Monday, February 17, 2020

GOP Senators Will Pay for President Trump's Impeachment

One thing you learn in politics is that when one side wins a contentious issue, that issue no longer salient to the winners.  It is the generally losers of the issue who reap the benefits at the polls, especially when the election is several months down the road from the lost battle.

In 1973, liberals, mostly Democrats, won the abortion issue when the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade.  Even though it was then, and still, is about a 50-50 issue, it is conservatives, mostly Republicans, who for 47 years have beat up those on the left on the issue.  If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, expect conservatives to relax and the abortion issue to start working in the liberals favor
Army Lt. Col. Arthur Vindman

That brings me to the issue of impeachment.  Democrats were able to impeach President Trump in the House, but in the Senate removal fell far short as Republicans (sans Utah Senator Mitt Romney) voted lockstep to acquit the President.  In the process, an impeachment "trial" was held without witnesses or evidence being introduced.

Several Republican Senators, including Indiana's Mike Braun, opined that President Trump's behavior in trying to shake down an ally for help against a political opponent was over the line and Trump had learned a lesson from the impeachment.  In the days that followed his acquittal, President Trump proved he had, indeed, learned a lesson.  That lesson was that no matter what he did, no matter how illegal or morally wrong, Republicans in the Senate would always have his back..

Within days of the acquittal, President Trump removed Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman from his position with the National Security Council because he dared show up to testify in response to a House subpoena, which he was required to by law, and then proceeded to tell the truth under oath, which he was required to do by law.  Vindman has faithfully served in the Army for over 20 years, starting as an infantryman in 1999.  In 2004, Vindman was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq and received a Purple Heart.

After Trump's retaliation against Vindman, Republican Senators rallied to his defense.  Kidding.  They said nothing or explicitly backed President Trump over Vindman.  Indiana Senator Todd Young, who publicly claims to support veterans, chose to publicly back the five time draft dodger Donald Trump over Vindman, whose commitment to his adopted country by any measure qualifies him as a patriot.

Young was not alone in his support for the questionable decision to sack Vindman over his testimony.  Other Republican Senators chimed in, while some said it was okay because he was not sufficiently "loyal" to the President, most most bypassed the merits of the reassignment, focusing instead on the notion that the workplace retaliation against Vindman was perfectly legal because of the President's absolute authority to remove appointees to the NSC.  Too long to discuss here, but the legal issues regarding the Vindman reassignment are much more complex than those GOP Senators wished to admit.  But even if the retaliation was legal, that does not make what Trump did morally right.  On that point, Republican Senators are mostly silent, or support the President.

In 2018, the Republicans lost the House because the GOP-led majority refused to do their job and hold President Trump accountable.  The only thing that saved the GOP majority in the Senate that year was the incredibly favorable map, i.e. 1/3 of senators are up every 2 years and the 2018 election featured scores of Senate Democrats defending seats in states Trump won in 2016.  The 2020 Senate map is much less favorable for Republicans.

Trump may well escape the political consequences of "winning" the impeachment issue due to the Electoral College and the Democrats' apparent stubborn intent to offer an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, as Trump's opponent in the Fall.  The GOP Senators though do not have the luxury of the Electoral College and they may well square off against Democratic moderates capable of picking up enough votes to swing competitive states in their favor.

Senate Republicans were extremely foolish to not allow for witness testimony and documents in the Senate impeachment trial.  It makes Republican Senators vulnerable to the charges that they were trying to cover up the President's misconduct...which, of course, is exactly what they were doing.  But it is worse than that.  The Senate Republicans failure to even call for evidence at the trial assured Trump he can do whatever he wants and the Republican-led Senate will do absolutely nothing to hold him accountable.

Surprise, surprise, surprise (channeling my inner Gomer Pyle)....Trump has taken that assurance and run with it.  You can expect that Trump will continue to try to cheat to win the 2020 election (asking foreign countries to intervene in the election will just be the start.)  You can expect Trump will use the departments of government to go after his opponents and protect his friends.  (Trump will make Nixon look like a rank amateur in that regard.) You can expect he will continue to use his position to enrich himself and his family.

And you can expect the Republicans in the Senate to lose a majority because they refused to do their jobs and hold this President accountable.

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