Trump confidant to Republican senators: Vote against him and "your head will be on a pike"

Is the “confidant” Steve Bannon? Because it sounds like Steve Bannon.

Vivid tough-guy bluster. Axe-grinding about fickle establishmentarians. Whispering on background to reporters. It has all the hallmarks.


Some lefties are taking the line literally, not because there’s any actual doubt that it’s metaphorical but because it’s Friday and content is thin and “the Trump administration is about to cross a frightening new line” is always good filler content for the Resistance.

On a positive note, “is Trump going to put people’s heads on pikes?” isn’t the worst anti-Trump take out there today:

Hoo boy. Anyway, no one’s head will end up on a pike. In a worst-case scenario a guy like Romney will vote to remove, serve out his term as an unelectable incumbent, then enjoy a very cushy retirement surrounded by a hundred adoring grandchildren. In fact, likening the end of one’s political career to a beheading is a weirdly elitist view for a Trump confidant, the sort of person who’d normally tell you that the country would be much better off without the careerist mindset shared by so much of the time-serving trash that populates official Washington. God forbid Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski have an awakening that not being a senator anymore wouldn’t be the end of the world and decide that they’re going to vote from now on however they want to vote. (In fairness, Murkowski may have already had that awakening.)


Plus, it’s simply false to suggest that Trump has all of the leverage when it comes to disobedient senators. Look no further than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the current frontrunner in the race for the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama despite the fact that Trump bears him a very public grudge. Why has POTUS kept his mouth shut about Sessions since he entered the race? Because: He remembers what happened in Alabama when Republicans there nominated a gonzo populist like Roy Moore. As much as Trump hates Sessions, he hates the thought of losing that seat again more, so he’s hanging back.

He wouldn’t hang back against Collins or Romney if one of them voted to remove him. It’d be too personal. But if they crossed him on witnesses or something? Sure, he’d let it go. He’d have no choice. At the end of the day he’d realize that the GOP is likelier to hold Collins’s seat with her as the nominee than it is if they nominate some Trumpy loose cannon instead. If he goes around taking revenge on his own incumbents for displaying insufficient loyalty at the trial, he may find himself saddled with a Democratic Senate next year.

And then it’ll be the president’s judicial nominees who end up with their heads on pikes.

Speaking of crossing him on witnesses, Democrats think Collins, Murkowski, and Romney are all gettable. (Are they?) But who’s going to be the 51st vote that puts them over the top on Bolton? Probably not Cory Gardner. He has good reason to do so but Gardner is a timid politician who seems more worried about Republicans not turning out to vote for him than alienating Democrats. Is it all down to … Lamar Alexander?


He’s a retiring defender of the Senate as an institution who’s occasionally bucked his party, but he also counts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a longtime ally. He’s more hesitant to criticize Trump than are some other Republicans, but he also has said it was “inappropriate” for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents…

Alexander is unlikely to be the 51st vote for witnesses and throw momentary control of the Senate to the Democrats. More likely, if he’s feeling the need to hear new evidence in the trial, other Republicans would join him and scramble plans on how to handle witnesses and documents.

Yet at the moment, GOP leaders are not worried about Alexander, according to a Republican senator and aides privy to party strategy. They believe Alexander is likely to side with McConnell and help wrap up the trial.

He also has his eye on a bill to lower health-care costs which he’ll need Trump’s and McConnell’s help to pass. I don’t think he’ll be number 51 on this. But what if he doesn’t need to be? What if … John Roberts is number 51?

There’s been little discussion of it, but there’s a musty precedent from the 1868 Andrew Johnson trial whereby, in theory, it could take three Republicans. The catch is that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would have to support the idea, too.

If only three Republicans were to vote for a motion to call witnesses, the Senate would be split 50-50. That means the motion would fail. But twice in the 1868 trial, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, in his role as the presiding officer, cast a tie-breaking vote on a procedural motion — which therefore passed.


Those two votes were trivial matters, in one case whether the Senate should take a break, in the other whether it should adjourn for the day. And although Roberts is not known for his boldness, to put it mildly, a precedent’s a precedent. It stands to reason that the presiding officer should cast a tiebreaking vote. Normally during Senate business that’s the vice president. In the case of impeachment the VP has a conflict of interest, so logically it would fall to the chief justice.

I think Roberts would find a reason to duck it, though. He’s the guy who famously described his role as a judge during his confirmation hearing as that of an umpire, calling balls and strikes. If he participates in witness selection than he’d be more of a player, acting in concert with the politicians in the Senate. Not his cup of tea.

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