Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 1, 2019
On a day yesterday when the House moved closer to impeaching Donald Trump, the almost more disturbing note was that Trump is working to buy Senate support with campaign cash.
According to Politico, Trump is tapping his vast fund-raising network for a handful of loyal senators facing tough reelection bids in 2020. Each of them has signed onto a Republican-backed resolution condemning the inquiry as “unprecedented and undemocratic.”
“Conspicuously absent from the group is Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a politically vulnerable Republican who’s refused to support the resolution and avoided taking a stance on impeachment. With his new push, Trump is exerting leverage over a group he badly needs in his corner with an impeachment trial likely coming soon to the Senate — but that also needs him,” said Politico.
In any world I understand, paying cash to would-be jurors in a pending trial would be called jury tampering and is against the law.
But in the Senate Republican bubble where almost nothing that this president does is considered unlawful, we probably will have to put these actions to the ever-growing list of things-that-should-be-Trump-impeachment counts.
This week, as a partisan divided House was preparing to vote to move the impeachment proceedings to its public hearings phase, the Trump reelection campaign sent a fundraising appeal to its massive email list urging donors to provide a contribution that would be divided between the president and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
Each of the senators are supporting the anti-impeachment resolution despite being endangered in 2020. “If we don’t post strong fundraising numbers,” the message warned, “we won’t be able to defend the President from this baseless Impeachment WITCH HUNT.”
Of course, the opposite need not be stated. Take a stand against Trump and stand by for a political fusillade from Trump loyalists and the campaign itself.
All of this underscores that the impeachment efforts are being seen first, continuing and at last as a partisan political battle, not a question of whether the president’s actions in seeking to pressure Ukraine’s leader into seeking dirt on Democrat Joe Biden in return for lethal military aid, as had already been voted by Congress.
If you consider this a set of political skirmishes rather than a Constitutional question, every supporting action on either side could be seen as an expression of politics, not law or American values. That is why Republican supporters of the president in Congress have resorted to attacks on “process” without trying to defend the substance of the issues at hand, and why Trump feels totally within his rights to seek campaign influence over his Republican tribe in public debasement, twisting arms, or, seemingly trying to bribe individuals.
In the end, of course, any impeachment trial would require that 20 Republicans join in a finding of guilt with the full cadre of Democrats in the Senate. The political chances of that happening are slim to none, even as the legal case, the moral case, the abuse case against Trump is building.
We continue to hear from nonpartisan military, security and intelligence figures within the White House — including military officers on the damning July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian leader — that dispute Trump’s account of the call. Moreover, the continuing testimony, which is about to spill into open, televised sessions, show that the White House campaign to dispatch attorney Rudy Giuliani outside the bounds of diplomatic protocols, outside Congressional review, shows that the effort was far more than a single phone call. It was a months-long effort to turn diplomacy to the personal, partisan advantage of Donald Trump.
The Republican defenses for Trump have attacked the investigation by Democrats as procedurally too secret, “a Soviet-style” inquisition, as Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, the House minority whip said. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, has said only that even if true, the president’s behavior does not merit impeachment, indeed asserting that nothing bad or unusual has happened at all.
If Republicans don’t want to accept that basic violation as impeachment-worthy, it is difficult to imagine what exactly does qualify — unless it were a Democratic president in office, of course.
If Trump had a strong case here, why in the world would he need to offer cash to persuade senators even in his own party to stand with him? If Trump is interfering with his eventual jurors, why should that not prove an impeachment count on its own?