INDIANAPOLIS — With closing arguments completed and Senate jurors in Q&A mode in President Trump’s impeachment trial, we find this a cleaved nation, with the We Ask America Poll in Indiana perfectly framing the situation: 47.4% of Hoosiers approve of the president, 47.7% disapprove. A Fox News Poll released Monday has 50% supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal, while 44% oppose.
There is little that can be said from the well of the Senate that will change the opinion of these masses, or of the two major political parties, or perhaps even you, dear reader. The Senate is poised to acquit President Trump. The risks facing Republican senators are the recent revelations from Lev Parnas and now former national security advisor John Bolton. Will that give them pause prior to their potentially premature verdict?
As U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the House impeachment managers “put together a broad, comprehensive case” but he characterized it as “circumstantial in nature.”
And then came this nugget when moderator Chuck Todd took a Rex Early axiom (“I don’t have to slam my hand in the car door twice to know that it hurts”) and pressed the freshman Hoosier senator: “This president, as you know, he’s going to take acquittal and think, ‘I can keep doing this.’”
Braun responded: “No, I don’t think that. Hopefully it’ll be instructive. I think he’ll put two and two together. In this case, he was taken to the carpet.”
Todd pressed Braun on whether President Trump regrets what he has repeatedly referred to as that “perfect call” with Ukraine President Zelensky on July 25. Braun responded, “I think he’ll be instructed by what has occurred here and certainly any individual would want to avoid whatever might need to be modified to go through this again because the threat has already been out there that we might find something else to impeach on, which I think is a mistake because I think we need to get back to what most Americans are interested in, the agenda.”
Thus, Sen. Braun displayed an incredible leap of faith that President Trump just went through a teachable moment.
As House impeachment manager Adam Schiff explained a week ago as he summed up the case, “Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with? No one is really making the argument Donald Trump would never do such a thing, because of course we know that he would, and of course we know that he did.
“Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will stand up to them and protect our national interest over his own personal interest?” Schiff continued. “You know you can’t, which makes him dangerous to this country.”
This is a president who dodged prosecution from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 24, and the very next day attempted a shakedown of a fellow head of state, at war with the Kremlin, to find dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. It became what Founding Fathers ranging from President George Washington and Alexander Hamilton warned against: Foreign meddling in American elections.
On this front, Braun was asked by a Capitol Hill reporter if he was OK with the president asking a foreign leader to investigate a rival and to withhold foreign aid to coerce him. Braun responded, “No, I’m not saying it’s OK. I’m not saying it’s appropriate. I’m saying it didn’t happen.”
But there is more than circumstantial evidence that it did, from Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s quid pro quo House testimony under oath, from the dubious and indicted Lev Parnas’s Rachel Maddow interview, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s “get over it” presser last fall, to former national security advisor John Bolton’s leaked book “In the Room Where It Happened” which states that Trump “wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”
On Wednesday, Harvard attorney Alan Dershowitz said every president conflates his own interests with those of the people, declaring, “It cannot be impeachable.”
If this were to be the norm, President Nixon wouldn’t have faced impeachment.
This impeachment chapter didn’t begin with the press or even the Democrats investigating, but with internal administration sources, some of whom were Trump appointees working for then National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.
Sen. Braun and 52 of his Republican colleagues appear prepared to deem the Ukraine saga as not rising to impeachment or censure. They’ve attacked the process, and not the documented actions ... that we know about.
The danger for Republicans is what appears to be the inevitable drip-drip-drip of embarrassing revelations that could call into question from a discerning electorate whether they were up to the oath they took earlier this month. Sens. Young and Braun won’t have to face voters until 2022 and 2024; their colleagues from Maine, Arizona, Colorado are on the clock now and simply want this plodding ordeal to end.
What Sens. Young and Braun may have to face comes under the guise of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” And the plausible notion that President Trump will ignore this teachable moment; that he is more than capable of doing it again.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.