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As Inquiry Widens, McConnell Is Said to See Impeachment Trial as Inevitable

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-senate-facebookJumbo As Inquiry Widens, McConnell Is Said to See Impeachment Trial as Inevitable United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Murkowski, Lisa McConnell, Mitch impeachment Elections, Senate Constitution (US) Collins, Susan M

WASHINGTON — It was only a few weeks ago that the top Senate Republican was hinting that his chamber would make short work of impeachment.

But this week, Senator Mitch McConnell sat his colleagues down over lunch in the Capitol and warned them to prepare for an extended impeachment trial of President Trump.

According to people who were there, he came equipped with a PowerPoint presentation, complete with quotes from the Constitution, as he schooled fellow senators on the intricacies of a process he portrayed as all but inevitable.

Few Republicans are inclined to convict Mr. Trump on charges that he abused his power to enlist Ukraine in an effort to smear his political rivals. Instead, Mr. McConnell sees the proceedings as necessary to protect a half a dozen moderates in states like Maine, Colorado and North Carolina who face re-election next year and must show voters they are giving the House impeachment charges a serious review.

It’s people like Senator Susan Collins of Maine who will be under immense political pressure as they decide the president’s fate.

“To overturn an election, to decide whether or not to convict a president is about as serious as it gets,” Ms. Collins said.

Mr. McConnell is walking a careful line of his own in managing the fast-moving impeachment process. On Friday, the senator wrote a scathing op-ed criticizing the president’s decision to pull back troops from northern Syria, calling it a “grave strategic mistake.” But Mr. McConnell views it as his role to protect a president of his own party from impeachment and in a recent fund-raising video, he vowed to stop it.

The mood among Republicans on Capitol Hill has shifted from indignant to anxious as a parade of administration witnesses has submitted to closed-door questioning by impeachment investigators and corroborated central elements of the whistle-blower complaint that sparked the inquiry.

They grew more worried still on Thursday, after Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, undercut the president’s defense by saying that Mr. Trump had indeed withheld security aid from Ukraine in order to spur an investigation of his political rivals. Mr. Mulvaney later backtracked, but the damage was done.

“I couldn’t believe it — I was very surprised that he said that,” said Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida, who mocked Mr. Mulvaney’s attempts to take back comments that had been broadcast live from the White House briefing room.

“It’s not an Etch A Sketch,” Mr. Rooney said, miming the tipping movement that erases the toy drawing board. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday when it came up, I certainly was.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski — an Alaskan Republican who is seen as potentially open to removing Mr. Trump from office — told reporters that a president should never engage in the kinds of actions that Mr. Mulvaney appeared to acknowledge.

“You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative,” she said. “Period.”

Still, Republicans said they did not detect a significant shift that would pose a serious threat to the president in the Senate. It would require 20 Republicans to side with Democrats in convicting Mr. Trump, and few observers believe that will happen.

Mr. McConnell, his allies said, regards the impeachment fight in much the same way as he did the struggle last year to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in which he was primarily concerned with protecting his Senate majority by insulating vulnerable incumbents. Then, as now, they said, Mr. McConnell is focused on keeping Republicans as united as possible, while allowing those with reservations about Mr. Trump’s conduct and their own political considerations to justify their decision to their constituents.

“I think he will play it straight,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a close McConnell ally, who noted his party’s narrow voting margin. “I don’t think he has any alternative. When you are operating with 53 you have thin margins and you can’t jam anybody or you end up with undesirable consequences.”

Mr. McConnell has told colleagues he expects the House to impeach Mr. Trump quickly, possibly by Thanksgiving, an educated hunch based on the pace of the inquiry so far and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to keep the inquiry narrowly focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He plans to move swiftly too, he told colleagues, using the approach of Christmas to force the Senate to complete its work before the beginning of 2020.

Yet an impeachment trial is a spectacle that is by its nature unpredictable, and most of the senators who will act as jurors were not around for the last one, of Bill Clinton in 1999. Mr. McConnell reminded senators that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would preside over the trial, and would have wide latitude in handling motions that might be made, including any motion to dismiss the charges that Republicans might try to put forward to short circuit the process.

Mr. McConnell’s declaration that the Senate would move forward was in part designed to show he had no choice, an effort to deflect criticism from conservatives outraged that the Senate would even consider impeachment.

On Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pushed for Senate Republicans to write a letter to Ms. Pelosi declaring that they would not remove the president. But some senators raised objections, worrying that some of their colleagues would not want to sign on, a result that would expose disunity among Republicans. Mr. Graham’s colleagues said they believe they staved off the letter, which they viewed as a mistake.

Mr. McConnell has made it clear that he plans to sit down with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to see if they can find a mutually acceptable way to move forward as Democrats and Republicans did in 1999 when they unanimously agreed on the framework for the impeachment trial. The Senate is much more polarized now, though Mr. Schumer this week held out hope.

“We have to do this trial in a fair and bipartisan way and I hope that Leader McConnell would obey those strictures,” Mr. Schumer said. In the battle for Senate control, Democrats have their own political risks to consider since impeachment could prompt a backlash against some of their candidates if enough voters conclude that the president was pursued unfairly.

Just 15 senators remain in office from the time Mr. Clinton was put on trial. Mr. McConnell warned them of the weight of the trial, where they can be required to be on the floor all afternoon six days a week without speaking — a major challenge for senators who relish their chances to be heard.

“It will mean day after day sitting in chamber, listening to the two sides, writing questions for them to answer that go through the chief justice,” said Ms. Collins, one of the Republicans who voted to acquit Mr. Clinton 20 years ago. “Members who have not been through this before will find it is a great deal of work.”

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Hoo boy: Colorado poll has Cory Gardner trailing by double digits in Senate race

Westlake Legal Group cg Hoo boy: Colorado poll has Cory Gardner trailing by double digits in Senate race The Blog Senate poll peters Michigan John Hickenlooper james Cory Gardner Colorado

The hopeful caveat comes right up front: This is a Democratic poll and there’s fully a year to go before Coloradans vote.

But the caveat comes with its own caveat. An independent poll of the state conducted by Emerson in August found Gardner trailing John Hickenlooper by a similar margin. Emerson had it 53/40. Today’s Democratic poll has it 53/42. Normally it’d be implausible for any incumbent senator to trail by double digits in a swing state, but … Colorado’s not much of a swing state anymore. It’s blue enough that Hillary managed to win it in 2016 when virtually every other battleground across the country was tilting towards Trump. And Gardner’s not facing some rando next fall. Hickenlooper is a twice-elected governor (and before that a twice-elected mayor of Denver), probably better known to most voters there than Gardner himself is. It’s certainly possible that this really is a 10-point race right now.

To think: If Hickenlooper’s presidential run had gotten a tiny bit more traction, he might have been forced to stick around in the Dem primaries long enough that his window to run for Senate back home would have closed. His total failure at the national level seems likely to produce a Senate pick-up for Democrats next fall.

The poll shows that President Trump is at his lowest popularity point since he took office. Thirty-eight percent of people polled said they viewed him favorably, compared to 60% who view him unfavorably. His favorability has only been that low once in KOM polling, in March 2018; and his unfavorability was last that high in January. KOM also conducted a similar poll in June…

Thirty-four percent of people polled in the latest KOM survey said they viewed Gardner favorably, compared to 45% who view him unfavorably. His favorability was lowest, and his unfavorability highest, at any point that KOM has polled that question over the past 2 ½ years…

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they support the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, compared to 43% who oppose it. And 48% of respondents said they believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared to 44% who said he should not be.

Some have noted that Hickenlooper’s 53/42 margin over Gardner closely matches support for the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, which runs 54/43. Trump may be killing Gardner here. And if it’s true that Trump’s own approval rating in Colorado stands at 38/60, he might not even contest the state next fall, calculating that his resources are better spent trying to flip Minnesota.

All of this puts Gardner in a terrible bind on impeachment. More so than most of his Republican colleagues, he’s damned if he votes to remove and damned if he doesn’t. The poll notes that his approval is barely above water even among his own party, which means he’ll basically be required to vote to acquit Trump to shore up their support. The last thing he can afford to do now is piss off his own base when he’s fighting uphill against Hickenlooper, after all. But given the depth of Colorado’s dislike for Trump, siding with the president is destined to cement some of the opposition to Gardner. Unaffiliated voters already favor Hickenlooper by 25 points (58/33) and 61 percent(!) of them support impeachment, which means there’s no option for Gardner on impeachment and removal that probably won’t cost him more votes than it’ll earn him.

If these Democratic numbers remotely reflect actual reality, Gardner might be sunk next fall. It’s not like the economy’s going to get dramatically better between now and then to rescue him given how well it’s done already during Trump’s term. And in light of the past week or two, it’s highly unlikely that Trump will say or do anything in the coming year that’ll rehabilitate him with Coloradans.

The only silver lining here: Doug Jones is facing the same “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma in Alabama. Vote to acquit Trump and his own party will be outraged, vote to remove and the majority of the electorate will revolt. At worst, the loss of Gardner’s seat to the GOP will be offset by the gain of Jones’s seat. The difference between the two senators is that Jones surely knows his time in the Senate is over and will probably vote on removal and everything else over the next 12 months the way he wants, without worrying about the political implications. Gardner’s doom isn’t quite as assured so he may still be susceptible to partisan pressure. For Trump’s sake, he should hope Gardner gets a good poll or two between now and the removal vote to convince him to stick with the team. If he falls further behind Hickenlooper, Gardner may say “to hell with it” and start voting the way he wants too.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Republicans in the Senate, though. I’ll leave you on a sunny note with this poll from Michigan, which has challenger John James neck and neck with Democratic incumbent Gary Peters, trailing 43/40. James outperformed expectations last year in falling short against Debbie Stabenow. With Trump at the top of the ticket in a state that went red in 2016, he has a shot at a pick-up. Which is good because, with Susan Collins in the same boat as Gardner on impeachment and removal, we shouldn’t count on Maine’s Senate seat staying red next year either.

The post Hoo boy: Colorado poll has Cory Gardner trailing by double digits in Senate race appeared first on Hot Air.

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Graham: I want Senate Republicans to send Pelosi a letter stressing that this Ukraine business isn’t an impeachable offense

Westlake Legal Group lg Graham: I want Senate Republicans to send Pelosi a letter stressing that this Ukraine business isn’t an impeachable offense zelensky Ukraine The Blog Senate republicans pelosi impeachment billy graham

So here’s a variation on the strategy I wrote about on Monday night. Some Republicans like Tucker Carlson and Rob Portman have settled on the view that what Trump did with Ukraine is bad — but not impeachable. That’s a smart position to stake out early in the process since it attempts to remove the subject from the realm of facts to the realm of law, where matters are much less uncertain. After all, Democrats could turn up damning evidence of Trump’s conduct. Imagine Gordon Sondland testifying that the president was worried about Joe Biden beating him next fall and told him that the Burisma investigation would help avert that. If the GOP concedes the Democrats’ point that this is an impeachable offense if it’s proved then Trump’s fate is in Adam Schiff’s hands.

The safer play is to say, “Yes, yes, Trump behaved inappropriately in asking Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens but that’s just not enough of a crime to justify removing a sitting president from office. Scold him, censure him, but let the voters issue a verdict on his job.” Taking that position renders the Democratic investigation largely moot (although if they can prove Trump intended a quid pro quo, that would change the game) and leaves Trump’s fate in Senate Republicans’ hands. It doesn’t matter what facts Pelosi and Schiff produce; we don’t execute people for speeding and we don’t oust presidents over petty nonsense like trying to influence the coming election by jumpstarting a foreign probe of the then-frontrunner from the other party.

That’s the strategy Lindsey Graham endorsed this morning on Fox, more or less. The difference is that Graham, as Trump’s foremost apologist in the Senate, won’t even concede that the call with Zelensky was inappropriate. Carlson and Portman are happy to do that knowing that it doesn’t really matter and, if anything, might mollify Trump critics a bit to see members of his own party criticizing him (mildly) for something they’re angry about. Graham can’t even be bothered. Portman can adopt the “bad but not impeachable” line on this if he likes; Graham’s taking the “not bad and therefore certainly not impeachable” approach instead. And he wants his colleagues in the Senate to tell Pelosi that right now.

That’s clever inasmuch as a letter like that would operate a bit like a judicial order granting a motion to dismiss before a trial takes place. Graham is accusing the Democrats of failing to state a claim. Instead of waiting around for them to impeach, why not let them know up front that the Senate sees nothing actionable here? Maybe it’ll convince Pelosi not to bother with impeachment. (Highly unlikely.) Maybe it’ll be a morale booster to Republican voters who are worried about what Trump might be guilty of. (More likely.) Maybe it’ll provide a pretext for McConnell to hold a truncated/expedited trial after Trump is impeached, since Republican “jurors” will already be on record as saying that no high crime or misdemeanor was committed as a matter of law. (Likely.)

Not everyone in the Senate will sign such a letter, of course. Romney won’t. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Ben Sasse won’t. Various Republicans for various reasons will want to communicate to voters that they’re troubled by what Trump is accused of and are determined to let all the facts come out before reaching a conclusion. Call that the “nominally undecided” group. The next group, Portman’s “bad but not impeachable” faction, might not sign such a letter either. Obviously they disagree with Graham that Trump did nothing wrong. And even if he drafted the letter to avoid the question of whether Trump behaved appropriately or not and focused instead on whether there’s an impeachable offense here, Portman probably still wouldn’t sign it. He’s worried enough about the politics of this issue to have made a point of saying that what Trump did is bad. He won’t want to leap head-first into a GOP effort to prejudge the Democratic impeachment articles by insisting that there’s no crime even in a worst-case scenario.

All Graham needs to settle this matter, though, is 33 other Republicans to join him. If 34 GOPers in the chamber out of 53 are willing to commit to the position that nothing Trump did or conceivably could have done is impeachable then the impeachment and removal effort is officially doomed. Are there 33 other Republicans who are so cowed by Trump and his voters that they’d be willing to take that position right now?

I wouldn’t rule it out.

I assume Graham’s letter idea is being coordinated with the White House, in which case it’s part of a two-pronged strategy. The first prong is to make the case aggressively that the Democratic inquiry is a sham; it’s unfair, it’s an affront to due process, therefore any facts it produces are inherently suspect. That was the thrust of Pat Cipollone’s letter last night. Cipollone is playing offense. Graham’s letter would be playing defense, trying to frame the terms of the debate for the coming impeachment trial in the Senate. It doesn’t matter which facts the Democrats’ sham inquiry produced. There’s simply no crime here. Case dismissed.

The absolute best part of the clip, by the way, is the bit at the end when Graham exhorts Fox viewers to pray for the Kurds, as if they’re at risk of being victimized by a hurricane or some other disastrous natural force which America is powerless to influence. He took a similarly dubious view in a tweet this morning when he asked people to “Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration.” The Trump administration? I’ve only heard of one person within “the Trump Administration” who supports the decision to bug out of northern Syria as Turkey prepares to immolate American allies. It’s interesting, if not at all surprising, that Lindsey refuses to name that person.

It’s amazing how able he is to compartmentalize his disgust at Trump’s Syria policy with his zeal in defending Trump on impeachment, frankly. They’re two distinct matters, granted, but politicians use leverage they have over one matter to exact concessions on unrelated matters all the time. Pundits keep warning that Trump is playing with fire by antagonizing Senate Republicans on Syria at the very moment that they’re about to take his fate in their hands on impeachment, but is he really playing with fire? Graham is heartbroken about abandoning the Kurds and yet here he is on Fox trying to blow up the impeachment effort on the president’s behalf before it even reaches the Senate. With ass-kissing like this, why should Trump feel pressure to throw the Senate GOP a bone on foreign policy?

The post Graham: I want Senate Republicans to send Pelosi a letter stressing that this Ukraine business isn’t an impeachable offense appeared first on Hot Air.

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Lindsey Graham Draws Senate Battle Lines Against Pelosi On Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group lindsey-graham-pointing-620x413 Lindsey Graham Draws Senate Battle Lines Against Pelosi On Impeachment Ukraine Senate republicans Politics Nancy Pelosi Lindsey Graham impeachment gop Front Page Stories donald trump democrats Allow Media Exception

Lindsey Graham by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, is making it clear to Democrat leadership that if they attempt to impeach President Donald Trump over his call with Ukraine.

According to The Hill, Graham appeared on “Fox and Friends” and reaffirmed that the GOP doesn’t believe the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president was anything impeachable, and that she can forget about Republican support in the Senate:

Graham, in an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” said that he was going to ask other Senate Republicans to sign a letter to Pelosi saying that they “do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense.”

“They’re about to destroy the nation for no good reason,” Graham said. “And I want Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript, so she can stop now before she destroys the country.”

Graham has been making it absolutely clear from day one that the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had no quid-pro-quo attached to it, and that the Democratic circus surrounding it was a “sham.”

He also said that the whistleblower complaint that began this controversy was all hearsay, and that a president wouldn’t be impached on hearsay as along as he was around.

(Watch: Lindsey Graham Buries Any Hope That Dems Will Impeach Trump On Whistleblower “Sham”)

He later said that to impeach a president over this phone call would be “insane.”

At this time, Democrats are still in their “impeachment inquiry” phase. It seems to be moving rather slowly and despite there being support from Democrats for it, its leadership has seemed more than a little wary on the subject. However, while Democrats are rallying behind the strategy of impeachment, Republicans have been raising millions of dollars off of it.

In fact, only 24 hours after the impeachment announcement, Trump raised $5 million from small donations.

The post Lindsey Graham Draws Senate Battle Lines Against Pelosi On Impeachment appeared first on RedState.

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Report: Romney refusing requests to primary Trump — but could try to bring him down via impeachment

Westlake Legal Group r-2 Report: Romney refusing requests to primary Trump — but could try to bring him down via impeachment Trump The Blog Senate romney removal impeachment impeach

Superb clickbait from Gabriel Sherman, although not for a moment do I believe there’s a war chest out there of half a billion dollars which establishment Republicans are prepared to immolate in the futile hope of successfully primarying Trump. Especially with Romney as the anti-Trump alternative. He’s beloved in Utah but last I checked he wasn’t popular within the GOP. No doubt he’s less popular today, now that he’s picked up his criticism of the president.

But a story doesn’t need to be true for it to be eminently readable. If you’re a left-winger or a Never Trump righty, rumors of Romney plotting some sort of GOP rebellion against Trump are irresistible fanfic. Whereas if you’re a Trump fan, rumors of Romney plotting some sort of GOP rebellion against Trump are irresistible hate-read material. “The adults in the room are going to finally stop Trump!” “The RINOs are plotting a coup against the president!”

For the record, Romney isn’t going to bring down the Trump presidency during a Senate impeachment trial. They won’t get close to 67 votes to remove. But he might be able to persuade three colleagues to vote that way, which would give the Senate a clear majority in favor. (Unless Joe Manchin gets cold feet, of course.)

“There’s been a real increase in nervousness over the past three or four weeks,” a prominent GOP member told me. “Everybody sees what Trump did as such a clear abuse of power,” said another prominent Republican. “Whether it’s criminal or not is another issue. But it’s so blatantly over the line.”…

In the Senate, Ben Sasse and Susan Collins have made their usual equivocal noises—but not surprisingly, its Mitt Romney, longtime Trump antagonist and sometime suck-up, who’s become the standard-bearer, leading to questions as to what his game is. According to sources, donors have in recent days called the Utah senator and encouraged him to run against Trump in the primary. “There is a half-billion dollars on the sidelines from guys who are fed up with Trump,” a GOP donor told me…

According to people close to Romney, he’s firmly decided against primarying Trump, an enterprise he believes to be a sure loser given Trump’s enduring GOP support. Romney has also told people that, as an unsuccessful two-time presidential candidate, he’s the wrong person to take on Trump. Instead, a Romney adviser told me, Romney believes he has more potential power as a senator who will decide Trump’s fate in an impeachment trial. “He could have tremendous influence in the impeachment process as the lone voice of conscience in the Republican caucus,” the adviser said. In recent days, Romney has been reaching out privately to key players in the Republican resistance, according to a person briefed on the conversations. “Romney is the one guy who could bring along Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse. Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process. That’s why the things he’s saying are freaking Republicans out.”

Collins, Gardner, and Sasse? They’re all running for reelection next year! Voting with Democrats to remove Trump would lead to them either getting bounced in a primary or shellacked in the general election when pro-Trump Republicans stayed home in protest. If Romney really is targeting people to rebel, he’s better off with someone like Rubio, who’s stayed far away from confronting Trump thus far but who’s also pretty clearly miserable in the Senate and whose presidential prospects are long gone in a post-Trump GOP. He’s not up for reelection until 2022 either so he’d have a little time to either try to repair relations with the party later or to announcement his retirement long before the next primary starts shaping up. Remember, he was prepared to retire in 2016 before he got talked out of it.

If Romney’s looking for more nothing-to-lose votes, he could try fellow Utahn Mike Lee. Lee’s not up until 2022 either and anti-Trump Republicans are safer in Utah than they are in any other red state. Romney could even pledge to campaign for Lee to try to help him save his seat. One more possibility: Richard Burr, the senator from North Carolina who’s spent the duration of Trump’s presidency chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee. Importantly, Burr has said before that this would be his final term in the Senate. He has nothing to lose by crossing Trump, which may help explain why his committee’s investigation of Russiagate was more bipartisan and independent than its counterpart in the House.

Romney, Rubio, Lee, and Burr would mean 51 votes for impeachment, or 50 if Manchin balks. Plus, there’s always Murkowski!

Nah, I’m just kidding. Rubio wouldn’t have the nerve to vote to remove, even if he has little to lose at this point by doing so. Mike Lee circa 2016 would vote to remove but Mike Lee circa 2019 is pretty friendly with Trump and remains on the SCOTUS shortlist. Burr keeps a low profile and seems to like it that way, which makes an earth-shaking vote against Trump seem unlikely. I think Dems might get Romney and Murkowski and that’s probably it barring some explosive new evidence confirming Trump’s hand in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. The “remove” faction won’t even reach 50 votes, especially considering that the “bad but not impeachable” get-out-of-jail-free card is always available.

Exit question: What if the punchline to all this Trump/Romney drama is that Romney ends up voting against removal?

The post Report: Romney refusing requests to primary Trump — but could try to bring him down via impeachment appeared first on Hot Air.

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When ‘Get Out’ Is a President’s National Security Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-diplo-02-facebookJumbo When ‘Get Out’ Is a President’s National Security Strategy United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria State Department Senate Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense Department Assad, Bashar al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump is once again pursuing a national security strategy at odds with the official position of his government, ordering a pullback of American forces just inside the Syrian border. It is a move that his own senior advisers have warned would risk new chaos throughout the region.

He is demonstrating that in his pursuit of ending America’s “endless wars,” no American troop presence abroad is too small to escape his desire to terminate it. In this case, the mission has been to prevent Islamic State forces from reconstituting, and to keep another conflict at bay — a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces, including on those that have been America’s staunchest allies in the fight against ISIS.

To the Pentagon and the State Department, that is a traditional role for American troops, honed over 75 years of global leadership. But if there is a Trump doctrine around the world after 32 months of chaotic policymaking, it may have been expressed in its purest form when the president vented on Twitter on Monday morning: “Time for us to get out.”

Just this summer, the State Department’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, James F. Jeffrey, one of America’s most experienced Middle East hands, told a public forum not to worry about a precipitous withdrawal. “We plan on having a small residual force to remain on for an indefinite time,” he said. The president, he added, “is much seized with this.” But perhaps not seized the way Mr. Jeffrey imagined.

Long before he was elected, Mr. Trump had sounded a recurrent theme about Syria — as well as about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the American presence in Japan and South Korea, and other global deployments. Acting as the world’s policeman was too expensive, he complained. Allies played us for “suckers.” Both in the campaign and today, Mr. Trump sensed that many Americans share his view — and polls show he is right, even among some who loathe Mr. Trump himself.

So when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey spoke by telephone with Mr. Trump on Sunday, the Turkish leader likely knew exactly what he was doing: circumventing the American generals and diplomats who sing the praises of maintaining the traditional American forward presence around the world. The Turkish leader could appeal to Mr. Trump’s instincts, and clear a path for his forces to fight those he calls “terrorists” over his border, even though they are the same Kurdish troops who have long been allies of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s sudden abandonment of the Kurds was another example of the independent, parallel foreign policy he has run from the White House, which has largely abandoned the elaborate systems created since President Harry Truman’s day to think ahead about the potential costs and benefits of presidential decisions. That system is badly broken today. Mr. Trump is so suspicious of the professional staff — many drawn from the State Department and the C.I.A. — and so dismissive of the “deep state” foreign policy establishment, that he usually announces decisions first, and forces the staff to deal with them later.

It has happened time and time again on Syria. When he announced a unilateral withdrawal late last year, it was the final straw for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter was a searing indictment of Mr. Trump’s disregard for allies and alliances.

By Monday morning, both traditional American allies and Mr. Trump’s staunchest Republican defenders, the ones standing up for him in the impeachment battle, argued that the decision was a victory for authoritarian leaders across the geopolitical spectrum.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said Mr. Trump had rewarded America’s adversaries. “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement, a reference to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

In the most biting line, he urged Mr. Trump “to exercise American leadership.”

Mr. McConnell was among the Trump allies who cheered the president when, not even three months after his inauguration, he ordered the first military strike of his presidency, a missile attack against Syrian air bases in response to evidence that Mr. Assad had, once again, gassed his own people. Mr. Trump said he reacted to pictures of Syrian children suffering in the gas attack. But he also ordered the action while Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, was at his dinner table at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, eating what the president called “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen.” It was clearly meant as a message: There was a new sheriff in town.

Mr. Xi may have a different view now. Mr. Trump’s calls for restraint have often followed his threats of fire and fury. Mr. Xi and the North Koreans may both have reason to believe that Mr. Trump may pull back from the Pacific — their fondest wish — in return for few concessions. It is a possibility Mr. Trump himself has periodically raised with aides while complaining about trade deficits.

After Mr. Trump mysteriously suspended military aid to Ukraine in July — now the subject of an impeachment inquiry into whether he was holding the aid hostage in return for politically damaging information on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — his stated argument was that the United States paid too much, and Europeans too little.

If there was any discussion in the White House about how slowing the military aid might damage efforts to contain Russia’s power in the region, it has not surfaced.

When he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, it was over the objections of a secretary of state, a national security adviser and a secretary of defense — all since departed — who urged him to build on the past agreement. Sixteen months later, he fired his next national security adviser, the hawkish John R. Bolton, for fear that Mr. Bolton would send him down the road to another “forever war.”

In that regard, Mr. Trump has correctly read the American people who, after Iraq and Afghanistan, also have a deep distaste for forever wars. It is the one issue on which Mr. Trump and former President Barack Obama agree, and a reason for Mr. Obama’s decision not to make good on his promise of bombing Mr. Assad for crossing the “red line” of using poison gas.

But Mr. Trump’s objections go beyond Mr. Obama’s. “Like some of those who are running to replace him, President Trump has conflated ‘forever wars’ with an open-ended presence,” said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior George W. Bush administration official as America went into two wars between 2001 and 2003.

“We’ve had 70 years of open-ended presence in Germany, Japan, South Korea,” he noted. “It’s part of an alliance. And it keeps countries from doing things you don’t want them to do,” like building their own nuclear weapons.

The Syria presence, Mr. Mattis had argued, was in that vein — low risk, low casualty, high returns for America’s security. It was a tripwire to keep the Islamic State from rising again, and Turkey from starting a war. Mr. Trump’s Sunday night tweet, saying everyone in the region was going to have to work things out themselves, announced an abdication of that role.

He may well pull back in coming days; in fact, by lunchtime on Monday he already appeared to be pivoting, declaring on Twitter that “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey.”

It was a strange threat to utter to a NATO ally. It did not specify what was out of bounds. And most of all, it did not describe how the United States would exercise that kind of power in a world in which America is viewed in many capitals as already getting out.

Lara Jakes and Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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Emerging GOP defense on Ukraine: What Trump did was bad — but not impeachable

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There are two ways Mitch and the gang might get Trump off the hook at a Senate trial. One, of course, is to acquit him on the facts. Democrats haven’t proven their case. Not guilty. And that’s that. The problem with that approach as a political matter is that no one’s sure yet what facts might still come to light. If Democrats make a convincing case, a rubber-stamped “not guilty” verdict in the Senate might hurt Republicans. And of course some Trump critics would tell you that there are already facts in the record that warrant removal from office, namely, Trump asking Ukraine’s president to look into whether the Democratic frontrunner for president and his son did anything shady there. That’s in the transcript the White House itself produced.

So dispensing with impeachment on the facts is risky. What’s less risky is dispensing with impeachment on the law. If the GOP argues right out of the chute that the president’s been accused of something that doesn’t amount to a high crime or misdemeanor then it doesn’t matter what evidence Democrats produce. If the abuse of power doesn’t rise to the level of something that warrants removal from office then Republicans don’t need to bother with the facts. We don’t send people to prison for traffic tickets. We don’t remove presidents from office for, uh, attempting to influence the coming election by blowing up the other party’s candidate on the launchpad with a foreign corruption investigation.

And the beauty of this argument is that it allows Republicans to soothe angry voters by acknowledging that what Trump did was wrong. “You’re right, it was terrible. You have every right to be disgusted. We share your contempt. But no, this isn’t impeachment-worthy.” Trump gets to stay in office and voters end up kinda sorta mollified by Trump being lightly shamed by his own party. Everyone wins!

The first prominent proponent of the “bad but not impeachable” view that I’m aware of was Tucker Carlson, who co-wrote a piece last week with Neil Patel for the Daily Caller that got some attention online. “Even Tucker admits that what Trump did was wrong!” Yes, but. Don’t miss the fine print: Not impeachable.

The key question with Trump’s Ukraine call, though, is whether the president’s actions, advisable or not, rise to the level of an impeachable offense. It’s hard to argue they do. The president did not, as was first reported, offer a quid pro quo to the Ukrainians. He did not condition any U.S. support on a Biden investigation. The Justice Department has already looked at the totality of the call and determined that Trump did not break the law.

If all the GOP needs to do to be rid of its impeachment mess is admit that the guy on the “Access Hollywood” tape is of dubious character, a fact everyone outside his own base has long since accepted, then they’re off practically scot-free. “Bad but not impeachable” places Ukraine in the overflowing pot of things the president has done that are embarrassing but essentially just part of the price of going full MAGA. If you like the sweet stuff, like a roaring economy and Justice Gorsuch, occasionally you have to stomach the bitter stuff. Like him leaning on a foreign head of state to help torpedo a would-be election opponent.

All of this is background to today’s news: The “Bad but not impeachable” argument now has a Republican advocate in the U.S. Senate. And it’s not someone whom you’d expect to see on Carlson’s primetime Fox show.

“The president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent,” [Rob] Portman said after attending the 4th Annual Ohio Defense Forum, hosted by The Dayton Development Coalition in Columbus’ Westin Great Southern Hotel.

“I don’t view it as an impeachable offense. I think the House frankly rushed to impeachment assuming certain things” that haven’t panned out yet…

While impeachment is not merited, Portman said a bipartisan group such as the Senate Intelligence Committee could investigate the whistleblowers’ allegations surrounding Trump. “Everything should be looked at,” Portman said, including accusations that the FBI was politicized in 2016.

Interestingly, Portman also acknowledged that the Ukrainian prosecutor who was targeted by Biden in 2016 and also by a group of U.S. senators (including Portman himself) was in their crosshairs not because he was too aggressive in going after Burisma but because he wasn’t aggressive enough in fighting corruption. Trump has tried to claim that the prosecutor was removed because he was too much of a threat to Hunter Biden; not really, Portman’s admitting here. He also admitted that he asked administration officials repeatedly this summer why the $250 million in military aid to Ukraine had been held up by Trump. Neither Mike Pence, SecDef Mark Esper, nor anyone else had an explanation, in case you’re wondering if the “quid pro quo” possibility is still alive.

Anyway, will Trump tolerate the Carlson/Portman defense that he’s guilty of misconduct but not impeachable misconduct? He’s transactional by nature; if adopting this position gets him through the impeachment wars with his job intact, one would think he’d agree to the transaction. But he’s also deeply narcissistic and resents being called out for bad behavior. He’s described his phone call with Zelensky repeatedly as “perfect.” What will it do to his legacy to skate on a “corrupt, but not corrupt enough” defense? Because he is worried about his legacy, you know:

In a phone call with House Republicans on Friday, Trump articulated why he really doesn’t want this. Impeachment, Trump said, is a “bad thing to have on your resume,” according to a source on the call. Two other sources on the call confirmed the substance of the comment, but one said they recalled Trump phrasing it as “you don’t want it [impeachment] on your resume.”

[S]ources who have discussed impeachment candidly with the president say these comments perfectly encapsulate how Trump feels about it: He believes it could help him get re-elected and win back the House. But he doesn’t want the history books recording Donald Trump as an impeached president.

He almost certainly will end up being impeached no matter what Republicans do or say. The question is whether at that point he’ll accept any ol’ justification in the name of winning in the Senate, in which “bad but not impeachable” is fine, or whether he’ll insist that Senate Republicans grit their teeth and vouch for the propriety of his call with Zelensky in the name of vindicating him for the historical record. Call that approach “good and unjustly impeached” if you like. If I were him I’d make Senate Republicans as comfortable as possible in finding reasons to acquit him, knowing that winning reelection next fall will operate as a verdict for posterity by voters that he was wrongly impeached. But Trump craves loyalty and it’ll bug him to watch McConnell’s crew, who are normally so obsequious, badmouthing him during the impeachment process even with the assurance that they’ll vote his way in the end. He might make this more contentious than it needs to be. I mean, he usually does.

Exit question: “Bad but not impeachable” is a better defense at least than “lol the president’s a troll don’t take him seriously,” no?

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Impeachment Rules Say Senate Must Act, but Its Act Might Be a Swift Dismissal

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell’s comment this week that the Senate would be forced to “take up” articles of impeachment from the House had the capital in a swirl, bracing for a full-blown Senate trial of President Trump. But as things now stand, any trial would likely be swift, ending in dismissal of the accusations.

While the focus was on the statement by Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, that the Senate would have “no choice” but to begin an impeachment proceeding, it was his next line that might have been more telling: “How long you are on it is a whole different matter.”

The fusty rules of the Senate make clear that Republicans could not unilaterally stonewall articles of impeachment of Mr. Trump as they did the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick B. Garland. But Mr. McConnell’s declaration suggests the Republican-controlled Senate could move expeditiously to toss them out if Republicans conclude the House impeachment is meritless, or a strictly partisan affair.

“I don’t think they could just duck it,” said Donald A. Ritchie, historian emeritus of the Senate. “It is a constitutional responsibility. When you look at the weight of history, I think they would feel they have to do something. They would have to decide how abbreviated they wanted to make it.”

Judging by the initial Senate Republican response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry after a whistle-blower’s complaint detailed Mr. Trump’s pressuring of the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Republicans would want it to be quite short. Nearly all Senate Republicans have scoffed at the idea of an impeachment vote in the House, let alone a conviction in the Senate that would force Mr. Trump’s removal from office. That could conceivably change, of course, if new damaging information emerged.

But as both parties begin to quietly explore their strategic response to potential House action, they are zeroing in on the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton for guidance, and that proceeding provides one obvious precedent Republicans could embrace.

As the trial threatened to gain steam after the Senate had heard from Republican House managers of the impeachment and Mr. Clinton’s defenders, Senator Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the highly regarded conscience of the Senate who had said the Bible and Constitution would be his guide, moved to dismiss the entire case. Democrats were in the minority at the time, and Mr. Byrd’s surprise proposal was defeated along party lines, forcing the trial to move forward for a total of about five weeks before Mr. Clinton prevailed.

But in the case of Mr. Trump, his party controls the Senate, and it is not a stretch to envision Republicans providing the votes to throw out the articles, short-circuiting the process and sparing Mr. Trump an extended examination of his conduct.

Senate Republicans essentially laid out that scenario in background guidance circulated over the weekend, noting that a motion to dismiss the articles would be allowed under impeachment rules, and that such a vote took place during the Clinton trial after opening arguments and limited questioning by senators.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to begin a formal impeachment process has forced senators from both parties to begin to quietly explore their strategic response to potential House action.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The tactic looms as a delicate proposition for Mr. McConnell and his Republican colleagues. First, they must mollify a mercurial president and Republican voters who will no doubt be incensed at the very idea of a Senate trial giving credence to the accusations that Mr. Trump improperly sought foreign help against a political rival. At the same time, they would need to demonstrate to the public that the Senate was taking its constitutional responsibilities seriously and not dismissing the House action out of hand.

In either regard, it would represent another tough vote for vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2020, who would again have to choose between potentially alienating independents by siding with the president or angering the pro-Trump faction that dominates their party. It could also represent a risky vote for Democrats seeking re-election in swing states such as Michigan.

Democrats say they would keep the pressure on Republicans to make sure that the process for considering articles of impeachment against the president is equitable to both sides.

“If the impeachment process reaches the upper chamber, each and every Senate Republican will have the awesome responsibility of putting country over party and ensuring Leader McConnell allows a fair trial,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. McConnell had other reasons to get out in front of questions about how he would handle impeachment. He needed to fend off what are certain to be demands from the president’s supporters to shut down the process or refuse to entertain the articles of impeachment even if it takes turning off the Senate lights and locking the doors. And to hold off those who demand another “nuclear option” to overturn the existing impeachment rules, Mr. McConnell also noted that it would require 67 votes to do so, not the simple majority vote both parties have used in recent years to reset Senate procedures.

That may have been a pre-emptive answer to Mr. Trump himself, who in times of frustration in the past, has sometimes criticized Mr. McConnell for being unwilling to use the “nuclear option” to circumvent rules that require 60 votes to advance most legislation.

Senate Republican officials say any discussion about how the Senate would proceed beyond Mr. McConnell’s statement is pure speculation, with the response dependent on how the House conducts itself and what is ultimately included in any impeachment claim.

In 1999, the two parties wrangled over how to conduct the first presidential impeachment trial in more than a century, but an all-senators meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol resulted in a remarkable conclusion: unanimous agreement on the ground rules. That level of consensus seems hard to imagine in the bitterly polarized Senate of today, just 20 years later.

The two parties’ Senate leaders at the time, Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, and Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, were determined to work together and avoid a spectacle. They were both certain of the ultimate outcome, but wanted the Senate to do its duty and look reasonable doing so.

“The senators took it remarkably seriously,” said Mr. Ritchie, the Senate historian. “The bottom line was the Senate didn’t want to look as foolish as the House had. All of the senators, regardless of party, really felt they needed to act with some dignity.”

How the Senate might act if the House impeaches in this case remains to be seen, but everyone now seems to agree that act it must — in one way or another.

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McConnell: We have no choice but to hold a trial in the Senate if the House impeaches Trump

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Liberals on social media have spent the past few days spitballing scenarios in which McConnell somehow shuts down the impeachment process without following through with a full trial on the merits. What if instead of holding a trial he decides to dispense with the matter by calling a snap vote on the Senate floor as soon as the articles of impeachment arrive? Party-line, 53/47, and just like that it’s all over? Or what if McConnell screws them again like he screwed them in 2016 by refusing to even take up the matter? He ignored Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court; he could ignore the House’s articles of impeachment, thus sparing the purple-state Republicans in his caucus who are facing reelection next year from a difficult vote. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says that “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” But the Senate also has the sole power to confirm SCOTUS nominees. McConnell declined to exercise the latter power. Why wouldn’t he decline to exercise the former?

No doubt Trump will end up pressuring him to do so, privately and maybe publicly. “The Senate should not dignify the Democrats’ witch hunt with a hearing! PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” McConnell could even analogize to court proceedings to justify his refusal to hold a trial, insisting that the evidence produced by the House is so thin that he’s going to use his authority as majority leader like a judge and dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

But no, he surprised everyone by telling NPR today that the Senate will indeed hold a trial.

Whether he feels duty-bound by the Constitution to do it or bound by political reality is unclear. Cocaine Mitch may figure that impeachment is simply too momentous to sneer at it by refusing to even hear the evidence. Americans might get angry at that show of scorn, and certainly Schumer would leverage it by insisting that the only way to hold Trump accountable in a second term is to elect a Democratic Senate majority. It would be the ultimate statement of how deep in the tank Senate Republicans are for the president — so deep that they won’t even deign to formally consider the charges against him. It’d be a bad look. McConnell’s going to at least check the box of holding a hearing.

But maybe not do much more than check the box:

[Trump] heads into what appears to be a rapidly unfurling impeachment inquiry unprepared temperamentally, and with a depleted staff, many of whom are shrugging off the seriousness of what the president faces…

Having a formal war room, or rapid response operation, “would be overreaction on our part,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “It would be playing on the Democrats’ turf.” And if impeachment succeeds, Trump officials are anticipating a Republican-held Senate that would not permit witnesses to testify at length and would not convict him.

Mr. Trump, aides said, shares that view, and on Thursday he expressed no interest in building a war room to respond to what he views as an effort by congressional Democrats to harass him. In contrast to the Mueller investigation, which required the White House to turn over millions of documents, his aides feel there is little for them to do at the moment.

Being as unprepared as possible and counting on his ability to bullsh*t his way through a crisis is extremely on-brand for POTUS. In any case, a cursory Senate proceeding seems likely, with McConnell doing just enough so that Republicans can say to voters back home, “We looked at the evidence, okay?”, but not so much that it risks producing uncomfortable testimony that’ll make the acquittal vote more uncomfortable for the GOP. McConnell’s as eager to move on from this as Pelosi is; the shorter the trial, the sooner the vote, the better for the party in putting this all behind them.

One thing Trump *is* reportedly doing to help his defense is meeting this afternoon with the head of the NRA to discuss, er, a quid pro quo:

President Trump met on Friday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, to discuss how the N.R.A. could provide financial support for the president’s defense as he faces political headwinds, including impeachment, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. LaPierre for his support, or if the idea was pitched by the N.R.A. But in return for the support, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House “stop the games” over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said.

Hand the president a check and maybe your legislative priorities will become his legislative priorities. That’s how political fundraising generally works, but rarely is cash exchanged for a specific political favor as plainly as is alleged here.

Meanwhile, Democrats are moving quickly to build a case:

The big news is that they’ve subpoenaed documents from Mike Pompeo with an explicit warning that “The subpoenaed documents shall be part of the impeachment inquiry and shared among the Committees. Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry.” If Pompeo refuses on grounds of executive privilege, this will go straight to court for a test of whether Congress’s power of impeachment trumps (no pun intended) the president’s power to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit, without legislative interference. Imagine Trump’s reaction if/when Gorsuch and Kavanaugh side with Congress on that.

Watch the clip below, which Trump tweeted out this afternoon and which apparently is going up on television as an ad. He might not be preparing an extensive legal impeachment defense but he’ll certainly eagerly participate in the messaging war. Exit question: Is Rudy Giuliani trying to do PR damage to the president? Turn on cable news at any hour this week and you’re apt to find him there ranting and berating his critics. Sometimes he sounds borderline nutty, yammering at an Atlantic reporter yesterday, “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero.” His role in the Ukraine matter is Trump’s chief liability; if POTUS had gone through official channels like the DOJ and State Department to contact Ukraine about evidence of corruption by the Bidens, it’d be much harder to claim that his interest in the matter was aimed at benefiting himself politically. Sticking his crony Giuliani on the case as some sort of unofficial “corruption” envoy working outside of U.S. diplomacy makes the matter look much shadier than it had to. Republicans in Congress are now openly begging Giuliani to go away and Rudy himself is in some legal jeopardy for his role in the Ukraine process. There’s a nonzero chance if damning evidence emerges of a quid pro quo that Trump will try to make him the fall guy in order to protect himself. What will Rudy do then?

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McConnell: We have no choice but to hold a trial in the Senate if the House impeaches Trump

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Liberals on social media have spent the past few days spitballing scenarios in which McConnell somehow shuts down the impeachment process without following through with a full trial on the merits. What if instead of holding a trial he decides to dispense with the matter by calling a snap vote on the Senate floor as soon as the articles of impeachment arrive? Party-line, 53/47, and just like that it’s all over? Or what if McConnell screws them again like he screwed them in 2016 by refusing to even take up the matter? He ignored Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court; he could ignore the House’s articles of impeachment, thus sparing the purple-state Republicans in his caucus who are facing reelection next year from a difficult vote. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says that “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” But the Senate also has the sole power to confirm SCOTUS nominees. McConnell declined to exercise the latter power. Why wouldn’t he decline to exercise the former?

No doubt Trump will end up pressuring him to do so, privately and maybe publicly. “The Senate should not dignify the Democrats’ witch hunt with a hearing! PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” McConnell could even analogize to court proceedings to justify his refusal to hold a trial, insisting that the evidence produced by the House is so thin that he’s going to use his authority as majority leader like a judge and dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

But no, he surprised everyone by telling NPR today that the Senate will indeed hold a trial.

Whether he feels duty-bound by the Constitution to do it or bound by political reality is unclear. Cocaine Mitch may figure that impeachment is simply too momentous to sneer at it by refusing to even hear the evidence. Americans might get angry at that show of scorn, and certainly Schumer would leverage it by insisting that the only way to hold Trump accountable in a second term is to elect a Democratic Senate majority. It would be the ultimate statement of how deep in the tank Senate Republicans are for the president — so deep that they won’t even deign to formally consider the charges against him. It’d be a bad look. McConnell’s going to at least check the box of holding a hearing.

But maybe not do much more than check the box:

[Trump] heads into what appears to be a rapidly unfurling impeachment inquiry unprepared temperamentally, and with a depleted staff, many of whom are shrugging off the seriousness of what the president faces…

Having a formal war room, or rapid response operation, “would be overreaction on our part,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “It would be playing on the Democrats’ turf.” And if impeachment succeeds, Trump officials are anticipating a Republican-held Senate that would not permit witnesses to testify at length and would not convict him.

Mr. Trump, aides said, shares that view, and on Thursday he expressed no interest in building a war room to respond to what he views as an effort by congressional Democrats to harass him. In contrast to the Mueller investigation, which required the White House to turn over millions of documents, his aides feel there is little for them to do at the moment.

Being as unprepared as possible and counting on his ability to bullsh*t his way through a crisis is extremely on-brand for POTUS. In any case, a cursory Senate proceeding seems likely, with McConnell doing just enough so that Republicans can say to voters back home, “We looked at the evidence, okay?”, but not so much that it risks producing uncomfortable testimony that’ll make the acquittal vote more uncomfortable for the GOP. McConnell’s as eager to move on from this as Pelosi is; the shorter the trial, the sooner the vote, the better for the party in putting this all behind them.

One thing Trump *is* reportedly doing to help his defense is meeting this afternoon with the head of the NRA to discuss, er, a quid pro quo:

President Trump met on Friday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, to discuss how the N.R.A. could provide financial support for the president’s defense as he faces political headwinds, including impeachment, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. LaPierre for his support, or if the idea was pitched by the N.R.A. But in return for the support, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House “stop the games” over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said.

Hand the president a check and maybe your legislative priorities will become his legislative priorities. That’s how political fundraising generally works, but rarely is cash exchanged for a specific political favor as plainly as is alleged here.

Meanwhile, Democrats are moving quickly to build a case:

The big news is that they’ve subpoenaed documents from Mike Pompeo with an explicit warning that “The subpoenaed documents shall be part of the impeachment inquiry and shared among the Committees. Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry.” If Pompeo refuses on grounds of executive privilege, this will go straight to court for a test of whether Congress’s power of impeachment trumps (no pun intended) the president’s power to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit, without legislative interference. Imagine Trump’s reaction if/when Gorsuch and Kavanaugh side with Congress on that.

Watch the clip below, which Trump tweeted out this afternoon and which apparently is going up on television as an ad. He might not be preparing an extensive legal impeachment defense but he’ll certainly eagerly participate in the messaging war. Exit question: Is Rudy Giuliani trying to do PR damage to the president? Turn on cable news at any hour this week and you’re apt to find him there ranting and berating his critics. Sometimes he sounds borderline nutty, yammering at an Atlantic reporter yesterday, “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero.” His role in the Ukraine matter is Trump’s chief liability; if POTUS had gone through official channels like the DOJ and State Department to contact Ukraine about evidence of corruption by the Bidens, it’d be much harder to claim that his interest in the matter was aimed at benefiting himself politically. Sticking his crony Giuliani on the case as some sort of unofficial “corruption” envoy working outside of U.S. diplomacy makes the matter look much shadier than it had to. Republicans in Congress are now openly begging Giuliani to go away and Rudy himself is in some legal jeopardy for his role in the Ukraine process. There’s a nonzero chance if damning evidence emerges of a quid pro quo that Trump will try to make him the fall guy in order to protect himself. What will Rudy do then?

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