Here are 3 major problems Senate Republicans face as they mull admitting Trump's quid pro quo
Whatever crazy defense House Republicans are mounting of Donald Trump, Senate Republicans are being forced to deal with the reality that he provably engaged in a quid pro quo. Not only would any reasonable person who reads the rough transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky conclude that, a steady stream of about a handful of witnesses have directly confirmed it. And they've confirmed it from different points of view, some working diplomatic channels at the State Department while others were working on national defense issues at the White House National Security Council.
The mounting evidence forced Senate Republicans to broach the quid pro quo topic admission at a private Senate GOP lunch last week, according to the Washington Post. Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy took chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's argument that foreign policy includes quid pro quos all the time out for another spin. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argued that a quid pro quo must include "corrupt intent" in order to be illegal. Focusing on "intent" would get Republicans out of having to defend Trump's actions. "Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind,” Sen. Kennedy reportedly said.
But that course of action also poses several serious problems. As Kennedy pointed out, Senate Republicans haven't even seen all the evidence so they have no idea what landmines are lurking out there. They don’t know what they don’t know and that has already blown up in their faces.
Second, most of Trump's Senate defenders have direct quotes saying things like, there was absolutely no quid pro quo and I might be open to Trump's removal if there was a quid pro quo (that was a Lindsey Graham special).
Third—and this is perhaps most problematic—Trump and his House defenders are still saying there was absolutely nothing wrong with Trump's actions. Trump has adamantly argued for weeks that the phone call with Zelensky was "perfect." There's just no way Trump is going to allow Senate Republicans to admit, as part of their defense of him, that he did something that potentially looks pretty bad but isn't actually criminal or impeachable. For Trump, everything is black and white, never gray. And everything he does is "perfect."
So any defense that acknowledges Trump did something imperfect, if not impeachable, is a total nonstarter with him and his most ardent defenders. Trump will never allow it. And since you're either with Trump or against him, Senate Republicans have basically zero good options considering that many of them have to run for reelection outside of Trump's bubble of make-believe.