Senate Republicans are not bothered one bit as Trump’s abuses of power escalate

Donald Trump is going to war with the very idea of equal administration of justice in the United States of America, and the Senate Republicans who voted last week to acquit him of abuse of power are just nodding along, barely even pausing to furrow a brow. Trump has intervened in the sentencing of his old buddy Roger Stone and publicly thanked Attorney General William Barr for doing his bidding. He’s attacked the judge and a juror in the case. These are not trifling matters in a democracy, but Republicans just don’t care.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it with a simple, “I do not have an opinion on that.” To Sen. John Cornyn, it’s “kind of immaterial” if Trump intervened to reduce a sentencing recommendation for a friend. “It doesn’t bother me at all, as long as the judge has the final decision,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley—of the judge Trump has been working to publicly intimidate. In translation: Trump’s escalating assaults on the rule of law change nothing for Republicans.

The list of Republican senators who just don’t give a damn goes on and on. Sen. Lindsey Graham is “comfortable the system is working,” even though he gave lip service to the principle that Trump shouldn’t be speaking out about specific cases in the courts. Sen. Lamar Alexander said that “politics should never play a part in law enforcement,” without mentioning Trump by name.

Another series of Republicans pretended not to know what the issue was, falling back on the old Paul Ryan favorite, “I don’t know the facts of the case; I haven’t been following it” (this time, that one came from Sen. Ted Cruz). 

The other thing that goes on and on is Trump’s abuse of power. The Washington Post reports that, according to a former senior administration official, when aides try to persuade Trump that he should stay out of legal cases, he says, “I have a right to say whatever I want.” According to that official, “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows that he has more power than anyone else in the government—and when he tweets, everyone has to listen to him.”

A Republican congressional aide told the Post, “It’s like bad weather. Nothing more, nothing less.” Yes, abuse of power and the destruction of democratic norms and institutions is just a little bad weather.

“We cannot give him a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into his own personal vengeance operation,” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday, addressing his Republican colleagues in a committee meeting. “If we say nothing—and I include everyone in this committee, including myself—it will get worse. His behavior will get worse.” 

Republicans are on board with that, is the problem.

Every day that goes by and every new abuse that Trump commits shows why it's so important to retake the Senate. Please dig deep to defeat vulnerable Republicans in 2020.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden tries to expand Ukraine investigation into an actual Ukraine investigation

In 2016, Sen. Ron Johnson was one of a number of Republicans who signed a letter encouraging the president of Ukraine to fire the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. Naturally, that fact has not even been a speed bump in Johnson joining with his colleagues Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of a nefarious act when he … encouraged the president of Ukraine to fire the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

Back in November, in the midst of the House impeachment hearings into Donald Trump’s extortion and slander plot, the trio of Johnson , Grassley, and Graham began a distraction campaign by demanding documents both from and about Ukraine. This has continued post-impeachment, with the three lickspittles rummaging through Secret Service records to see if they can catch Joe Biden in the act of associating with his own son. 

And now Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has decided to join them—to dig up documents that Republicans would rather stay buried.

As The Washington Post reported last week, Republican senators were eager to demonstrate that their toadying for Trump didn’t end with their cover-up vote on his removal from office. Johnson, Grassley, and Graham are all well aware that in asking for the dismissal of Shokin, Biden was actually:

Following the instructions of Barack Obama and others at the White House who had repeatedly noted the Ukrainian prosecutor’s obstruction and corruption. Supporting a request from officials of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund who saw Shokin’s corruption as a fundamental roadblock to investment in Ukraine. Acting on the request of U.K. prosecutors upset that Shokin would not pursue an investigation into Burisma and other companies at the heart of a possible money laundering scheme.

But just because they know upfront that not only did Biden not take steps to illegally protect his son’s position, but that in helping to sack Shokin, he was also actually putting his son at risk, they are still more than willing to demonstrate that their loyalty to Trump is more important than facts. Or honesty. Or much less any concept of honor.

With that in mind, Buzzfeed News reports that Sen. Wyden has decided it would be a good thing to just open up this investigation and request a few more documents that don’t involve Hunter Biden’s airline records or what Joe Biden ate for lunch. Instead, Wyden sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directing him to turn over everything that the State Department has on Ukraine policy, both under President Obama and under Trump. That includes records of the department’s interactions on Ukraine with individuals such as Rudy Giuliani and his friends Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Wyman’s letter makes it clear that he understands the purpose behind the much more limited requests made by Johnson, Grassley, and Graham. By restricting their search to a handful of Biden-related documents, the Republicans can continue to string together apparent connections by looking at overlapping dates or locations—connections that may, once again, show Joe Biden talking to, or even meeting with, his only surviving son. Which, as far as Republicans are concerned, is somehow much worse than bludgeoning an allied nation into providing political slander through an existential threat.

Or, as Wyden writes in his letter, “I am concerned that, in the absence of additional information … the Department's production of information requested by the Senate Committees could create an incomplete and biased record of the State Department's activities related to Ukraine.”

It can. And it still will. Because there’s almost no doubt that Pompeo, along with Attorney General William Barr, will find that the requests from the Republican senators are urgent and proper, completely worthy of their time, and deserving of a response. Wyden, on the other hand, probably forgot a comma in the fourth line, or didn’t use the right form, or … is a Democrat. If Pompeo needs another reason to ignore a document demand from the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he can always ask the White House counsel. As these people demonstrated during Trump’s impeachment trial, they’re full of excuses. Or at least full of something.

Fascism: Graham says Barr has ‘process’ for Biden probe, Russian investigators ‘going to jail’

Top sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham took to the Sunday shows, of course, to bask in the Senate's nullification of Donald Trump's impeachment for using the tools of his power to extort the Ukrainian government into providing him "dirt" on a Democratic election opponent. It is not just Trump that appears to feel unleashed; Graham, too, was eager to describe the next steps of the administration-led descent into American fascism.

A first step: The Trump "private lawyer" Rudy Giuliani's smear campaign against the Bidens is now moving into Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department. Whatever Barr’s prior pretenses may have been, Barr is now explicitly establishing the means by which Rudy’s propaganda can be filtered into official “investigations” of Trump’s targeted enemies.

Throughout the House and press investigations into the Ukraine scandal, Trump Attorney General Barr either refused comment or denied that he was involved with the Giuliani efforts, despite Trump specifically naming both Barr and Giuliani as contacts for the Ukrainian president in the "transcript" of Trump's now-infamous phone call. Whether this was a lie or not—and it is almost certainly a direct lie by a complicit Barr—such pretenses have now vanished.

On CBS's Face the Nation, Graham said that the Department of Justice is now "receiving information coming out of the Ukraine, from Rudy." Barr's Justice Department, says Graham, has "created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified."

This means that the president's self-identified "personal lawyer", acting on behalf of known-corrupt pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs and ex-officials and in concert with two now-indicted launderers of Russian cash, is now directly channeling conspiracy claims against Trump's election opponent to the U.S. Attorney General's office. There is no longer any pretense of Giuliani's efforts not being state policy.

And this, in turn, means the claims of Russian organized crime-tied Dmytro Firtash, seeking to exchange "dirt" on Biden in exchange for the U.S. Department of Justice dropping his indictments in this country, are now being funneled through Giuliani directly into a Barr-led Justice Department that seems more then agreeable to making such a trade.

That was not the only assertion from Graham that Republicans and the Trump administration would be adopting new fascist policies of targeting and retaliating against Dear Leader's critics and enemies. Just after Trump removed multiple U.S. government officials (and a family member) who testified to the House impeachment committee despite Trump and Barr's standing orders to refuse House subpoenas, Graham indicated that many of those who investigated Trump will be heading to prison.

"We're not going to live in a world where as a Republican you get investigated from the day you're sworn in, three years later they're still coming after you," said Graham, erasing both Whitewater and the Benghazi "investigations" from the nation's history.

"Here's what amazes me. The Russian investigation, what happened? Half the people behind the Russia investigation are going to go to jail," the Republican told his Fox News host. "And Trump was cleared."

"When? Hopefully," host Maria Bartiromo mugged.

"Well, just hang tight," Graham responded.

We are now well into fascism, and it is the Republican Senate that is not merely looking the other way, but aggressively assisting Trump's team in its implementation. Those that testified against Trump are being removed, despite laws seemingly barring such retaliation. The propaganda efforts against Trump's targeted political foe spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani (financed, it should be noted, from Russia, as previous Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was financed for his own role in manipulating Ukraine towards Russian interests while creating schisms between that country and the west) are now being pipelined directly into Barr's Department of Justice.

Barr, whose department attempted to stifle the Ukrainian whistleblower complaint and worked to sabotage all investigation of Trump, has issued orders that he must be informed of and approve of any new investigations that touch on a 2020 campaign or candidate—both giving him direct access to any information potentially damaging to Trump's foes while maintaining absolute power to block probes of Trump himself.

It is in this environment that Lindsay Graham, who has been one of the prime advocates of Trump's new, law-bending authoritarian powers, has confidence that Trump's prior investigators will be jailed. "Just hang tight," he tells his propagandizing state media host.

It is not likely that John Bolton's book will see the light of day, not with the White House insisting it contains "classified" information that will take an unspecified amount of time to review. It is not likely that the Republican Senate will take any action, even the most minor, to restrain the Trump team in retaliating against witnesses or to block Barr from turning the nation's Justice Department into a tool for smearing, and possibly jailing, Trump's adversaries.

Travel restrictions imposed against the non-compliant. The stifling of official information contrary to Trump's scattershot, often-delusional proclamations. Invented state propaganda. The celebration of pro-state conspiracy and white nationalism promoters. Escalating threats of far-right domestic terrorism.

The only path out, now that Republicans have morphed from a conservative movement to a fascist one, is election turnout so overwhelming as to swamp even these new, myriad election-rigging efforts. And even that may not be enough.

Here's Lindsey Graham telling CBS that Attorney General Barr has "created a process" where Rudy Giuliani can feed Biden dirt from Ukrainian sources directly to the DOJ, and the DOJ will then check it out pic.twitter.com/A6N8YV6tS9

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 9, 2020

Lindsey Graham: Half the people behind the Russia investigation are going to go to jail pic.twitter.com/Xi9LQV6J9M

— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) February 9, 2020

14 Republicans who voted to impeach, convict, and remove Clinton will vote to acquit Trump today

This afternoon, Senate Republicans will vote almost certainly with unanimity to acquit Donald Trump of the charges included in two impeachment articles brought against him—abuse of power and obstruction of justice. If that acquittal wasn’t already completely obvious, all doubt was removed last night by the enthusiastic fawning over the lawless Donald J. Trump’s spew of fabrications, exaggerations, and braggadocio in a speech of vindication and denial applauded by men and women who really, clearly don’t care about the gaping wound their decision will leave in constitutional norms. Not yet fatal to democracy, but this gives Trump the freedom to do something that could be.

Fourteen of those Republican senators who will vote today also voted on the impeachment of Bill Clinton 21 years ago. Eight of them, then members of the House, voted in favor of two articles of impeachment—perjury and obstruction of justice for lying under oath. Six others, who were already in the Senate then and still are, voted to convict Clinton. As you might guess, they had very different things to say about impeachment and what was impeachable at the time than they have said lately.

Below are some of their remarks during Clinton’s impeachment.

First, a look at the eight current Republican senators who were members of the House in 1998-99. All eight voted in favor of the articles of impeachment against Clinton.

Roy Blunt (Missouri)

"No president can be allowed to subvert the judiciary or thwart the investigative responsibility of the legislature," Blunt said, adding that Clinton had committed "serious felonious acts that strike at the heart of our judicial system. [...] Violating these oaths or causing others to impede the investigation into such acts are serious matters that meet the standard for impeachment."

Mike Crapo (Idaho)

"Our entire legal system is dependent on our ability to find the truth. That is why perjury and obstruction of justice are crimes," Crapo said. "Perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes that strike at the heart of the rule of law — and therefore our freedom — in America."

Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

He was one of the House impeachment managers in Clinton’s trial. "He doesn't have to say, 'Go lie for me,' to be a crime. He doesn't have to say, 'Let's obstruct justice,' for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not a magic phrase," Graham said. “[Impeachment is] not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."

Jerry Moran (Kansas)

"I choose to be on the side that says no person is above the law; that this is a nation of laws, not men; that telling the truth matters; and that we should expect our public officials to conduct themselves in compliance with the highest ethical standards," Moran said.

Rob Portman (Ohio)

Portman said, “For myself, I believe the evidence of serious wrongdoing is simply too compelling to be swept aside. I am particularly troubled by the clear evidence of lying under oath in that it must be the bedrock of our judicial system.” He followed up with a press statement after he had voted, saying: “Committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing the power of the presidency violate the rule of law that all citizens—even the president—must obey.”

John Thune (South Dakota)

Thune said, "There is one standard of justice that applies equally to all, and to say or do otherwise will undermine the most sacred of all American ideals. President Clinton has committed federal crimes, and there must be a reckoning, or no American shall ever again be prosecuted for those same crimes."

Richard Burr (North Carolina)

Burr said, "The United States is a nation of laws, not men. And I do not believe we can ignore the facts or disregard the constitution so that the president can be placed above the law."

Roger Wicker (Mississippi)

Wicker said that if Clinton urged Monica Lewinsky to lie, it "would amount to a federal felony, and that would mean serious, serious problems for President Clinton."

And here are the six Republicans who were in the Senate in 1998-99 and voted to convict Clinton:

Chuck Grassley (Iowa)

Grassley said that Clinton's “misdeeds have caused many to mistrust elected officials. Cynicism is swelling among the grass roots. His breach of trust has eroded the public's faith in the office of the presidency." The "true tragedy" of the case, he said, was "the collapse of the president's moral authority." He co-signed a statement during the impeachment proceedings pointing out that federal law "criminalizes anyone who corruptly persuades or engages in misleading conduct with the intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding."

Mike Enzi (Wyoming)

Bill Clinton "was intending to influence the testimony of a likely witness in a federal civil rights proceeding," Enzi said. "President Clinton was, in fact, trying to get Betty Currie to join him in his web of deception and obstruction of justice."

Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma)

Along with five other Republican senators, including Jeff Sessions and Pat Roberts, Inhofe signed a statement during the impeachment proceedings nothing that federal law "criminalizes anyone who corruptly persuades or engages in misleading conduct with the intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding."

Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)

McConnell said in a statement, "Do we want to retain President Clinton in office, or do we want to retain our honor, our principle, and our moral authority? For me, and for many members in my impeachment-fatigued party, I choose honor." He added, "The president of the United States looked 270 million Americans in the eye, and lied, deliberately and methodically. He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, and he violated that oath. He pledged to be the nation's chief law enforcement officer, and he violated that pledge. He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he willfully and repeatedly violated that oath."

Pat Roberts (Kansas)

In a statement, Roberts said that Clinton had sought to block the investigation into his actions. "Do these actions rise to the level envisioned by our founding fathers in the Constitution as 'high crimes and misdemeanors' so warranting removal from office? Our Constitution requires that the threshold for that judgment must be set by each senator sitting as a juror. Again, I believe an open-minded individual applying Kansas common sense would reach the conclusion that I reached."

Richard Shelby (Alabama)

The senator said after voting, “After reviewing the evidence, I believe that the House managers proved beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton obstructed justice. Therefore, I voted for his conviction and removal for the offenses charged in Article II. However, I do not believe that the House managers met the legal requirements of proving perjury beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, I voted against conviction and removal for the offenses charged in Article I.”

For your reading displeasure, let me also include the words of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, since he could return to the Senate next year:

It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that President William Jefferson Clinton perjured himself before a federal grand jury and has persisted in a continuous pattern of lying and obstructing justice. The chief law enforcement officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend and protect the law and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen. Under our Constitution, equal justice requires that he forfeit his office. For these reasons, I felt compelled to vote to convict and remove the President from office. ...

“It is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the truth. I fear that an acquittal of this president will weaken the legal system by providing an option for those who consider being less than truthful in court. Whereas the handling of the case against President Nixon clearly strengthened the nation's respect for law, justice and truth, the Clinton impeachment may unfortunately have the opposite result.

Fascism rises: Graham says Senate GOP will do whatever it can to expose the whistleblower

If you missed it, yesterday strident Donald Trump toady Sen. Lindsey Graham explained to Fox "Business" host Maria Bartiromo what he believes the Republican Senate will do next, after voting to immunize Trump from a clearly criminal extortion scheme meant to gain foreign help in winning his reelection. Graham said the Senate will move on from declaring that no administration witnesses must be called in an impeachment trial to calling a litany of Obama-era administration officials to interrogate them about Trump's targets in that scheme, Joe and Hunter Biden.

Graham also vowed to do something far more serious: Summon the "whistleblower" who first told Congress of Trump's criminal conspiracy. This is so that Graham and Trump's other Republican allies can interrogate Dear Leader’s nameless critic and, possibly, expose, threaten, and target that person to the full force of the Republican’s treason-approving, violence-threatening, mail-bombing base.

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Graham told his host, Angry Fascist Banana, that Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr told him the committee will be calling the whistleblower to testify. Graham said that he intended to expose "how all this crap started" and launched into a stream of absolutely false, propaganda-based conspiracy theories about who the whistleblower was "working with" that we will not repeat here. He did not, however, indicate whether Burr still intended to keep the whistleblower's identity secret or whether he had been pressured into changing his mind on that.

Graham, obviously, believes that he will find some conspiracy that will require, or at least justify, doing Trump's personal bidding by exposing the only White House-linked official in the entire administration who put their duty to their country above their fealty to a raving, corrupt man damaging national security and our elections for his own personal gain.

There can be little argument that the Republican Party is now a fascist organization. It has put Dear Leader above the rule of law. It has given Dear Leader an "absolute immunity" to solicit as much foreign government assistance as he can muster or extort for the purposes of throwing the next election in his favor, while insisting that it will still be a “free election” regardless of how much false, conspiracy-premised propaganda Dear Leader can bring to bear. Now it insists that Dear Leader's law-protecting supposed enemies be exposed, and made examples of.

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Senate Republicans have no regrets over impeachment cover-up, even as White House hides key emails

News that the Trump White House is blocking the release of dozens of emails described in a court filing as “regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine” didn’t change the message from Senate Republicans on Sunday’s talk shows: They regret nothing and will continue to cover up for Donald Trump. Why, it’s almost like nothing Trump could have done would have lost him the support of members of his own party determined to protect their own political power.

Sen. Lindsey Graham even proposed a major program of revenge against Democrats—one that would continue Trump’s efforts to damage former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 election prospects.

Graham used his time on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures to call on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jim Risch to launch a major investigation of Biden, also targeting the whistleblower who launched the House’s Trump-Ukraine probe. “Jim, if you’re watching the show, I hope you are ... let’s call these people in. Eventually, we’ll get to Hunter Biden,” Graham said.  

“We’re not going to let it go. Jim Risch, you need to start it,” he pledged.

Sen. Lamar Alexander didn’t sketch out a revenge plan for Democrats daring to conduct oversight of Trump, but he stuck to his story that, sure, Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine into interfering in the U.S. elections were “wrong. Inappropriate was the way I’d say — improper, crossing the line,” but that doesn’t mean anyone should do anything about it. “I’m very concerned about any action that we could take that would establish a perpetual impeachment in the House of Representatives whenever the House was a different party than the president. That would immobilize the Senate.”

Gee, Lamar, maybe the issue isn’t just the House being held by a different party than the president—after all, as much as the Republican-controlled House from 2011 to 2016 would have looooved to impeach President Barack Obama, he didn’t give them even a shred of an excuse to do so—but all of Trump’s flagrant abuse of power.

Sen. Joni Ernst, facing re-election this November, couldn’t bring herself to condemn Trump’s actions as strongly as Alexander’s weak sauce. “Maybe not the perfect call,” Ernst said. “He did it maybe in the wrong manner.” Because apparently there’s a right manner for using the power of the presidency to get another country to launch sham investigations into a political rival.

It’s not just Trump. The Republican Party is rotten all the way through.

Cartoon: The Grand Ol’ Adaptable Party

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With each new revelation or bit of evidence, Republicans in the Senate (and the House, for that matter), soften their spines a little more. Remember when Lindsey Graham thought withholding an Oval Office meeting wasn’t that big of a deal but withholding military aid, well, that would be just wrong!

It really has come down to the “So What?” defense for Donald Trump and his supporters. Wrapped in a little Alan Dershowitz legalese about the Founders only intending to impeach a president who robbed a bank for his own personal gain, and it’s looking even more likely Senate Republicans won’t budge.

Apparently a president has to say “I am presently going to commit high crimes and misdemeanors” while the offending act is witnessed by a Senate Sergeant at Arms in order to be convicted and removed from office. Enjoy the cartoon, and keep those fingers and toes crossed. (And be sure to visit me over on Patreon for prints, sketches and other behind-the-scenes goodies!)

Senate Republicans: Screw what voters want. It’s impeachment cover-up time

Senate Republicans have come back to where they started: they’re going to stage an impeachment cover-up, and they’re not going to half-ass it. With Donald Trump in full public bully mode and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell twisting arms behind the scenes, the number of Republicans willing to vote for a fair trial is expected to be less than the necessary four—and even the one or two Republicans who vote to hear from witnesses will do so with McConnell’s permission, knowing that they aren’t changing the outcome.

This recommitment to cover-up comes as poll after poll shows anywhere from 66% to 80% of Americans—including substantial percentages of Republicans—wanting witnesses in the impeachment trial. Republican senators do not care.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s take is that “For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate, and still the House would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office.” But we never expected Graham to stand up to the latest powerful figure he’s attached himself to in a bid for greater relevance.

”We don’t need Mr. Bolton to come in and to extend this show longer, along with any other witnesses people might want, and occupy all of our time here in the Senate for the next few weeks, maybe even months,” said Sen. John Cornyn. Heaven forbid the Senate waste its time on frivolous things like finding out how far the president went to undermine American democracy! 

Sen. Susan Collins may vote to hear witnesses, with McConnell’s permission, so she can keep duping news outlets like The New York Times into writing long-discredited nonsense like that “She is the rare member of her party who still seeks to appeal to a broad range of independent and even Democratic voters as well as Republicans.”

Senate Republicans have made it clear: They will acquit Trump even if they are somehow forced to acknowledge that he did what all the evidence shows he did, withholding military aid to Ukraine to pressure the nation to help him out in the 2020 elections by digging up dirt—or at least publicly announcing that there was dirt to be dug—on the Democratic opponent he saw as most threatening at that time. Senate Republicans don’t care what he did. They just want to stay in power, and they think Trump is their best bet for doing so. And even though voters have seen through their intent to cover up, they’re going through with it anyway, because apparently Republicans are convinced it’s better to have people know you’re covering something up than to have them knowing what lies under the covers.

Impeachment witnesses are ‘increasingly likely,’ but top Republicans are still pushing cover-up

Republican sources are telling reporters that the news about former national security adviser John Bolton’s book makes it more likely that witnesses will be called at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial—but the dam hasn’t exactly broken wide open, and top Senate Republicans are still fighting to keep the cover-up intact.

“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Sen. Mitt Romney said Monday. Sen. Susan Collins said the revelations that Bolton’s book manuscript recounts Trump saying that yes, he was holding up military aid to Ukraine until the country dug for dirt on his political opponents, “strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.” But no Republican senators previously opposed to calling witnesses has come forward to say they’ve changed their minds.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who reportedly feels blindsided by the Bolton news getting out at this juncture and released a statement saying he “did not have any advance notice” that this was coming—is not any more open to witnesses. Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters that “I don’t think that anything that he’s going to say changes the fact...I think people kind of know what the fact pattern is.” Despite all those times Republicans complained that there were no firsthand witnesses who heard directly from Trump that he was holding up the Ukraine aid to get an investigation of a political opponent, the emergence of a witness who could provide exactly that testimony changes nothing.

And in Thune’s telling, calling Bolton would just kind of be a big hassle. “If you start calling him, then the Democrats are going to want to call Mulvaney and want to call Pompeo ... and our guys are going to want to start calling witnesses on the other side to illuminate their case,” he said, continuing “And I think that gets us into this endless cycle and this drags on for weeks and months in the middle of a presidential election where people are already voting. My view is the fact pattern is what it is. I don’t think it’s going to change.” 

Oh. The fact pattern is what it is? So basically, all that talk of how Democrats hadn’t adequately made the case that Donald Trump withheld congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine because he wanted the country to interfere in the 2020 elections was just more Republican lies. It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the fact that the number two Republican in the Senate says hearing from a firsthand witness who’s a longtime Republican official wouldn’t add any facts.

Some Republicans are operating with a little less bluster and bravado, though they’re still looking to cut a favorable deal. Sen. Pat Toomey wants a trade: one relevant witness to what Trump did for one irrelevant Republican witness with which to attack the very Democrats Trump was trying to attack all along. Sen. Lindsey Graham has a proposal to make it look like Republicans took Bolton seriously without actually allowing the public to hear what he has to say. And so on. 

There may be some cracks in the unified Republican determination for a cover-up, but there are just as many Senate Republicans frantically slapping spackle onto those cracks.

Lindsey Graham supports scheme to review Bolton manuscript in secret, prevent witnesses at trial

On Monday, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma offered nervous Republicans an exit ramp from the dilemma posed by former national security adviser John Bolton. Rather than have Bolton appear as a witness in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Republicans would instead have a chance to look at the manuscript of Bolton’s upcoming book, which claims that Bolton has knowledge as a firsthand witness to Trump’s alleged actions, in secret, and then determine how to proceed.

On Tuesday, Lindsey Graham signed on to this scheme, calling for the manuscript to be made available in ”a classified setting.” Not only is this an obvious ploy to prevent Bolton from ever answering questions in front of Mitch McConnell’s personally controlled camera; it also means that Republicans, after a trial in which they have constantly accused Democrats of changing the rules to gather evidence in “secret,” are genuinely looking to change the rules … so they can examine evidence. In secret.

Bolton has already volunteered to appear before the Senate if subpoenaed, and over the weekend The New York Times revealed that Bolton’s upcoming book details a conversation in which Donald Trump explicitly connects military assistance for Ukraine to extorting an investigation by that country into Joe Biden. Keeping that information out of the Senate trial has become a growing challenge, as polls show swelling support for the testimony of Bolton and other potential witnesses.

The idea of a secret review of the manuscript offers Republicans several attractive options. First, they can emerge from the classified setting to declare that there’s no there there, no matter what’s actually contained in the text. Second, they can condemn Bolton’s text as a money grab from someone whom Fox News is now repositioning from a longtime Republican hardliner to a “deep state agent” who is part of a conspiracy featuring former FBI Director James Comey. Finally, Bolton’s manuscript can be cherry-picked for both complimentary statements about Trump and derogatory comments about Democrats.

If this scheme goes forward, expect Graham to simultaneously claim that Bolton’s manuscript is a smear against Trump and that it says bad, bad things about Nancy Pelosi/Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama. But most of all, expect Graham and other Republicans to claim that, after reviewing the manuscript, they find no reason for Bolton to answer any more questions. Especially when Trump is going to fight Bolton’s appearance.

Then Republicans can demand that Joe Biden appear. After all, they’ll say, they heard from Bolton.