shocked by the president’s behavior as the rest of us, and it’s been reported that as many as thirty-five of the fifty-three Republicans in the Senate would happily remove him from office if it could be done quietly and bloodlessly – their own blood, that is.

Vice President Pence’s announcement of a cease fire in Turkey was a combination of Orwellian Doublespeak and Dorothy drawing the curtain to reveal the Wizard as a fraud. Trump’s comments claiming that it was a victory for everyone including the Kurds was the surest sign yet that he has retreated into his own schizophrenic alternate reality. Perhaps the most telling moment came when Trump turned and walked away from the camera. For a few more seconds, viewers could clearly see the President applauding himself as though he’d just completed an episode of The Apprentice. The absolute gall of these people!

Trump claimed that the pause in hostilities was the outcome everyone wanted and all parties were happy. Does that include the 160,000 Kurds who saw their towns destroyed and families of the people killed in the Turkish assault? Trump’s claim that his lone wolf decision to withdraw troops was the only way that outcome could have been achieved is absurd. He acted against the recommendations of advisers far more qualified than himself and without any idea how it would turn out. It was like remodeling your house by blowing it up and hoping the pieces happen to fall where you want them.

Romney asked what most of the world was asking. If the creation of a safe zone in Syria along the Turkish border was the outcome desired by all parties, why didn’t Trump initiate negotiations to accomplish it? The answer is simple and obvious. He was rolled by Turkish President Erdogan. The Turkish assault on the Kurds is simply the latest consequence of Trump’s incompetence. The blood of every Kurd who died this week is on his hands, and the Turkish Foreign Minister acknowledged that Turkey got everything it wanted and paid no price for it.

What may be even worse is the cavalier manner in which Trump described the displacement of 160,000 people. After all the atrocities we’ve seen in Syria under Assad, does he believe that herding the Kurds into refugee camps at the mercy of the Syrian dictator is in their interest?

Finally, there’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the President’s mental state as he desperately tries to deal with the growing wave of sentiment for his removal. This entire affair was just another attempt to distract attention from his abject failure as president, and his delusions about how he is perceived on both the world and the national stages.

Left unsaid in the administration’s attempt to spin this disaster as a victory are the changes on the ground in Syria that will be impossible to undo. The Assad regime has been immeasurably strengthened, and Russia’s foothold in Syria is now virtually unassailable. Trump, the only player in this game who couldn’t see them coming, ignore those unanticipated consequences.

As the political sharks who value their own futures over their responsibilities to the nation begin to sense Trump’s weakness, they will descend and rip his presidency to shreds. That is very much what Donald Trump deserves, but it will be a tragedy for America whose implications will plague us for years.

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Italy Didn’t Help Us Invade Normandy Either

Welcoming Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Washington this morning, Donald Trump delivered one of his characteristically incoherent addresses. He lauded Mattarella, the entire population of Italy, and all Americans of Italian-American descent, then pivoted to complaining about how unfairly Italy and the rest of the EU treat the United States, blaming Italy for a large fraction of America’s trade deficit.

To listen to Trump, you would think America was a helpless dupe of a nation being taken advantage of by everyone else on the planet. The truth is that our trade relationships, which evolved over the decades since World War 2, were negotiated and agreed upon by seasoned, experienced professionals. No one had a gun to America’s head. Our trade policies with Europe stemmed from the Marshall Plan, which greatly benefited Europe, but us as well since it restored the economies of every western nation.

The real culprits in our trade imbalances are the American corporations that shipped millions of jobs overseas to reduce manufacturing costs – that is, to increase their bottom line profits. Trump understands this thoroughly. Just ask his daughter Ivanka how she does business.

Threatening new trade wars with the EU is Trump’s way of distracting from his own corrupt and incompetent decisions. He paints our friends and allies as predators whose only desire is to profit at our expense. Yet he allows Vladimir Putin to profit whenever he has an opportunity, while receiving nothing in return. As Russian troops fill the void left when Trump precipitated the current crisis, Putin must feel like he won a lottery.

Today Trump tried to sully the reputation of our former allies, claiming “the Kurds are no angels.” No Donald, they’re not, they’re mere mortals like the rest of us. In fact, their situation has much in common Trump’s favorite ally, Israel, a point on which I actually agree with him. Both are surrounded by hostile neighbors who would love to eradicate them, both have been fighting for decades to stave off annihilation, and both proved to be strategically valuable American allies, albeit for different reasons.

Trump is fine with spending more than $50 billion annually to defend Israel from its neighbors. Yet, even though the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that the total spent supporting the Kurds since 2017 was only $1.4 billion, Trump characterizes that as a waste of taxpayer money, the same wasted taxpayer dollars that saved countless American lives that might have been lost had the Kurds not done most of the fighting that pushed the ISIS Caliphate out of Syria.

Today he made things worse. In the face of loud anger from the military, especially those who served alongside the Kurds and learned to respect and like them, he’s doing everything he can to convince his base that they’re not worth saving, that the only thing they’re good at is fighting. He says Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds are just fighting over a bunch of sand, and we have no part in the fight. In the 1950s many people who opposed supporting Israel said much the same thing about the Negev and the Sinai. What made the difference then was our national paranoia about Communism. Support for Israel was viewed as building a bulwark against Soviet expansion. Yet today, with Russia every bit as dangerous an adversary as its predecessor Soviet Union, our President didn’t bat an eye when he basically handed Syria to the Russians.

Again today, he carried on, ranting about the awful Kurds who didn’t offer to help us invade Normandy. This time he did it sitting beside Italian President Mattarella, with whom he was trying to expand economic relations. Does anyone notice an irony in that? Italy didn’t help with the Normandy invasion either. In 1944 they were the enemy.

I wonder if there’s a pattern there. Trump also savaged South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his staunchest political allies today for speaking in support of the Kurds. Graham was born eleven years and three months after the invasion of Normandy. Could being born too late absolve Graham of responsibility for not landing on one of those beaches with all the other brave Americans who answered the call when their country needed them? Nearly thirty years of military service earned Graham a Bronze Star in 2014.

And our president who just referred to former Defense Secretary James Mattis as one of the most over-rated generals in the world? By now everyone knows about the bone spurs that kept him from serving in Vietnam. At the time, Trump famously told his associates that serving in Vietnam was stupid; he had better things to do and money to make. In December 2018, USA Today and the New York Times reported that the podiatrist who wrote the bone spur diagnosis did so as a favor to his landlord – Donald Trump’s father. Their source? His two daughters.

Trump is too morally bankrupt to evaluate the worth of either the Kurds or his generals. And with his latest actions he’s turned an incompetent presidency into an extremely dangerous one.

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The Aftermath: Dead Kurds and ISIS Renewed

Alan Zendell, October 15, 2019

When Vice President Mike Pence announced that he’d been instructed by President Trump to lead a delegation to Turkey, he was quick to assure Americans that Trump did not give Turkish President Erdoğan a “green light” to invade Syria. It doesn’t matter whether that’s true, though personally, given the administration’s relationship with truth, I doubt it. Either Pence lied or Trump was completely hoodwinked by Erdoğan. I can’t decide which is worse.

Trump has fumbled his interactions with other world leaders since he took office. Embarrassing as those flubs were, his base could still cheer his arrogant bravado, because no obvious short-term harm resulted. But this time is different. Either by intent or as a result of ignoring all his advisers and trusting his completely uninformed gut feeling, by pulling back the special forces troops supporting the Kurds, Trump created a bloodbath.

Pence repeated Trump’s demand for a ceasefire, but no one believes that will happen before Turkey achieves its objective. What Pence failed to mention is that while he was announcing his as yet unscheduled trip, Kurds were being slaughtered by Turkish artillery and their towns were being destroyed. He also failed to mention that Bashir al Assad’s forces are already occupying Kurd positions, and Kurdish leaders have already accepted the protection of Assad and Russia. And as for the ISIS fighters who’d been captured by our Kurdish allies, they’re now free to start over again. Are we supposed to believe that Trump can just press reset and reverse all that?

Only the blindest partisan can now fail to accept that Trump’s style of diplomacy is both incompetent and dangerous to American interests. And if the allegations currently being heard by the House Intelligence Committee are backed up by corroborating evidence, it may also be unconstitutional if not illegal. It’s clear in all of these actions that Trump’s motivation was entirely political, intended to help his re-election campaign. Many in Defense and State have feared that Trump would resort to inciting conflict because he thought it would unite the electorate behind him. More likely it will be seen by uncommitted voters as tantamount to a war crime.

Trump’s comments about the Kurds made it crystal clear that he doesn’t consider the Kurdish forces that did almost all the fighting against ISIS in Syria as either allies or human beings with families and towns to protect. He angrily yelled that the Kurds had been well-paid and supplied for their trouble. In other words, in Trump’s eyes our relationship with the Kurds who died for us was purely transactional. They were paid mercenaries, plain and simple. But talk to anyone who ever worked with the Kurds, and you get an entirely different story.

The Kurds found themselves caught between the murderous Assad, continual threats by Erdoğan, and the ISIS Caliphate. All they ever wanted was to be left alone to live in peace, and they were willing to fight to achieve that no matter what the odds. And for Americans who tend to view all of Islam monolithically, it’s important to note that the Kurds practice Islam as it was intended. They don’t preach Jihad, they don’t abuse their women, and they reject the Shia dictatorship of Iran.

They didn’t fight alongside American forces for money. They fought to protect their homes and way of life, and the payments they received were made to enable them to defend themselves. We were incredibly fortunate to discover an ally like the Kurds in that part of the world. It’s likely that we would not have defeated the Caliphate without filling hundreds or thousands of body bags with American casualties, if the Kurds hadn’t done it for us. And now, Trump has shown his true colors. The Kurds are Muslims, and they’re more brown than white. Trump has said repeatedly that he likes allies who look like they’re from Norway, despite (or possibly because of) the fact that Norway has been turning into a fascist, racist country.

This is the first time I’ve heard people nervously wondering if their president is about to trigger World War 3 since the Cuban Missile Crisis. He has turned a laughably incompetent administration into an unstable, extremely dangerous crew who have lost the confidence of our allies and reinforced the conviction among our adversaries like Vladimir Putin that Trump will continue to be an easy mark for them. The sooner he is neutralized, the better off our country will be.

 

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When Trump Called Erdogan…

Alan Zendell, October 14, 2019

If you made a list of things Donald Trump has done right as President, appointing General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense would be at the top. But like most of the potentially right things Trump attempted, his own narcissism undid it. Instead of following Mattis’ advice, when he announced that he was going to pull American troops out of Syria last December, it was the final straw for Mattis, who resigned in protest.

The decision to withdraw from Syria was intended to be seen by Trump’s base as keeping a promise to leave Afghanistan. Yes, I know that makes no sense. Neither does withdrawing fewer than 1,000 Special Forces play as cutting unnecessary military expenses. If Trump were serious about that he would reduce the 50,000 troops still based in Japan. Is he expecting another Okinawa-type infantry invasion? Could be, since he used the Kurds’ failure to help us invade Normandy in 1944 to justify abandoning them to the murderous fury of the Turks.

Trump, who brags that he is a brilliant negotiator, has been playing chicken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the issue of the Kurds since 2017. According to Axios, Trump and Erdoğan have been running bluffs against each other, and they were both wrong. Trump has virtually been daring Erdogan to follow through on his threat to cleanse northern Syria of the Kurds, who they consider a terrorist threat to Turkey. Trump and his White House staff (Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller?) never expected Erdogan to call their bluff.

This is a pattern that repeats whenever Trump confronts a foreign autocrat (Valdimir Putin, Xi Jin Ping, Kim Jong Un). He ignores his advisers, believing he knows more about negotiation and diplomacy than they do, then acts impulsively in secret, blindsiding all of them, and winds up stepping in you-know-what.

Last Sunday, when Trump phoned his new dictator/idol Erdoğan, and agreed to pull American troops back from the Syria-Turkey border to clear the way for a Turkish invasion, he thought he’d exacted a promise that Turkey would protect Kurdish civilians and maintain the stewardship of tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners and their families. But Trump was had by Erdoğan. His policy of gutting critical Departments like Justice and State of committed career employees who have served for decades independent of party affiliation is coming home to roost in spades.

And who is the recipient of Trump’s massive blunder? Not anyone we consider a friend or ally. Our erstwhile sworn enemy, murderous Syrian president Bashir Al Assad is the initial winner, as the Kurds, facing overwhelming odds and armament from Turkey had no choice but to ally themselves with Assad’s forces. But the primary beneficiary is Vladimir Putin, who silently licks his chops as he watches Trump destroy any vestige of trust that remains with our traditional allies. After turning our backs on the Kurds, who spilled their blood for us for years, why would anyone else trust us with their future security?

To makes things worse, Turkey clearly has no intention of keeping its promise to take over the incarceration of ISIS fighters captured by the Kurds. Their families have been released, and it’s only a matter of days or hours before thousands of foreign ISIS fighters are free to return home. When Trump was asked how he felt about that, he said it was no problem because they would be returning to Europe. Imagine what all of the Europeans who watch American news felt hearing that. Remember Paris and Madrid?

And lest you think this is deep state/fake news propaganda, here’s what Fox News had to say. Trump consulted with the Joint Chiefs prior to calling Erdoğan, and agreed to a set of talking points, chief of which was that Turkey stay north of the Syrian border. But Trump went off script, blindsiding everyone, and told Erdoğan that he would pull back American forces that had been serving as a buffer between Turkey and the Kurds.

As bad as that sounds, it doesn’t address the real danger. We have no control over the actions of the Turks, Syrians, Iranians, and Russians, all of whom have large stakes in the region, and there could be huge consequences for Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe if Erdoğan’s adventurism erupts into a wider war.

And there’s a more serious question. With Erdoğan now buying weapons from Russia, if we can’t trust Turkey to honor its promise to preserve human rights and security in Syria, how can we trust them to fulfill their commitment to NATO? As awful as Trump is as a human being, his arrogance and incompetence in foreign affairs could have disastrous ramifications for the entire world.

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Danger: Unchartered Territory

Alan Zendell, September 30, 2019

James Hohmann, in today’s Washington Post Daily 202 Newsletter, characterized President Trump’s reaction to the House’s impeachment inquiry as running the smashmouth playbook he learned from the infamous Joe McCarthy’s henchman Roy Cohn, who was Trump’s mentor for more than two decades. Hohmann noted that it’s the same playbook he’s used every time he was accused of wrongdoing, from Justice Department complaints over racial discrimination to the Mueller investigation.

He’s correct, but why not just call it what it is? He’s acting like a thug, behaving the way gangsters and mafia bosses do. Threats and wild accusations usually served him well in business, but as we’ve often noted, the Presidency isn’t the real estate business. Will it work this time?

If all Trump did was call people names and invent crazy conspiracy theories, the people responsible for deciding his fate would just roll their eyes and ignore him. But he has gone far beyond that. He suggested that the whistleblower who filed the complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry is guilty of a crime that carries the death penalty, though his own Director of National Intelligence and Inspector General for Intelligence have both stated that the whistleblower acted legally in every regard and must be protected under federal law.

It gets worse. You know Trump is desperate when he sends his Weasel in Chief Stephen Miller out to defend him on the Sunday talk shows. Miller managed to anger almost everyone with his sneering, condescending defense of Trump, asserting that he’s the real whistleblower, blasting the lid off a plot to undermine his presidency. Miller, whose racist, far-right attitudes are frighteningly rabid, has had Trump’s ear since the day he was inaugurated.

Although every member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrats and Republicans, clearly asserted that the whistleblower’s identity must remain confidential, and that he or she must be protected from retaliation or physical harm, Trump keeps demanding to “face his accuser.” After he labeled the whistleblower a criminal worthy of death, some of his supporters offered a $50,000 bounty to anyone who leaks the whistleblower’s identity. His supporters will claim that Trump is not responsible for the bounty, but even if you believe that, once it was made public, the President of the United States was obligated to denounce it. Don’t hold your breath.

Trump has further demanded to know who gave information to the whistleblower, though it’s not clear that the complaint depended on leaked information. All of these actions taken together violate not only the whistle blower protection statute, but they can only be viewed as witness tampering. That’s pure gangsterism, crime with a capital “C”. Trump’s crimes are far more serious than anything included in the articles of impeachment filed against Bill Clinton. Clinton’s actions were inappropriate and irresponsible. The centerpiece of Clinton’s trial in the Senate was lying about a sex act, the least serious of the offenses committed by Trump.

Trump’s complete disregard for law, much less any standard of decency or morality will undo him in the end. Most of his supporters constantly wrestle to control their nausea as they march in lockstep for fear of Trump’s base, which a Texas preacher suggested might react with open rebellion, i.e., civil war. Trump has no doubt heard that too, but it hasn’t occurred to him to condemn that kind inciting rhetoric.

If you think that couldn’t happen, the unhappy reality is that among Trump’s base are some very nasty people: white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and survivalists living under the radar, heavily armed and paranoid. Trump has implied several times that he won’t go down without taking his enemies with him, and we’ve seen numerous times how Trump’s suggestions have been followed by horrific violence. His reckless disregard for the general welfare and safety of the nation all by itself makes Trump unfit to continue in office. His lust for power and greed obviously know no bounds.

With the impeachment inquiry less than a week old, Trump’s behavior is already off the rails. In addition to the Ukraine mess, he’s been pressuring the Australian Prime Minister to find evidence that the Mueller investigation was really the witch hunt he claims it was. Crazy, you say? There is a grave danger that Trump’s mental health will deteriorate as President Nixon’s did when confronted with his own inescapable guilt. Nixon’s Chief of Staff was able to build a firewall around him, but there will be no way to silence Trump’s Twitter feed, and there is no reason to believe that Trump recognizes any limits.

We have a president who believes he is a stable genius who is perfect in every way. He will never back down no matter how much collateral damage he causes. Donald Trump poses a far more serious threat to the United States than all of the terrorists and adversary nations that wish us ill.

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The Great Republican Dilemma

Alan Zendell, September 27, 2019

Donald Trump rocketed to power by arousing a base of support that was angry – at the policies of Barack Obama, at everyone on welfare and Medicaid, at the growing non-white population, at immigrants they were told were stealing their jobs and raping their daughters, and at the Congress. He did what he does best, lying, exaggerating, obfuscating, bullying, and generally behaving shamelessly.

Trump dismantled the Republican Party and forced out the centrists and virtually anyone who might cross the aisle and work through the partisan divide. He was successful because each of his Republican rivals was focused only on his own short-term self-interest, which allowed Trump to pick them off one at a time like a lion stalking a herd of zebras in the savanna.

Fear of Trump’s base and frustration with partisan gridlock caused dozens of Representative and Senators to voluntarily leave Congress. At no point since Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 have any of them attempted to form a meaningful coalition to counter him, and the Republican survivors of the President’s assault on decency and bipartisan cooperation learned that they could only endure by proclaiming fealty to the would-be emperor.

Throughout the year-long lead up to Speaker Pelosi’s decision to pursue a full-blown impeachment inquiry, the general perception was that impeachment was extremely risky for Democrats because the majority Republican Senate would never vote to convict, and a failed impeachment would only embolden Trump’s base. I believed that until yesterday.

I’ve always thought the most likely Trump defeat scenario was one in which he destroyed himself. Surely, one day his ego and disregard for law and the Constitution would cause him to cross a line even his terrified fellow Republicans couldn’t accept. It was inevitable, but would it happen in time to assure that he would be a one-term President?

When Mitch McConnell allowed a unanimous Senate vote to pursue an investigation of the Whistleblower Complaint last week, we sensed a sea change on the horizon. While almost all of his Senate caucus has either been publicly supportive of Trump or remained silent, it was clear that something else was happening behind the scenes. Former Ohio Governor and 2016 Trump rival John Kasich said McConnell would only have made that decision if he knew that a number of Senators would leave the reservation if he didn’t.

Senators were becoming nervous. They had all tied their re-election chances and their ability to hold their majority in the Senate to Trump’s success. They couldn’t squelch an investigation and risk having bombshell evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing explode during the 2020 election campaign. To underline their concern, Conservative outlets like The Washington Examiner took the emerging cracks in Republican support for Trump seriously enough to repeat the warning issued by Mike Murphy, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.

Murphy predicted that if the Democrats forced the Republican Senate into a yes-no vote on removing Trump from office, at a minimum they would lose Cory Gardner (CO), Susan Collins (ME), and Martha McSally (AZ). Both Murphy and former Senator Jeff Flake (AZ) said they’d been told privately that if the Senate vote were conducted anonymously, thirty of the fifty-three Republicans would vote to oust Trump. Combined with the forty-five Democrats and two Independents, the total would far exceed the sixty-seven votes needed to convict. That’s both encouraging and embarrassing. The idea that thirty Republican Senators want Trump gone but will only say so if they don’t have to stand up and identify themselves tells us all we need to know about the jeopardy we’re in as a nation.

The reality is that all the pressure Nancy Pelosi was under to make a decision on impeachment has shifted to the Republicans in the Senate. Motivated by self-interest, they can’t afford to wait too long to decide whether to support Trump’s bid for re-election. They have to make up their minds before the end of this year if they expect to replace him with a viable candidate in time for the primary season.
Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld have already announced that they will challenge Trump next year. But we’re all aware that the most viable Republican challenger, John Kasich, is waiting in the wings licking his chops, ready to graciously accept the invitation to jump into the race.

Trump doesn’t do himself any favors with events like his impromptu press conference on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews yesterday. Ranting and looking as if he was about dissemble completely, inventing new conspiracy theories on the fly, he must have scared the hell out of the very Senators he may soon depend on to keep him in office.

This Fall should be great theater.

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