Report: Trump using fundraising to influence GOP senators on impeachment

The word “bribe” is being thrown around on social media to describe this Politico story and related reporting today from CNN, and that’s fair enough. But it’s also sort of beside the point. Would the political calculus for Senate Republicans be dramatically different even if fundraising could somehow be quarantined from the impeachment process? Every Senate GOPers understands that if he or she votes to remove Trump, he’ll rant about it ad nauseam. Hardcore Trumpers will boycott their elections. It’s political suicide — even if money never enters the picture. Trump exerts enormous, even decisive political influence over his would-be jurors completely separate and apart from the question of financial influence.

Plus, if you wanted to pass a rule or a law to try to deter this sort of behavior, how could you do it? Even if the House and Senate agreed to bar any member of Congress from accepting donations during the impeachment process, members would naturally realize that their fundraising prospects after impeachment ended would depend heavily on whether they voted to remove the president. Trump himself wouldn’t need to explicitly threaten anyone or reward anyone; the looming reality of Trump fans snapping their wallets shut for Republican heretics would be deterrent enough.

All of this is inescapable by dint of the fact that impeachment is not just a legal but a political process, and one that cuts both ways. Just as House Democrats can impeach Trump for reasons that aren’t codified as a crime in any statute, Trump can use certain ordinary political levers to influence the people sitting in judgment of him.

But when weighing whether the president has received due process or not, don’t forget what you’re about to read. Trump enjoys a right that no other defendant, civil or criminal, in the United States possesses: The right to bribe his jurors.

President Donald Trump is rewarding senators who have his back on impeachment — and sending a message to those who don’t to get on board…

On Wednesday, 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

The new online fundraising drive bypassed [Susan] Collins, an occasional Trump critic who called on the president to retract his tweet comparing the impeachment investigation to a “lynching.” Collins also said Trump made a “ big mistake” in asking China to investigate the Biden family.

There’s no innocent reason to omit Collins from the fundraising pitch. She and Gardner are the two most vulnerable Republicans in the Senate next fall, and she was outraised over the summer by her Democratic opponent. She needs the cash. Collins also famously cast a tough vote in Trump’s favor last fall when she opted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. But she committed the sin of not co-sponsoring Lindsey Graham’s resolution criticizing the House impeachment process (note: she didn’t say she wouldn’t vote for it, just that she wouldn’t sponsor it) and so she must pay. There’s no allegation in Politico’s piece that Trump has threatened her, but that’s my point up above: Trump doesn’t need to. Punishing her by leaving her off the fundraising/bribe list speaks volumes. The juror in this case can either accept the defendant’s fat envelope and vote to acquit or she can vote to convict and suffer the consequences.

This is why it’s hard not to laugh at Lindsey Graham emoting on Fox about Trump not being allowed to have his lawyers question witnesses during House hearings. Why would any defendant care about when his counsel is allowed to participate the process if he knows the jury is on the take? The verdict is assured, and the verdict is ultimately all that matters.

The funny thing about Trump starting to use fundraising as leverage is that there’s a report out today that McConnell convinced him to lay off the nasty tweets about wavering Republicans, including Mitt Romney. The idea is that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, which helps explain why the president invited a bunch of Republican congressmen to join him at the World Series a few days ago. Trump is Trump, though, and he’s not going to be able to suppress the urge to lash out at “disloyal” Republicans for long. Omitting Collins from the fundraising pitch is the result. Sure, he’ll lay off the insults — while also cutting her out of a pot of dough she could really use.

But maybe all of this will blow over. If Collins votes to remove him (which is highly unlikely), Trump will be mad but the harsh realities of life with a Democratic Senate majority will begin to wear on him later. Is it worth punishing her next fall by choking off money that can get her reelected if the alternative is handing Chuck Schumer veto power over all of Trump’s nominees in a second term? It’d be one thing if Collins’s vote was somehow decisive in removing him, but Dems won’t get within a country mile of 67 votes. I think he’ll allow the RNC to shovel cash at her in the end to give her a fighting chance at reelection, especially since Collins would owe him a favor in his second term if they both win.