This transparent effort to separate themselves from true Trump cultists (who are still yammering about CrowdStrike) only underscores Republicans’ lack of spine and willingness to indulge a lawless president. In some sense, their conduct is worse than the unhinged conspiracy-mongers, who might actually believe the garbage they spew.
Republicans playing the “not enough to impeach” game should be challenged as to why they think bribery (explicitly laid out in the Constitution’s impeachment clause), betraying our national security for personal gain, enticing a foreign government to investigate an American, acting as the Kremlin’s mouthpiece, inviting foreign interference in our election and obstructing Congress do not constitute impeachable conduct. Their conclusion does not pass the straight-face test. If Trump were a Democrat, they would have impeached weeks ago, and if Trump is not impeachable (but Bill Clinton was?!?), then no one is.
These Republicans nevertheless are troubled by Trump’s conduct, gosh, perhaps because such conduct is a blatant violation of the presidential oath, threatens to upend our democracy and cedes sovereignty to foreigners who figure out how to bribe the next president. Republicans, I would suggest, are hiding behind a ludicrous standard that can never be met (what would be impeachable?) because they are afraid to stand up to Trump and the Trump cult.
The rest of us should not allow them to duck their constitutional responsibility. Here’s the challenge: If Republicans agree there is no factual dispute — just a difference of opinion about the punishment — they should join in a resolution or motion of censure repudiating his conspiracy theories and explicitly finding that Trump conditioned a meeting and release of aid on Ukraine’s help to smear a political foe.
Republicans who agree what he did is wrong (but not impeachable) should agree to a set of factual findings. They need to tell the truth and prevent Trump from gaslighting the country.
Separately, Republicans should agree to stiffen criminal penalties for the conduct at issue so as to deter further conduct. Soliciting a foreign government’s help in an election and conditioning aid or other public acts for private gain are already illegal, but let’s greatly increase the penalties for federal officials who engage in such conduct in concert with foreign actors. Let’s require candidates to report foreign contacts.
Finally, Republicans who say Trump has not committed impeachable conduct surely know his conduct is wrong. They should be willing to denounce his conduct. Moreover, at the very least, should they not withdraw any endorsement/support and urge him to retire after a single term? They certainly cannot tell the public he has earned their trust for another four years.
In fact, Republicans won’t do any of these thing because Trump thinks he behaved perfectly. Anything less than “exoneration,” if you will, is unacceptable to Trump. Republican apologists do not want to cross Trump and therefore will take no action of any kind. It’s not the failure to meet a mythical standard that prevents them from impeaching Trump; it is moral cowardice, disloyalty to the Constitution and inability to uphold their oaths that make it impossible to take any action against Trump. They seek not only to avoid impeachment but also to condone and approve his conduct.
The unwillingness to acknowledge undisputed facts or to issue any adverse finding against Trump is entirely unacceptable and makes congressional Republicans complicit in Trump’s illegal and impeachable conduct. It is for that reason that any Republican unwilling to impeach and remove — or even critique Trump — can never again be entrusted with power.