Gorton dismisses the notion that there is no evidence of a quid pro quo: “Several credible witnesses have testified to the existence of a quid pro quo, including William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House’s top Ukraine expert; and Gordon Sondland, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.” And he repudiates the notion that the conduct at issue is not impeachable: “This is precisely the kind of crisis Alexander Hamilton feared. In Federalist No. 75, he warned that a president might be tempted to betray the interests of the country for his own benefit … [and] that a president might ‘make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.’”
The shocker is not that Gorton is speaking out but that a slew of other ex-Republican senators, including Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and James M. Talent of Missouri, remain mute. All four were highly engaged in foreign policy, understand the threat Russia poses and appreciate the damage done to the United States when its president subordinates national security interests to his personal, political objectives. How, even with robust evidence of bribery/extortion, are they unable to speak out? Where are former Trump officials (Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson), former Republican defense secretaries, former CIA directors, former secretaries of state and former national security advisers?
Sadly, they are nowhere to be seen or heard. It seems the threat of a nasty tweet, loss of access to the White House or ostracism from the Republican tribe are too precious to give up in defense of our democracy.
When ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) or Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) indulge in baseless conspiracy theories, it is left to Democrats to rebuke them. On Monday, it was former undersecretary of state Richard Stengel and former secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson who condemned Nunes for, as Stengel put it, “repeating this Russian disinformation trying to accuse Ukraine of being the place that interfered in the U.S. election.” Johnson added, “It’s sad to watch so many Republican members of Congress chase down this rabbit hole with the president because he’s got a conspiracy theory that he wants to embrace, to somehow discredit the previous theory about the Russians helping him win the election. And, it’s a sad spectacle to watch so many Republicans chase after the same ghost.”
It is not just sad but also infuriating and frightening. Our democracy cannot function when only one party is able to deal with reality and stand up for constitutional principles. We need a vibrant two-party system, but there are few signs from past and current Republican lawmakers that the GOP is capable of playing that role. The solution: Clobber the GOP at the polls, leaving space for a decent party to arise on the center-right. From where we stand, Gorton notwithstanding, the Republican Party is unsalvageable.