Conservative columnist: Trump’s impeachment trial could become a ‘really long ad for throwing Republicans out of power’
President Donald Trump’s critics and devotees, for all their differences, agree on one thing: in his impeachment trial, he is almost certain to be acquitted by the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority. Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, a Never Trump conservative, notes in a January 23 column that “virtually all, if not all, Senate Republicans will vote to acquit President Trump” — and the Republican Party on the whole, she asserts, might pay a heavy price for it in November’s election.
Senate Republicans, Rubin writes, have “told us up front they were going to let (Trump) off, removing even the pretense of adhering to their oaths. They told us they were unserious about their oaths not by pointing to facts or to valid legal arguments, but by repeating cable TV news talking points that are irrelevant — ‘the House was unfair!’ — or provably false: e.g., ‘Trump was concerned about corruption.’ That said, the way they are going about this puts the interests of Trump — whom most of them know is guilty as charged and would have been impeached long ago if a Democrat — above their own.”
In the longrun, Rubin stresses, defending Trump when they know he is guilty on two articles of impeachment could do considerable damage to the Republican Party.
“When facts come out down the road to reaffirm his guilt, he’ll say witnesses are lying or the Senate said his conduct was ‘perfect,” Rubin predicts. “He has given up trying or never tried to get non-whites, college-educated voters or suburban women in his corner. He believes he can get elected with 40-something percent of the vote by simply turning out his fact-free, zombie base. It did not work in the House in 2018, but what else has he got?”
Not all of the GOP senators who are seeking reelection in 2020 are doing so in deeply Republican states — and voters in swing states, Rubin emphasizes, could be angry in November if they believe Senate Republicans conducted an impeachment trial that wasn’t “legitimate.”
“Incumbent Republicans outside of the deepest red states need some support from Democrats and/or independents,” Rubin warns. “The risk is that they will be seen as derelict in their duties, pawns for a guilty president. For them, the trial must be seen as legitimate, unless they want to risk precious votes they will need to keep their seats.”
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Rubin predicts, will likely claim that she really struggled with whether or not to convict Trump on the two articles of impeachment.
“For Republican senators not in utterly safe seats, it is far better to have something that looks like a real trial and then, by golly, explain that there just was not quite enough evidence or that — wouldn’t you know? — the trial dragged on into March; so, it was better to let the voters decide,” Rubin explains. “If she cannot find the gumption to convict, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will at least need to be able to furrow her brow, declare what a close call this was and then side with Trump — just as she did in the Brett M. Kavanaugh confirmation.”
If Senate Republicans universally vote to acquit Trump, Rubin writes, “Democrats would love nothing more than to see Republicans look as unfair, biased, cowardly and irresponsible as possible.”
“The next best thing to jaw-dropping testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton or whomever is a portrait of Republican corruption and cowardice,” Rubin asserts. “They may not get Bolton, but they increasingly might get a trial that turns out to be one really long ad for throwing Republicans out of power.”