News & Politics

Trump's Senate Firewall Intact—For Now

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mitt Romney isn’t the only Republican senator who has expressed concern over the nature of Trump’s Ukraine call. Romney referred to the call as “deeply troubling.” Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is also worried about some of the ramifications contained in the transcript of the call.

CNN:

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican up for election in 2020, echoed those thoughts after reading the complaint on Wednesday evening.

“This (is) going to take a long time but there’s obviously some very troubling things here. But I think the partisan tribalism that’s always insta-certain is a terrible idea. There are real troubling things here. Republicans ought not just circle the wagons and Democrats ought not be using words like ‘impeach’ before they knew anything about the actual substance.”

Sound advice from both men. In fact, all we have to go on right now is various interpretations of what the president said — hardly the basis for impeachment. But there are several Republican senators, who are also worried about the nature of the president’s call, complaining privately that it was a big mistake to release the transcript.

Boston Globe:

One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a ‘‘huge mistake’’ that the GOP now has to confront and defend — while the party argues at the same time that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment inquiry of Trump.

Three other GOP senators complained privately in discussions with The Washington Post that the White House erred by releasing the transcript, arguing that it sets a precedent for future presidents about disclosure of calls with foreign leaders and could be seen as a concession to Democrats.

Meanwhile, former Senator Jeff Flake corrected ex-Romney aide Mike Murphy’s estimate of how many senators would potentially convict Trump in a trial.

With 45 Senate seats, Democrats would need 21 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote to convict. Trump probably has a rock-solid 35 GOP Senators who will go to the wall for him (Republicans who have supported Trump 90 percent of the time or better). That doesn’t leave much leeway for Democrats to get enough opposition votes to convict.

So Trump’s firewall in the Senate appears to be solid — for now. But if evidence emerges that the president threatened Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky with withholding military aid unless he investigated Biden and his son, that would change the calculus of many senators and set off a rush for the exits.