No wonder Mitch McConnell is sticking so close to Trump. A recent Washington Post – ABC poll puts Trump’s approval among Republicans at 75%. The Daily Consult Poll recently put Trump’s approval among likely GOP primary voters at 86%. Public Policy Polling concluded Mitch McConnell’s approval in Kentucky had dropped to 18%. Not by 18%. TO 18%. Although Trump’s approval rating in Kentucky is down twenty points since 2016, his current 55% approval makes him a juggernaut compared with Mitch.
McConnell needs to please Trump or he’s going to face a Trump-selected primary opponent. A host of other Republican senators are facing the same dilemma – lash yourself to Trump or break away and face a primary challenge that you might not win or, even if you do, your coffers will be depleted and lots of fresh oppo on you will be out there for the Democrats to use on you.
Now that she has two articles of impeachment in her pocket, Nancy Pelosi should bide her time until she can get the Senate trial that she wants –including new testimony by McGahn and Bolton and a slew of White House documents. For Trump, the articles of impeachment are like a really bad case of hives. He desperately wants the ego-soothing relief of a no witness trial and a speedy acquittal by a party-line vote in the Senate.
The U.S. Senate primary filing deadline for Kentucky is January 28, 2020. McConnell does have a primary opponent in C. Wesley Morgan, but Morgan is a one term ex-state legislator who has done little more than set up a website. Pelosi should wait to see if McConnell will create a little space between Trump and himself once he is past being primaried by a serious Trump candidate.
Primary filing deadlines already have passed in seven states. If Pelosi can delay the Senate trial into the Spring, most Senate Republicans will be out of reach of Trump’s superweapon. Once out from under Trump’s shadow, some Republicans may be more inclined to do the right thing.
But there are other good reasons for Pelosi to take her sweet time. There continues to be the constant drip of new damning evidence against Trump. The recent FOIA release of emails from White House official Mike Duffey shows that military aid to Ukraine was frozen within 90 minutes of Trump’s July 25th call with Ukraine President Zelensky. The clear instructions to keep the act secret demonstrates “consciousness of guilt.”
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski recently indicated her dissatisfaction with a Senate trial run in close coordination with the White House. The rules for Senate impeachment trials can be changed by a simple majority. The Republicans currently control this process by a 53-47 margin that includes two Independent Senators who caucus with the Democrats. Only four Republican votes need to swing to the Democrats to put the Democrats in control of the rule-making process. With Murkowski on the fence, what will it take to get vulnerable Republican Senators like Collins, Gardener, McSally, Tillis or Ernst to swing control to the Democrats to improve their re-election chances. Mitt Romney, who doesn’t need Trump to get re-elected in Utah, may also decide to vote with the Democrats. If Pelosi waits, her chances of getting a real Senate trial with top shelf witnesses only get better.
On another front, if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the Justice Department’s frivolous case in favor of gagging Don McGahn, he may be compelled to testify. The McGahn testimony, in addition to buttressing the existing articles of impeachment, has raised the prospect of new articles. In more court action, The Supreme Court is set to rule on the release of Trump’s tax returns in June. Trump’s scorched Earth defense of his returns suggests that there is a lot to be found in them including possible evidence of Putin as Trump’s financier. This would explain a lot about Trump’s willingness to see things Putin’s way rather than as the U.S. intelligence community does.
There also is Trump fatigue to consider. The Morning Consult has Trump approval since the 2016 election down 22% in Michigan, down 17% in Pennsylvania, down 20% in Wisconsin and underwater in each of these three states. Trump approval is down by 24% in Arizona where he also is underwater. Ten other states that went for Trump in 2016 now show net disapproval of him. Many states that are still pro-Trump are losing support. The trend is not Mr. Trump’s friend.
Pelosi should feel no pressure to bring forth a speedy trial. Trump is impeached and nothing can wash that stain away. As each filing deadline passes, Trump loses the threat to back primary opponents against incumbent Republicans who don’t back Trump. With the passage of time, new evidence continues to emerge to support the existing articles of impeachment or form the basis of new ones. This evidence may convince vulnerable Republican Senators to side with Schumer in demanding a real Senate trial with witnesses. If this evidence doesn’t change minds in the Senate, it may change minds with the electorate which, ultimately, will change minds in the Senate. Finally, the many federal court cases involving Trump continue to work their way through the system. Holding open the impeachment process until these court cases reach fruition creates the opportunity for a real Perry Mason moment.
If McConnell cries foul over Pelosi’s unwillingness to play along with a speedy party-line impeachment trial and acquittal, all Pelosi has to do is respond with two words: Merrick Garland.
So, unless Mitch McConnell agrees to a real trial with real witnesses like John Bolton and Don McGahn, Pelosi should keep those articles in her pocket and let the screws continue to tighten.
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