Meanwhile, a Reuters-Ipsos poll taken on Thursday and Friday found 57 percent favor an impeachment inquiry (38 percent strongly) while only 30 percent do not; a strong plurality think Trump pressured Ukraine to get dirt on former vice president Joe Biden; and 41 percent who watched, heard or read something about the hearings are more inclined to favor impeachment while only 25 percent are less inclined. A Huff Post-YouGov poll found: “Americans say, 43% to 30%, that they think Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to get that country’s president to investigate allegations of corruption against the Biden family … the remainder are unsure. Just 17% say withholding aid in that way would be appropriate, with 26% calling it inappropriate but not impeachable, and 39% saying it’s grounds for impeachment.”
You would think a few Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — whose majority is imperiled (only one incumbent Democrat is considered a toss-up while four Republicans are in the lean-Republican or toss-up category) — would figure out that the closer they hug Trump the worse their 2020 losses may be.
Rather than seeking validation from the right-wing echo chamber, they should start thinking rationally. They might reconsider some of their most misguided political calculations:
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who will face the voters in a district that the Cook Political Report rates as only four points more Republican-leaning than the country as a whole, might want to stop her transparent stunts (she broke committee rules and then played victim when told to wait her turn) and attacks on a whistleblower, conduct that outside the Trump cult is unlikely to go over well. (Her opponent raised about $1 million in just a few days after Stefanik’s appalling committee performances).
Senate Republicans might think twice about a trial of six to eight weeks in which the chances Trump will incriminate himself (e.g., threaten more witnesses in real time) remain high; millions will see the dearth of exculpatory facts (“Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows your innocence”); and the risk increases that a court rules former national security adviser John Bolton or other senior advisers have no basis to avoid testifying. (By then might Roger Stone and/or Rudolph Giuliani be seeking a get/stay out of jail card and consider testifying against the president?)
Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) might want to stop running from the media and voters when asked if seeking a political bribe (dirt on a rival) from a foreign government in exchange for U.S. security assistance is wrong. They risk appearing both cowardly and morally obtuse, while doing nothing to advance their reelection prospects.
Speaking of which, it might be time for Bolton, his former deputy Charles Kupperman, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought and other current or former senior officials to step forward to testify as have more junior officials, to remove any doubt they were part of an administration-wide conspiracy and to put themselves on the right side of history. Their strategy of enabling Trump through silence will out them in the historical category of Trump’s henchmen who allowed an assault on American democracy.
It surely is time for Republicans such as Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to stop making fools of themselves on the Sunday shows. Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Johnson attempted to dismiss the entire body of testimony by arguing that the whistleblower’s lawyer talked about impeachment back in January 2017, an obvious non sequitur. (When NBC’s Chuck Todd brought up Johnson’s own ruminations about impeaching Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election, a tongue-tied Johnson had little to say. Todd observed, “How should viewers not look at what you are doing here and you’re just reacting as a partisan that if Trump were a Democrat, you’d be ready to convict him?”) The tactic of deploying illogical right-wing talking points with a mainstream interviewer who is in command of well-established facts should be revisited. Right-wing inanities melt on contact with the real world.
The Republicans problem, in short, is that they’ve come to believe the Fox News nonreality and to imagine others do, too. It is a rude awakening to find out that the lies, spin and exaggerations that satisfy Sean Hannity and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) land like a thud outside the Trump cult. The absence of any factual or legal defense becomes more evident with each witness. If Republicans do wake up from their political coma, they might figure out that putting distance between themselves and Trump, or even better, dumping him, may be their best survival plan.