As Republican senators have stepped forward in recent days to explain why they will vote for Trump’s acquittal, it has become apparent they are leaving themselves some breathing room to adopt an entirely different rationale in future cases involving a Democratic president. Take Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He released a statement on Friday explaining why he will vote for Trump’s acquittal — saying the president’s ouster “would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation.”
One would think that standard could apply to the impeachment of any president. Even Richard Nixon had his supporters when he left office. But Rubio left the door open to arriving at a different conclusion in the future: His decision, he noted, didn’t depend on Trump’s innocence. And Rubio explicitly rejected the Trump team’s argument that a president can never be ousted from office on “abuse of power” founds.
Instead, he said, he tried to determine if removing the president from office would be in “the interest of the nation.” His answer? “Determining which outcome is in the best interests requires a political judgment.” In other words: The right answer is whatever Rubio wants it to be. For a Republican president, at least, the answer is acquittal.