Republican “insider”: Dam may start to break among GOP on impeachment if there’s evidence of a Trump quid pro quo with Ukraine
My dude, let me assure you that the proverbial dam is not going to proverbially break.
In fact, I’m so sure that the dam isn’t going to break that I suspect the “insider” interviewed by David Drucker for this piece is actually pro-Trump and has it on good authority that there’s no evidence of the president himself making any threats to the Ukrainians. This is the sort of thing you’d say only if you knew there was no chance of it coming back to bite you. It’s PR to make Republicans seem more open to impeachment than they really are: “Of course, if there’s irrefutable proof that he did the worst possible thing we could think of, which is unlikely, then we would have no choice but to regrettably etc etc etc.”
If evidence if a quid pro quo were to emerge (and how would it, realistically?), at worst we’d see a replay of the “Access Hollywood” episode from October 2016. Some congressional Republicans would immediately flee Team Trump, whether out of disgust at his behavior or fear of a coming political backlash. Trump, however, would dig in. His defiance would please grassroots righties. Slowly, the Republicans who ran would start inching back towards his camp. He might lose a few extra votes on removal in the Senate but they wouldn’t get anywhere near the 67 needed to oust him. A legal defense on the quid pro quo would be patched together and would give GOPers cover to support him, however reluctantly. Probably it’d be a constitutional argument: Yes, it’s bad that the president is threatening foreign leaders unless they help him damage presidential candidates from the other party, but yes, he’s entitled to do that under Article II because the president can conduct foreign policy however he likes. The remedy is at the ballot box, not in impeachment.
And what if he were to do the same thing in a second term, when he’s no longer accountable to voters at the ballot box? Unclear.
Anyway, this is untrue and we all know it:
Congressional Republicans are skeptical Trump told Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that assistance from Washington was contingent upon his government launching a probe of Biden’s dealing with Ukraine while he was serving as vice president. But Republican sources told the Washington Examiner Tuesday, just before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry, that enlisting a foreign capital to target a Democratic presidential contender would constitute an abuse of power.
A Republican insider who has been privy to conversations on Capitol Hill said, “If there is evidence of a quid pro quo, many think the dam will start to break on our side.”
“Maybe if he withheld aid and there was a direct quid pro quo,” said a chief of staff for a House Republican.
That was published before the transcript of the call was released. Was Trump’s request for a “favor” in the transcript after Zelensky brought up Javelin missiles enough evidence of a quid pro quo to satisfy Republicans? Considering that only Mitt Romney seems “troubled” by the conversation today, it appears not. There’s always the chance that the whistleblower complaint will contain proof of a quid pro quo, but how could it? What would that evidence even look like? You’d need some high official who (a) was privy firsthand to Trump’s thinking on Ukraine, (b) observed the president somehow dangling military aid at the Ukrainians, and most importantly (c) is willing to tell the world about it.
John Bolton, basically. He’s probably the only person in the world who might conceivably have the goods *and* be willing to share them.
Drucker’s piece is interesting insofar as it’s one in a series of stories over the past 24 hours describing the uncertainty on both sides about how impeachment might play out. Early this morning, before the transcript was released, CNN reported that some House Democrats were nervous that Pelosi had now gone too far in the opposite direction on impeaching Trump. For months she’s resisted the idea at every turn as lefties have begged for action. Now she’s at risk of having leaped before she looked:
Many of the moderate members who have come out in support for impeachment have made their support conditional: If it is true Trump withheld military funding to Ukraine in order to elicit dirt on a political opponent, then it is impeachable.
But, Pelosi’s announcement yesterday caught some by surprise even as members were racing to come out in support of impeachment. A senior Democratic aide with insight into moderate Democratic thinking told CNN that many members preferred for Pelosi to wait until the end of the week when the contents of the complaint and transcript were fully known.
Is the transcript enough to convince red-district Democrats to take the plunge? There aren’t many Republican voters out there today who think it’s damning enough to risk ousting Trump from office over it.
On the other hand, for all the tough talk from Trump aides about how they welcome impeachment, believing it’ll be rocket fuel for GOP turnout next fall, the reality is that they don’t want it. They can and will use it for campaign purposes — when Pelosi gives you lemons, make lemonade — but no, of course Trump doesn’t want to spend the next several months bogged down in preparing a formal impeachment defense, not to mention going down in history as just the third U.S. president to be impeached. And if nothing else, it would mean that any small chance of further legislative accomplishments before the election, like the USMCA, would be fully extinguished.
Plus, the conventional wisdom that impeachment will backfire on the party besieging the president is shaky. It could work out that way, of course; Republicans suffered in the ’98 midterms, a lesson that’s kept Pelosi away from impeachment. But Clinton was a popular president and Trump is not. What Trump has been accused of, using the power of his office to coopt a foreign government into damaging his political opponent, will seem graver to some voters than Clinton’s offenses. And there’s the fatigue factor, in which other voters might tune out the specifics of the Ukraine matter but conclude that there’s too much drama around Trump generally to reward him with four more years. Impeachment could work out for him — for sure, it’ll increase Republican engagement in the election — but it’s not a cinch. Both sides are stuck in uncharted territory here.
One more thought for you on the Republican dam potentially breaking:
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) September 25, 2019
Here’s Romney earlier today being asked why he’s the only Republican in the Senate who seems willing to criticize Trump on the Ukraine matter. His reply, essentially, is that his colleagues are too intoxicated with the power and prestige of being a senator to care about the good of the country — although he phrases it much, much more tactfully than that. (“This is a shot aimed directly at his colleagues and he knew exactly what he was doing. Romney irritation been building since Friday,” claims NYT reporter Jonathan Martin of his remarks.) The not so minor fact that Romney may be the only Republican in the country who’s probably primary-proof in his home state also gives him unique freedom to criticize Trump. He doesn’t mention that.
"You're essentially alone among Republican officials in expressing concern over [Trump and Ukraine]," says @mckaycoppins at #TheAtlanticFest. "Why do you think your fellow Republicans have been quiet on this issue or actively defending the president?" Watch @SenatorRomney reply: pic.twitter.com/DnHCpX90RP
— The Atlantic Festival (@TheAtlanticFest) September 25, 2019
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