Tuesday, October 08, 2019


I'm astonished to learn from Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman that if President Trump is impeached in the House, Mitt Romney plans to round up Republican votes to convict in the Senate.

Or does he? Curiously, Sherman's story doesn't say outright that Romney will vote to convict:
According to people close to Romney, he’s firmly decided against primarying Trump, an enterprise he believes to be a sure loser given Trump’s enduring GOP support. Romney has also told people that, as an unsuccessful two-time presidential candidate, he’s the wrong person to take on Trump. Instead, a Romney adviser told me, Romney believes he has more potential power as a senator who will decide Trump’s fate in an impeachment trial. “He could have tremendous influence in the impeachment process as the lone voice of conscience in the Republican caucus,” the adviser said. In recent days, Romney has been reaching out privately to key players in the Republican resistance, according to a person briefed on the conversations. “Romney is the one guy who could bring along Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse. Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process. That’s why the things he’s saying are freaking Republicans out.” (Romney, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.)
The story leaves Romney's intentions vague.

But let's say that Romney does vote to convict, and brings along a handful of other senators. Trump will still survive, right? (At least 20 GOP votes to convict will be needed to remove Trump from office.)

Yes, but this is a scenario Rush Limbaugh fears, even though it wouldn't lead to removal. On his radio show yesterday, Limbaugh said:
The worst thing, the last thing would seem to be for the Democrats to put Trump on trial and have him acquitted in the Senate. Okay. Yet they’re still doing it. So what is the objective? Quite simply, it is: This is their 2020 campaign.

... They need to be able to say even if there is an acquittal in the Senate, they need to be able to say that the impeachment was bipartisan. So if they can get a couple Republicans in the House to vote with them and if they can peel off a couple senators, like Romney or Susan Collins, then bingo, in their estimation they have won.

They have now created the campaign issue, the mother of all campaign issues, that a bipartisan effort was put together to impeach the president, but he was only saved because of the partisanship of Republican leaders in the Senate. That’s their campaign, folks.

So what they need to do to pull this off, they need to peel off Republicans. They need weak-kneed, wobbly kneed, linguini-spined Republicans — not very many — they need a couple in the House, a couple in the Senate, and the magic claim of bipartisanship, in their minds, will have been reached. And that will be the campaign. That’s it. Their campaign will come down to that. Trump has to go. He has been impeached by a bipartisan coalition of the United States Congress.
But here's what's really likely to happen. As we now know (and as I told you late last month), Mitch McConnell intends to allow House managers to present their case in the Senate -- after which he's likely to hold a quick vote to dismiss the charges. He'll presumably need only 50 votes to dismiss -- Vice President Pence can break the tie if it's a 50-50 split. There are 53 Republicans in the Senate. So McConnell can spare three defectors.

But Sherman lists four possible votes against Trump -- Romney, Collins, Gardner, Sasse. What if they all vote against dismissal of the charges?

That's where I have my doubts. I believe Collins will vote to dismiss, because she routinely returns to the fold on tough votes.

I've been assuming that Collins feels she has to do things like this because she's fending off a primary challenge from the right, but her one announced primary challenger -- a Trump fan who lost his job as a cop a couple of years ago after being arrested for domestic violence (one of the reported victims was his 15-year-old daughter) -- has now dropped out of the race. Another possible challenger who's been mentioned in the press (and who's also a Trump fan) attempted to run for Maine's other Senate seat in 2018, but was removed from the primary ballot when his ballot petitions were found to include signatures from dead people. So Collins (who's also been endorsed by Maine's Trumpish ex-governor Paul LePage, who's been a critic in the past) doesn't really need to protect her right flank. Yet her past performance suggests she'll vote to dismiss anyway.

And if she and three other Republicans vote against dismissal? McConnell might still succeed -- I think Joe Manchin, from the Trump-friendly state of West Virginia, might also vote to dismiss.

If McConnell wins a dismissal vote, Democrats can't say there was a bipartisan vote to convict, because no such vote will have taken place. That still seems like the most likely outcome -- at least for now. But a day or two ago I was certain that no Republican would defect, and now I can imagine a handful of defections. Probably not more than that, but we'll see.

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