Republicans don’t want to talk about their past actions on Ukraine. They should have to

Oh, hey, Republicans don’t think anyone should be talking about how they had Donald Trump’s back when he withheld military aid from Ukraine to extort personal political favors, and Politico is ready to report on just how unimportant Republicans think that was, drawing on quotes from six Republicans and, to rebut, one single Democrat.

Republicans “don’t see a shred of comparison” between Trump’s extortion effort and President Joe Biden not giving exactly the aid Republicans now claim to want the U.S. to send Ukraine, Politico reports. Republicans “are brushing off any suggestion that their frustration with Biden’s pace of Ukraine aid is at odds with their earlier defense of Trump’s posture toward Kyiv.” 

It took three Politico reporters to come up with this, an article that alternates between the reporters’ paraphrasing of Republican dismissals, Republican quotes (sample: “That was the biggest nothing-burger in the world that resulted in an impeachment by the House,” according to Sen. Kevin Cramer), and a few carefully chosen facts about what exactly it is that Republicans are dismissing.

RELATED: Two years ago, they voted against impeachment. Now suddenly they're deeply concerned for Ukraine

But lots of facts didn’t make it into Politico or are mentioned only in passing. The Washington Post reports, for instance, on the dozens of Senate Republicans who are attacking Biden for not sending more aid to Ukraine after they voted against the government funding bill including $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid. That vote and the funding at issue do not make a single appearance in the Politico article about how Republicans don’t think their past defense of Trump withholding support from Ukraine has any relevance to the current situation.

On that one, Republicans are deploying the “I voted against the thing I say I support because there were also things I opposed in the bill” argument, but as Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said in response, “Inside every piece of legislation are elements that many of us disagree with. Inside that budget that you voted against are all sorts of things that I disagree with. But in the end, in order to govern the country, you have to be able to find a path to compromise.”

Or, as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz put it, “It’s very simple: If you don’t vote for the thing, you’re not for the thing,” Schatz said. “That is literally our job, to decide whether we are for or against things as a binary question.”

Republicans decided they were against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid to Ukraine to extort personal political favors from Zelenskyy. Quite a few of them decided they were against aid for Ukraine if it involved also funding the rest of the U.S. government. And they’re getting plenty of space in Politico to explain why the first was merited without being challenged on their reasoning or asked about the second.

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Trump's Ukraine extortion campaign didn't begin or end with 'I would like you to do us a favor'

Republicans suddenly claim to be the biggest allies of the nation they once denounced as corrupt

Hey guys, (some) Republicans want you to forget that they’re Trump toadies

Senate Republicans, like almost all Republicans, stood strongly with Donald Trump through four years of chaos, incompetence, malice, and mayhem. They stood with him as he promoted his Big Lie, that he hadn’t lost decisively to an American electorate sick of his bullshit. They stood with him during certification of the vote, not just those who challenged the Arizona and Pennsylvania votes, but those who stayed quiet and refused to criticize their colleagues’ efforts to undermine democracy. And with seven notable exceptions, they stood by him during the impeachment vote by refusing to hold Trump accountable for his unprecedented efforts to destroy American democracy. 

Now they want you to think that they really don’t stand with Trump, you know, just because. 

There are only seven Senate Republicans with any credibility left on the matter of democracy—Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), and Pat Toomey (PA). Every single other Republican can go to hell, having destroyed the United State’s credibility on matters of human rights, democracy, and the right of self-determination. Why should the military coup leaders in Myanmar give two shits what Mitch McConnell has to say about their undemocratic power grab? He literally just gave Donald Trump a pass on the same kind of effort, here at home. 

Trump literally tried to get Vice President Mike Pence killed, and 43 Republicans didn’t give a shit. 

Oh, many are talking a good game. 

McConnell himself tried to have it both ways, pretty much hoping the criminal justice system does to Trump what he himself was too afraid or feckless to do. With an eye to nervous corporate PACs, wary of giving money to insurrectionists, he all but begged them to come back to the GOP’s embrace, without doing anything to actually address those concerns. 

Trump’s literal strategy was to try and throw out the votes of predominantly Black voters in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit. And McConnell, given the chance to do something about it, merely shrugged, while his Senate committee sent out “stand with Trump” fundraising emails. 

As Senate GOP leader McConnell blasts Trump but uses constitutional excuse to vote to acquit, his NRSC issues fundraising email to “stand with Trump against impeachment.”

— Rick Pearson (@rap30) February 13, 2021

Other Senate Republicans are equally eager to put Trump and the damage he creates in his wake behind them. “Senate Republicans are warning that they no longer view former President Trump as the leader of the party amid growing signs that they are ready to turn the page after a chaotic four years,” says the lede of a Hill piece on those efforts, as I almost died of laughter. North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer, who was too cowardly to hold Trump accountable for trying to murder his Vice President, said, “Now, as you can tell, there’s some support that will never leave. But I think that there’s a shrinking population and it probably shrinks a little bit after this week.” South Dakota’s John Thune claimed that the vote was “absolutely not” an endorsement of Trump’s actions, except it was exactly that. 

You’d think that Republicans would be concerned about their political peril. Under Trump, Republicans lost the House, the Senate, and the White House. In fact, Trump was only the third president in the last 100 years to lose reelection. They lost ground among people of color (in absolute numbers, even if as a percentage, they may have made some gains). They lost ground among young voters. They lost ground among suburban college-educated women. 

Their most substantial gains? Old white rural men, a constituency that is literally dying off. 

Smart Republicans might look at that damage and think, “on the one hand, he tried to get his Vice President murdered, launched an insurrection against our country, and damaged out international standing, and we’re okay with that, but hell, do we want to keep losing elections?” It’s not as if they’re blind to the damage, as Indiana’s Kevin Cramer said, “I am more concerned about how we rebuild the party in a way that brings in more people to it.”

But really, their strategy, for the most part, really appears to be “let’s pretend Trump doesn’t exist.” Texas’ John Cornyn said, “We won’t keep talking about his tweets or what he did or did not do.” Ha ha ha as if they ever talked about his tweets. It was uncanny how Republicans never ever saw his tweets! 

Meanwhile, too many Republicans still think they can win over Trump’s base in a 2024 presidential bid, like the Senate’s biggest opportunist, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asserted on Sunday that twice-impeached former President Donald Trump was the face of the Republican Party, declaring that “Trump-plus” was the best path forward for the GOP. At the same time, he insisted that Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara was the “future of the Republican Party,” reported the Daily Beast, on his appearance on Fox’s Sunday show. Too many Republicans will trip themselves to be the biggest Trump cheerleaders, when Trump will only ever enthusiastically support someone from his own tribe, and her name is “Ivanka.” 

Undoubtedly, Trump’s deplatforming has dramatically reduced his influence, but it’s only a matter of time before he lands on one of the right’s many platforms, whether it’s Gab, OANN, or Parler, if it ever resuscitates. And then, it doesn’t matter if Trump is speaking to the mainstream as long as he reaches the true believers. He doesn’t have to control the party to severely damage it.

Now to be clear, there’s no way Trump launches a viable third party to challenge the GQP. No freakin’ way. We’ve seen the crowd that surrounds Trump. He doesn’t exactly attract top talent. He’s the guy who bankrupted a casino, a business that literally mints its own money. What’s he going to do, put Steve Bannon in charge? Jared Kushner? We’d witness the biggest grift in political history, which might be great for Trump and his cronies, but wouldn’t be particularly effective in winning significant support. 

Ultimately, it’s much easier to take over the existing party, which is where Republicans stand today—swarmed by the MAGA/Q believers they so avidly cultivated with fear-based racist appeals. I don’t think anyone doubts that Trump would be convicted by the Senate in a secret vote. The fact that Republicans couldn’t publicly pull the trigger is all the evidence you need that the Republican Party hasn’t moved past Trump or his supporters. They remain held in thrall by them. 

In the short- and mid-term, it’s important we hold corporations accountable for any donations to the Republican Party. They made the right move to cut off that flow of money, and McConnell did nothing to mitigate their concerns. And of course, we need to make sure our side remains engaged and active, to punish Republicans in 2022. History says we’ll lose Congress, but history isn’t always right. It wasn’t in 2002 when George W. Bush won seats in his first mid-term, in the wake of 9-11. January 6 should have as much cultural and political resonance, if not more, than 9-11. Saudi terrorists never threatened our Constitution or democracy. My own fury remains unabated. 

So yeah, good luck GQP trying to pretend that they can move on and pretend Trump is irrelevant, and that their own actions enabling him to the very end should be shrugged off. No one is ready to move on. 

Senate Republicans are working hard on excuses to acquit Trump despite the powerful case against him

Despite the House impeachment managers’ devastating case that Donald Trump incited the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Senate Republicans remain determined to let him off the hook. The arguments Wednesday showed Trump’s repeated attacks on Mike Pence for refusing to try to overturn the election results. They showed the mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” They showed Trump’s tweet yet again directing the ire of his supporters at Pence, and they showed an insurrectionist reading that tweet through a bullhorn in the middle of the attack on the Capitol. But according to Sen. Ted Cruz, “They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the President doesn't come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement.”

“Donald Trump over many months cultivated violence, praised it,” Del. Stacey Plaskett, one of the House managers, said. “And then when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event.” And they showed, in meticulous detail, how Trump set the stage for the January 6 events, down to the fact that he was the one who called for a protest on that date, the date Congress was meeting to certify the election results. Far-right groups were planning Washington, D.C., events for other dates—until Trump started calling for January 6. “Be there, will be wild,” he tweeted on December 19 in just one of several times he promoted the event. And lo, it was wild.

But despite all the time spent on Wednesday showing all the ways that Trump convinced his supporters to believe that the election had been stolen, and how he repeatedly urged them to show up on that date—a date chosen because Congress would be cementing his loss one more time, an event he was frantically trying to block—and how he specifically focused their ire on Pence, and how he called on them to march to the Capitol—despite all that, Senate Republicans are pretending that the case against Trump is simply a matter of people who happened to support Trump doing a bad thing without any connection to him. That sure, there are some very scary videos showing that they themselves were in jeopardy, and that’s a terrible thing, but those are unrelated to Trump himself.

“The images are—first of all, they’re real, it’s not manufactured, but they are put together in a way that adds, on purpose, to the drama of it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer said. “I don’t begrudge them that.” But he clearly wanted focus on those images of the attack, because they enabled him to try to send all those carefully drawn ties to Trump down the memory hole.

“Senators are, you know, pretty analytical, as a matter of just a profession,” he said. “So it doesn’t affect me in terms of how I feel about the president’s culpability. That’s what’s on trial.” Yes, and there was evidence of that … but Cramer and most other Republicans don’t want to talk about it, though Sen. John Thune did acknowledge that the House managers were “connecting the dots.”

Other Republicans plan to rely on their obviously partisan claim that they aren’t allowed to even hold an impeachment trial for someone who is no longer in office. That way they don’t even have to consider the evidence—as Sen. Mike Braun said, “When you think the process is flawed in the first place, I think it's going to be different to arrive at a conclusion on the facts and the merits itself.”

Whether Republicans are afraid that Trump will again send his violent supporters after them physically, afraid that they will be primaried with Trump’s support, or simply are too partisan to take action against any member of their party ever, they are telling us—again—that the evidence doesn’t matter. Their party comes first. Donald Trump comes first.

Trump and McConnell push hard to cement impeachment cover-up

The Trump White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned an impeachment trial cover-up, and they’re not about to let former national security adviser John Bolton mess that up. The plan was to call no witnesses and have Senate Republicans vote to acquit Trump as quickly as possible. That plan took a hit when reports came out that Bolton’s upcoming book described Trump telling him that he was holding up military aid to Ukraine in a demand for investigations into his political rivals—but that just means McConnell and Trump will have to work a little harder to keep the cover-up in place.

When McConnell told Senate Republicans, in a private meeting, that he didn’t have the votes locked down to block witnesses in the trial, it wasn’t an admission of defeat. It was, sources told The New York Times, ”a pointed signal that it was time for rank-and-file senators to fall in line.”

Similarly, the White House is telling Republicans that allowing witnesses “could drag things out for months” and be “tough on all incumbents up for reelection,” a “Republican close to the White House” told Politico. Nice Senate seat you’ve got. Shame if anything messed that up.

Sen. John Cornyn told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa that he was “pretty confident” Republicans would keep the trial from including witnesses. (You know, keep it from being even an imitation of a fair trial.)

According to Sen. Kevin Cramer, “Some people are sincerely exploring all the avenues.” Some people. Others, not so much. And virtually every Republican in the Senate is under strong pressure to stop exploring and definitely stop being sincere—virtually every, and not every-every, only because Sen. Susan Collins gets a pass on appearing to vote against McConnell once he knows he already has the votes he needs locked down.

Republicans do not want the American people to know the truth, and they’ll do whatever they can to keep that from happening.