The GOP’s Lose/Lose Trap

Hugh Hewitt — not someone I usually quote — accidentally said something true this morning. Or, at least, Hewitt’s headline writer wrote something true — If Republicans don’t stand by Trump, they risk losing their base forever

I warn you, don’t read Hewitt’s column if you are feelng the least bit out of sorts. Hewitt’s denial of reality is extraordinary, even by Hewitt standards. He claims no quid pro quo has been established — do keep up, Hugh — and, anyway, there’s nothing wrong with quid pro quos. The Louisiana Purchase was a quid pro quo. Seriously.

But let’s consider the basic claim, that the GOP must stand by Trump or lose the support of its base. Let’s imagine an extraordinary circumstance nobody expects, in which a substantial number of Republicans throw Trump under the bus and remove him from office. Would the base abandon them? I think the 30 percent or so who strongly approve of Trump in poll after poll probably would, yes. I think those people identify with Trump more than they identify with the Republican Party. And that is a substantial portion of the Republican base; more people than actually self-identify as Republican, in fact. And I don’t think they would accept President “Milquetoast Mike” Pence as a substitute.

However, if the Republican Party doesn’t declare some independence from Trump, pretty much everyone else on the planet will abandon them.That 30 percent isn’t enough to keep them in power. It’s lose/lose.

At Washington Monthly, James Bruno writes that Republicans want someone to come and save them from Trump and the trap the Republian Party finds itself in.

Its lawmakers are either enthralled to Trump out of naked fear, or they are waiting for a savior to free them from their servitude to a madman. In the process, they’ve utterly lost their way, and are now unanchored in any coherent ideology. Instead, they are hell-bent on self-destruction.

But, so far, the few who have stuck their necks out to offer themselves as an alternative have been ignored.

Mitt Romney sorta, kinda tried to step into Godot’s shoes, but for some reason, he just doesn’t take. The Utah senator’s recent criticism of the president’s Syria policy and Ukrainegate was not picked up in a major way by his GOP Senate colleagues. Trump responded by calling Romney a “fool.” The one-time GOP presidential nominee seems to realize he is talking into the wind. “I don’t believe I’m leading a wing of the party,” he readily admitted. “Because there’s no wing that’s very large that is aligned with me.”

Apart from Romney, senators John Cornyn and Rob Portman only meekly called into question Trump’s pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. On the House side, Francis Rooney  declared that he was open-minded on impeachment. The next day, he announced his retirement.

There’s some heavy-duty pressure going on there.

As many are pointing out today, Republicans have reached the point at which they are sidestepping — or lying about — the allegations against Trump and instead complaining about the process. For example, what’s with the secret hearings?

Well, what about them? Closed-door hearings are entirely within House rules. Republicans have held them in the past. As far as impeachment is concerned, remember that for Nixon the attorney general appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate conspiracy. That public Senate hearings into Watergate were going on at the same time may have blurred public memory of the more closed investigation. For Clinton, the House didn’t conduct its own investigation but instead relied on the much-leaked work of special prosecutor Ken Starr. Like it says here,

Independent counsel Ken Starr conducted his probe of President Clinton using a grand jury, which by law conducts all its business behind closed doors. In Watergate, special counsel Leon Jaworski also used a grand jury to collect evidence that he eventually transmitted to Congress during its impeachment inquiry. Much of the legal work analyzing the evidence collected by Mr. Jaworski’s prosecutors was done behind closed doors by congressional lawyers.

Several of the key players in Watergate did end up testifying publicly in front of the Senate Watergate committee, but that was a separate investigation from the House impeachment inquiry.

But the Ukraine scandal didn’t inspire Trump’s boy Bill Barr to do anything, so the investigations are being carried out entirely by the House. And the rules say they can be as secret as they wannabe, and can function as a grand jury if they want to. When they get to the step of drawing up articles of impeachment, then it will all go public, at which time Republicans will find some reason to be opposed to public hearings, I assume. But the point is that, as I’m sure you realize, all the complaints about process are bogus.

Miz Lindsey Graham, arguably Trump’s most craven and shameless supporter, has introduced a resolution to the Senate condemning the House hearings as a violation of due process for holding interviews behind closed doors.

The measure calls on the House to hold a floor vote that would formally initiate the impeachment inquiry, provide Trump with “with due process, to include the ability to confront his accusers, call witnesses on his behalf, and have a basic understanding of the accusations against him that would form any basis for impeachment,” according to a summary released by his office.

It also calls on the House to provide members of the minority with the ability “to participate fully in all proceedings and have equal authority to issue subpoenas and other compulsory process.”

I would like to hear expert commentary into why this would or wouldn’t be an extraordinary interference by the Senate of the House’s business. I question whether the House has to give a hoo-haw what the Senate thinks about its procedures. And it seems to me that Graham is calling for the House to skip the grand jury/ investigation phase and go right to the trial phase, thereby stopping the House from investigating. See also Lindsey Graham Introducing Resolution to Permanently Attach Lips to Trump’s Ass by Bess Levin at Vanity Fair.

Charles Pierce:

In one half of the Capitol, citizens lined up solemnly to pay respects to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, lying in state in a corridor right outside the chamber of the House of Representatives. At the same time, in the other half of the building, increasingly ludicrous White House castrato Senator Lindsey Graham was holding a performative press conference regarding a stupid senatorial resolution condemning the process by which the House was roasting El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, and if the confluence of those two events doesn’t prove that The Great Whoever has the red ass for humanity, I don’t know what more you need.

Do read Pierce’s entire post. You’ll be glad you did.