Before we get to them, let’s get caught up on the latest developments.
On Monday evening, The Post published this op-ed from seven freshman Democrats in Congress, all of whom have backgrounds in the military or the intelligence community, all of whom represent swing districts. They wrote that if the latest allegations involving Ukraine are true, “we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”
The Post then published this story confirming that the president personally ordered almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine — which Congress had appropriated — to be withheld, just a week before he had his now-infamous phone call in which he urged the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
The response was seismic. One reporter after another began using the phrase “The dam has broken." And now, Nancy Pelosi — who had resisted impeachment — appears to have changed her mind:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats are privately discussing the creation of a select committee to conduct the possible impeachment of President Trump, according to multiple lawmakers and congressional aides, underscoring the momentum among Democrats to try to oust the president.
The California Democrat has spoken to key allies in recent days about establishing a special panel rather than leaving the task with the House Judiciary Committee, said several Democratic officials. Nothing has been decided, the individuals cautioned, but some members are expected to publicly endorse the move soon.
To be clear, Trump has admitted the impeachable conduct of which he has been accused. There is no need to say “alleged” or “purported” or “supposedly” anymore.
So what do you do if you’re a Republican?
Others are defending the president while declining to defend the fact that he pressured a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 opponent. Biden’s the one who ought to be investigated!, some say. “It looks to me like another Deep State attack,” said Sen. Josh Hawley. “There might be a reasonable explanation for this,” said Sen. Pat Toomey. (More comical reactions are gathered here.)
As usual, the shifting rationalizations from the White House are both hard to keep up with and hard to repeat with a straight face. Think about it: Could you say the words “Donald Trump was very concerned about stopping corruption” without busting into laughter? Because that was Trump’s initial explanation for why he pressured the Ukrainian president to look into Biden.
And now that we know Trump personally held up the military aid, his explanation has shifted, saying he just wanted European countries to bear more of the burden of helping Ukraine. Right.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has forced his defenders to change their story and repeat ridiculous things. But he understands full well that his primary political task is not to convince all Americans that he is innocent but to convince Republicans to stand behind him, to make this issue as partisan as possible.
If that’s how it’s understood, Republicans will defend him and Trump will be safe, at least from conviction in the Senate (which would require the votes of at least 20 Republican senators). As long as it’s a matter of our-team-vs.-their-team, any Republican would pay a high price for defecting, including the likely loss of their seat in a primary. And there’s nothing more important to politicians than self-preservation.
So the right’s propaganda machine will be mobilized to keep Republicans in line, making clear to them that this is a fight to the death and no treason will be tolerated. They will have to embrace their hypocrisy, snuff out any remaining glimmers of conscience and defend the indefensible.
Which of course they will do. About that, at least, Trump has no reason to worry.