Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 17, 2019
On the one hand, Senate Republicans, eager to protect Donald Trump from widening impeachment efforts in the Democratic majority House, have erected any number of procedural issues and belittling comments about whether the whistleblower information that kicked off this chapter was “second-hand.”
On the other, here was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an otherwise savvy and experienced hand, acting the lap-poodle of the president. Last week, he launched a campaign to demand that fellow Senate Republicans sign a loyalty oath to Trump. A week later, there is no evidence that fellow GOP senators are signing such an oath — especially since they are busy castigating his lack of judgment over withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria (or not) on a whim.
There was no hiding behind staying cool and impartial while investigation facts amass, no disputing whether the House does or doesn’t require a full House vote to proceed and for the White House to begin obeying subpoenas. This was bald partisan politics, demanding that the Republicans use their majority to kill any impeachment effort before it even reaches them.
Of course, such an oath carries no legal weight; it is partisan window dressing to show up Democrats who are investigating.
“I’m going to ask my colleagues in the Senate — Republicans — to sign a letter saying we do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” Graham told Fox News, adding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats “are about to destroy the nation for no good reason.”
Despite all the news that has emerged in the last two weeks that clearly show it was not a single phone call with the Ukrainian president that reflected an illegal, unconstitutional abuse of office to withhold weapons from an ally to get a commitment for dirt on political foe Joe Biden. Still, Graham insisted, “I want Nancy Pelosi to know Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript,” he added. “She can stop now before she destroys the country.”
It had looked during this same time period that Republicans might actually come to their senses about Trump. It was their fury that made the president blink twice about his decision to abandon Kurdish allies on the battlefield, for example, and for a minute or two there, it looked as if Graham, the most outspoken of all on the sudden Syria withdrawal order, might just see a connection to other unsupportable, illogical and totally egotistical moves out of the Oval Office. Trump not only ignored Graham’s pleas about Syria, he didn’t even bother to tell Graham what was going on.
Curiously, Graham seems to believe, for example, that he and other Senate Republicans will side with Trump no matter the results of the impeachment inquiry, so there’s no point in the U.S. House pursuing the matter. Actually, Graham is probably right. That is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is saying too, as well as most of the Senate Republicans who even acknowledge that there is an impeachment issue building — and winning support from a bare majority of adult Americans polled nationally.
As Rachel Maddow argued, the Senate trial isn’t close to beginning, but some in the majority party apparently want to make it clear that the fix is in.
Of course, the House impeachment is not dependent on a specific Senate outcome. In 1998, for example, Graham helped lead the impeachment charge against Bill Clinton, knowing at the time that there was no realistic chance of the Senate removing the Democratic president from office. Graham did it anyway, indifferent to the process’ effects or likelihood of success.
What bothers me about all this is that Graham himself has presented himself over time as a reasonable person, even if biased about committing U.S. troops without question or even fully explained purpose to an increasing number of world hotspots. For him to claim that impeachment proceedings against a Donald Trump who has gone out of his way over months to shoot himself in the foot as “destroying the nation” is not only hyperbole but advocating dereliction of duty.
Why wouldn’t Republicans want to know the facts behind the Ukraine matters, just as I would expect them to want to know what the hell went down in the phone call with Turkish leader Recep Tayyim Erdogan that triggered what is looking like a slaughter of American-allied Kurds and an open pathway for Russian influence-building in the Middle East.
What we have in this Ukraine case is a months-long effort to use private and public contacts to create a campaign for a sitting president — more than once — to urge foreign countries to investigate a domestic rival in order to help strengthen his hold on power. But in the Graham perspective — the perspective of someone who has helped lead an actual impeachment trial — apparently we should do absolutely nothing about this. No questions, no investigation, nothing other than accept the word of Trump that he meant no harm, despite a building mountain of fact that says he did mean harm.
Clearly, allowing presidential abuses of power to go unchecked represents a much greater danger to the American system than any damage to the nation. How else do we press for accountability of office-holders?
The right thing here is for Senate Republicans to defend the Constitution against abuse of power. We can have a reasonable argument over whether impeachment is the best political solution for what Trump has done and directed, conspired to and looked the other way over.
Even if other Senate Republicans believe that they must support Trump in this impeachment mess, signing Graham’s loyalty oath is a ridiculous and dangerous abdication of responsibility.
Senators, do your job.