The Republican response to the Trump impeachment inquiry whimpered off to an underwhelming start this week, with the plan of action being the best defense is to be as offensive as possible, apparently. Trump’s wrecking crew, Nunes, Ratcliffe, Jordan and that poor outclassed GOP lawyer, Steve Castor, all assumed the same pose of arrogance. While witnesses Kent and Taylor made a stunning show, offering truth and facts in a quiet and deliberate manner, Trump’s henchmen didn’t have the luxury of facts; so in lieu of fact, they offered innuendo and ire, and in Jordan’s case, repeated lies. They had no argument — and one can only presume that they knew it.
So why oh why, you must be asking yourself, has the GOP not simply cut bait with Trump? It’s not like it’s an original thought that they will send him to the political cornfield the minute his liabilities outweigh his assets. Isn’t that time now? No, and just think about it for a moment. If Trump goes down in flames — which he may — that leaves Pence as standard bearer. But Pence is far from clean, and some of this Ukraine mess is going to stick to him as well, as you will see below. And that’s the crux of the matter, one that probably has McConnell pacing the floors: If Trump goes down in flames and takes Pence down with him, then you’re looking at none other than Nancy Pelosi to take the helm. Salon:
Republicans have good reason to fear that if Trump goes down, he’s taking Vice President Mike Pence with him. If that happens, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is third in line under the Constitution, would become president. Republicans may be genuinely worried that they can’t toss Trump to the curb without losing the White House entirely.
That might initially sound odd, since Pence’s name has come up only rarely in the discussion of the Ukraine scandal. He was barely mentioned during the many hours of testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent on Wednesday. But even though that mention of Pence was brief, if one reads between the lines a bit, it was also illuminating.
In his opening statement, Taylor said that on Sept. 1, Trump suddenly canceled a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, claiming Hurrican Dorian as an excuse. (In reality, Trump played golf.) In his stead, Trump sent Pence. Taylor, who received a readout of the meeting, says that Zelensky asked right away about the military aid that Trump was withholding — aid that Trump was clearly using as leverage to extort Zelensky to back up Trump’s conspiracy theory about his presumed Democratic 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Pence “did not respond substantively,” Taylor recounted, but did say that Trump “wanted the Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption.”
Yes, indeed, “fight corruption” is the code name of this mission. We all know what’s meant by fight corruption and it’s an absolute that Mike Pence does. Bear in mind that Trump deliberately sent Pence to deal with Zelensky at the meeting in Poland. So one can reasonably infer that Pence was sent to Poland to lock the deal down — or, was Trump looking for a fall guy, since things with Rudy were heating up? Rudy Giuliani just made a cryptic remark to The Guardian:
In a telephone interview with the Guardian, in response to a question about whether he was nervous that Trump might “throw him under a bus” in the impeachment crisis, Giuliani said, with a slight laugh: “I’m not, but I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid.”
Anybody want to speculate WTH Rudy is talking about? Because he is facing criminal charges for his doings in Ukraine. Could blaming it on Pence be his insurance policy?
Trump’s last-minute delegation of this task to Pence has been understood as part of his larger campaign to intimidate Zelensky into doing his bidding. But it might also have served another function: To implicate Pence in the extortion scheme against Ukraine. This was right when Trump and his co-conspirators, mainly his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, were starting to sweat about getting caught. A whistleblower complaint had been filed just a couple weeks before, and career diplomats and security officials were starting to make internal complaints about the situation. No doubt Trump’s mind was very fixated on CYA at that point.
This would be very ballsy to throw Pence to the wolves, because that then takes down the current administration in one fell swoop, plus leaves the GOP scrambling for a 2020 candidate — and it’s November, 2019. Could this possibly be the case?
So far, Pence has avoided much scrutiny, but as Republicans are no doubt aware, Trump has no morals, no loyalty and no limits. If he senses he’s going down, there is no reason to believe he will hesitate to expose Pence’s role in this, in hopes of taking his sanctimonious veep down the slippery slide with him. Republicans have to know there’s a not-small chance that if they admit that Trump committed an impeachable offense and remove him from office, they then might face an impeachment trial for Pence too, and the prospect of a President Pelosi. (Along with a mad scramble to find someone to nominate for the 2020 presidential election.)
So they’re stuck with the guy they’ve got, who is a cunning enough criminal to know how to protect himself with his posse of lackeys, even if he’s bad at hiding incriminating evidence. Also, standing by Trump makes clear how much Republicans are sacrificing the long-term viability of their party to protect their power in the short term.
This is the essence of the Faustian bargain between Trump and the GOP. If Trump goes down, he’ll take Pence and the party with him. Now, it is possible that Trump will resign, as Nixon did, rather than face disgrace and removal from office. If he would do that, and keep Pence looking as clean as possible, Pence could replace him on the 2020 ticket and that would be maximum damage control. But two factors mitigate against that: One, is Trump’s enormous ego. Why should he put the GOP first, if he’s no longer the standard bearer? Trump’s inner child, which is all that there is, will say, no, they take my piece off the board, I flip the board over and burn down the table, what else? Two, to resign is to lose. Although it might be the most respectable thing that Trump could possibly do under the circumstances, as it was with Nixon, Trump may simply be characterologically incapable of making that choice, and considering other issues beyond his own reputation and status.
There’s no question that Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, and all of the top power brokers of the GOP have long thought all this through, and for the moment, they’re going to stick with Trump. That seems to be their game plan, if we can judge from all the sycophants going on the airwaves to defend Trump and getting shot down, and then being replaced by yet another wave of the same.
The issue then becomes, if the GOP covers the short term damage and keeps Trump in power, what is the long term damage to the party? We haven’t seen a Republican exodus from Congress for nothing. The ultimate price that the GOP pays in the self-immolation of the party might not be worth it, in the long haul. It’s amazing that they would choose that kind of a gamble, but for right now, today, that seems to be their play. So, look for more stupidity in the days ahead, as the GOP desperately protects it’s status quo and wrecks it’s credibility in the process, not to mention the long term viability of the party. The GOP may be underestimating the intelligence of its constituents — and they may find that out too late.