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.

Some Democrats reportedly open to boosting Republican talking points with impeachment witness trade

Behind the scenes of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, some Democrats are reportedly pondering a deal that could go wrong in about a dozen ways. With Republicans blocking witnesses while yelling about Hunter Biden, these Democrats are considering a trade in which they’d get to call White House officials like former national security adviser John Bolton, an actual witness to Trump’s actions that prompted impeachment, and Republicans would get to call Hunter Biden, a Republican talking point with no actual connection to impeachment.

While Democrats have repeatedly said that calling either Hunter or former Vice President Joe Biden would be irrelevant and a distraction, “behind closed doors, a small group of Democratic senators and aides has begun to question that logic, sounding out colleagues on whether to back a witness deal that could lead to testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton or other administration officials with possible firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy,” The Washington Post reports, citing “multiple Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.”

Some Democrats have sent mixed messages. Sen. Chris Coons said that “If you want to give Joe Biden an opportunity to sit in the well of the Senate and answer the question, ‘Do you think the president acted appropriately?’ go right ahead”—but he also tweeted that “Trials have witnesses, and the witnesses have to be relevant to the case. It isn’t complicated. The President is on trial here, not anyone with the last name Biden. VP Biden and Hunter Biden are not relevant witnesses.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown told CNN’s State of the Union that he was “fine” with a Biden testifying in exchange for administration officials, but on Tuesday he called the idea “a typical Donald Trump-Mitch McConnell distraction that the national media continues to play with and continues to assist them.”

The big question at this point is not what Democrats are saying publicly, though. It’s what they’re talking about behind the scenes.

It is tempting to think that having Bolton or other current or former Trump officials testify could blow this thing wide open, but there are so many risks it’s hard to count them. Like, Hunter or Joe Biden testifies, giving Republicans the distraction they crave, and then Bolton refuses, or Trump manages to block Bolton. Just for starters. The Biden campaign is calling it right, saying that this is a “sad and obvious attempt at diversion” by Republicans. 

This impeachment trial is about Donald Trump and what Donald Trump did.