Republicans Find Themselves Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This is the road they chose when they decided to defend a president who is obviously guilty.

Since the House passed articles of impeachment against Trump, we’ve heard damning evidence against the president from Lev Parnas, including a video from 2018 where Trump told him to “take out” Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yavanovitch. Then we learned that Parnas claims to have more recordings of Trump.

In addition, John Bolton said that he was willing to testify in the Senate trial, and now we learn that he is prepared to affirm that Trump demanded Ukrainian investigations in exchange for the release of military aid. In other words, Bolton has direct knowledge of a quid pro quo.

We’ve all watched as Republicans like Senator Susan Collins have feigned “concern” over Trump’s actions, only to see them support him over and over again. So there is reason to be skeptical of the statement Collins released on Monday in response to the Bolton revelations.

Collins not only suggests that she would vote in favor of calling witnesses like Bolton, but that she is having conversations with other colleagues about the possibility as well.

But this tweet from Senator Lindsey Graham affirms the very real possibility that there are rumblings in the Republican ranks about calling witnesses.

Just two days ago, Graham said the following:

I am more intent on ending this thing now with my vote…I just think it’s best for the country to vote on the record established [in the House] because if you go down the witness road you run into executive privilege…and I really don’t want to turn the trial into a circus.

It’s clear that something happened that caused Graham to change his tune completely. He has probably been privy to some of the same conversations Collins referred to since the news about Bolton’s book surfaced.

If there is any rationality left among Republican Senators, it’s interesting to contemplate the topic of those conversations. On the one hand, they have to know that if they vote against allowing witnesses and  acquit the president, they are likely to face a steady stream of incriminating evidence against him as we head into the 2020 elections. There could be more from Parnas and Bolton, or others could go public with what they know. That does not bode well, especially for those who are running for re-election in swing states.

On the other hand, allowing Bolton to testify opens up a whole different can of worms. Not only will it become very difficult to acquit the president, the excerpts we’ve heard about from Bolton’s book implicate several other high-ranking officials in the Trump administration: namely, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr, and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Once Republicans go down that road, will their testimony become equally compelling? Can Vice President Mike Pence escape scrutiny at that point?

This is the road Republicans chose when they decided to defend a president who is obviously guilty and whose behavior is indefensible. They put themselves between a rock and a hard place with no escape route.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.