ASKIAM Senior Editor http://www.twitter.com/askiaphotojourn
WASHINGTON–Even as mounting evidence for his impeachment seems to increase with each passing day, President Donald J. Trump maintains unflinching loyalty among his diehard supporters, including nearly all of the Senate Republicans and a cadre of militant House members, whose kneejerk response is to defend just about everything he does, sometimes employing stunts and theatrics to attack the impeachment inquiry.
His strategy is simple. First deny each charge in simple terms: “No collusion.” “Fake news.” “Witch hunt.” “Exonerated.” “Whistleblower.” “No quid pro quo.” Then, after incontrovertible evidence emerges that his denials were lies (nearly 15,000 since he took office Jan. 20, 2017), he says that there was nothing wrong with the suspect behavior in the first place, at least not when the president does it: It was a “Perfect phone call.”
The impeachment inquiries were authorized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after a federal whistleblower filed a “credible” complaint that in late July phone calls, Mr. Trump had improperly withheld military aid to The Ukraine, in order to force that country’s new president to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Mr. Trump’s 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
At Final Call presstime it was announced the House of Representatives is scheduled for a full vote Oct. 31 to formalize the impeachment probe. Speaker Pelosi in a letter to the Democratic caucus said the vote will help the party battle the White House’s resistance to the impeachment inquiry and its efforts to block past and present officials from testifying about the president’s communication with Ukraine.
Republicans have repeatedly criticized Democrats for not holding a floor vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry and have also accused Democrats of operating without transparency and not granting Mr. Trump and his legal team due process.
The most spectacular stunt yet in Mr. Trump’s behalf, was pulled off with his encouragement, when two dozen Republican lawmakers stormed a closed Congressional hearing room Oct. 23, disrupting the impeachment investigation and preventing a Pentagon official from testifying for five hours. The protest violated House rules–including a ban on cell phones and other electronic devices inside the secure room known as the SCIF–or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.
“Well, it seems to be getting more and more desperate,” writer Paul Waldman said in an interview. “There are different Republicans who have different perspectives on this, but if you try to think about, what they’re facing from their perspective, I think that the way they’re reacting is pretty revealing. There’s only a few of them who, sort of, are able to, with a straight face, try to defend Trump on the substance of, what he has done.
“So, if you’re in their position, what can you do? Well, the answer for many of them is to just argue about the process.” This is precisely what the GOP has done.
“This is going to be about process,” a Republican senator told The Hill after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met with his members in a private lunch Oct. 22. Mr. McConnell is urging Republicans to focus on the perceived flaws of Democrats and their tactics, rather than defending the president’s conduct.
For his part, the president remains openly defiant. The White House is refusing to engage with the impeachment inquiry because it argues the president is denied due process. It is not complying with congressional subpoenas and has instructed administration officials and those associated with Mr. Trump to do the same.
The president believes, his personal attorney told a federal court, that he can neither be investigated for a crime, nor prosecuted–even for murder–while he is in office. The argument was made by Mr. Trump’s attorney William S. Consovoy as he sought to quash a subpoena seeking the president’s private financial records about hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. This was during an Oct. 22 hearing in the New York courtroom of Judge Denny Chin. The court ruled against the Trump claim, ordering the release of the financial records.
Following the Trump defense script, on Oct. 24, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a resolution in the Senate condemning the impeachment inquiry, and calling on the House to vote to open a formal inquiry and provide Mr. Trump with “fundamental constitutional protections.”
The resolution is co-signed by 45 of his party colleagues in the Senate. It accuses House Democrats of a lack of due process and transparency in their impeachment inquiry. Among the resolution’s complaints are that the full House has not voted to open the impeachment inquiry, that witnesses so far have given closed-door testimonies, and that Mr. Trump is being denied his rights to defend himself against the allegations emerging from the process.
But, “Senator Graham’s resolution has absolutely no substance,” Laurence Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University professor and professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, and a prominent critic of Mr. Trump, told Newsweek. “I looked at it carefully to see if any of its process complaints made sense historically, legally, or morally. I could find nothing in it worthy of being taken seriously,” said Prof. Tribe.
Several Senate Republicans declined to sign on to the resolution, however. Senators Johnny Isaacson of Georgia, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee who are all retiring, among them.
“So they don’t have to care anymore if they’re going to be punished by Republican voters,” said Mr. Waldman. “And they will be able to say on principle, you know, I’m not going to go along with this. I’m not going to just be blindly loyal to the president. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has become Trump’s biggest Republican critic in Congress, he didn’t sign on to it. And then, and maybe the most interesting ones who didn’t, were Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
“Now what’s important about them?” Mr. Waldman asked rhetorically. “They are the two most vulnerable Republicans who are up for reelection next year. Both of them come from states that are swing states that lean a little bit Democratic. They’ve been moderates and that’s how they got elected. But they’re in a position where they’re kind of caught between two forces.”
Otherwise, the popular GOP strategy–the Trump strategy–is to appeal to White nationalism, xenophobia, and racism. That and the Republican fear that they will lose the political advantage which is enabling them to undo national reforms and legislation enacted after the Civil Rights movement, and to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues, keeps most members in line.
The greatest fear of most Republican office holders is facing a conservative primary challenger. And Mr. Trump appears to dominate that wing of the party. He has emerged as a symbol of bigotry who isn’t shy about making explicit appeals to White tribalism.
“Republicans also know that their constituents are the very people who put Trump in the White House,” said Mr. Waldman. “His voters don’t just tolerate Trump’s racism, they cheer it. In the short and medium term, this strategy–appeal only to White voters, keep them as threatened and angry about increasing diversity as possible, and rig the system to give their votes more weight–is extraordinarily effective, morally abhorrent though it might be.” (Associated Press contributed to this report.)