You serious, bro?
The famous call between Trump and Zelensky that turbo-charged the impeachment probe happened less than 24 hours after Bob Mueller’s testimony before Congress, the de facto end of the Russiagate investigation. POTUS had just spent two years being accused of coordinating with a foreign government to interfere in the 2016 campaign on his behalf. And his immediate instinct once it was over was to nudge Ukraine’s president about investigating the Bidens and the CrowdStrike server ahead of the 2020 race.
He’s already encouraged China to investigate the Bidens, remember. Publicly, in front of a bank of cameras. After the Ukraine stuff had already blown up in the press. No lessons will be learned, apart from him being a lot more careful going forward about how many people are allowed to listen in on his calls with foreign leaders. Watch, then read on.
Senator Mike Braun: President Trump "was taken to the carpet" pic.twitter.com/bi2HMjEQaY
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 26, 2020
A few points in no particular order:
1. The House can’t impeach him again, certainly not for the rest of this term. Any accusation this summer or fall that he’s chatting about the Bidens with a different head of state somewhere will be waved off on grounds that Democrats had their chance already and it’s way too close to an election to impeach. Let the people decide. Trump has carte blanche, effectively, once this is over.
2. There’s little evidence that impeachment has hurt him politically. His job approval is at an all-time high in some polls and is nearing an all-time high in the RCP average, all thanks to the roaring economy. Voters don’t appear to be paying close attention to the trial. Support for removing him is a 50/50 issue, but so are practically all issues in the Trump era. In battleground states he’s either narrowly ahead of the Democratic top tier or narrowly behind but well within striking distance. He’s paid no penalty for the Ukraine business apart from the stigma of impeachment, and that stigma can’t be re-inflicted.
3. Senate Republicans will never agree to remove him, especially with an election impending. He could collude with a foreign government to investigate the Bidens on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose a single vote. Despite all the hubbub today over last night’s Bolton revelation, no one on either side believes the needle has moved away from easy acquittal by the Senate. That’s the real significance of the Bolton news — not that it leaves the verdict in doubt but that it exposes how immune the verdict is from a more damning set of facts, assuming those facts can be proved. The takeaway will be that Trump can do whatever he likes and Republicans won’t dare cross him.
4. He insists that he hasn’t done anything wrong. Despite numerous witnesses testifying before the House that they believed there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine involving military aid in return for dirt on the Bidens, plus the revelation that Bolton allegedly heard the same thing from the president himself, Trump claims there was no deal. If his say-so necessarily outweighs any evidence against him then he can’t be held accountable. So why wouldn’t he try this again? And if Mike Braun is claiming that Trump *did* do something wrong but that it’s not an impeachable offense (is he?), then he’s just confirming for future reference that he believes pressuring foreign leaders for dirt on a presidential opponent doesn’t count as a “high crime or misdemeanor.”
So why wouldn’t Trump try it again? Absent some sort of meaningful negative reinforcement, he has no incentive not to. What is that reinforcement? Are swing voters who are sticking with him now going to ditch him because it was okay to do this once but not twice?
Braun doesn’t really believe Trump will be chastened by this process. He’s saying that because he’s seen the polls showing that a majority of the public thinks Trump behaved inappropriately and doesn’t want the unanimous (or nearly unanimous) support for POTUS among Senate GOPers to come off as indifference to that reality. Even though it is.
Gonna leave you with this.
NBC’s Chuck Todd: Democrats are mourning voter “apathy” on impeachment, “nobody cares” pic.twitter.com/16cEzZBHWz
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 26, 2020