Profiles In Republican Cowardice

The impending impeachment of the President is likely to reveal Republicans on Capitol Hill to be the cowards we already knew they were.

Former Senator Jeff Flake, who left the Senate in no small part because he found that his public criticism of the President was not welcome in the modern Republican Party, says that he believes that there would be more than enough votes from Republican Senators to convict the President and remove him from office if the votes were confidential:

Former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake made a bold claim on Thursday when he said “at least 35” GOP senators would privately vote for President Trump’s impeachment.

Appearing at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival, Flake, a frequent critic of the president, offered his own reaction and predicted that close to three dozen Republican senators would back impeachment.

“I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes. That’s not true,” Flake said during a Q&A. “There would be at least 35.”

Flake appeared to be reacting to longtime GOP political consultant Mike Murphy, who appeared on MSNBC Wednesday and suggested many Republican lawmakers in the Senate would support impeachment with a “secret ballot.”

“I can tell you this … one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” Murphy said.

Flake retired from the Senate in 2019. He has frequently criticized Trump, as well as the Republican Party, since 2016. Earlier this year, he called on others in his party to condemn the president’s recent controversial comments about several Democratic congresswomen.

While this is speculation on the part of both Flake and Murphy, I have no reason to believe that their estimates are likely accurate or at least close to being so. Ever since the start of the Trump Administration, there have been reports from Congressional correspondents for the cable networks and major newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post that Republican members of the House and Senate speaking off the record, along with staffers for many of those members, are far more critical of the President when they aren’t speaking on the record. Indeed, some of these same reporters have remarked that the difference between the public and private statements about the President.

The reason for this disparity is, of course, the fact that, while many traditional Republicans may still be turned off by Trump and his rhetoric, the Republican base feels exactly the opposite. Poll after poll shows that President Trump is incredibly popular among self-identified Republicans, something that Republicans in the House and Senate cannot claim. With very few exceptions, Republicans who speak out against the President, even for his most egregious behavior and rhetoric, face the likelihood of being attacked by the base, challenged in a primary by a pro-Trump candidate and, of course, attacked on Twitter by the President. That’s why, even in the face of the latest controversy regarding the President’s communications with the President of Ukraine, very few Republicans on Capitol Hill have had anything to say about it. The only two Republicans who have spoken out against it appear to be Senator Mitt Romney, who has his own base of support back home in Utah, and Senator Ben Sasse, who is in much the same position back in Nebraska. Indeed, many members have responded to requests for comment by claiming they had not read any of the relevant documents. Given the fact that three relevant documents — the summary of the President’s phone call, the whistleblower’s complaint, and the Inspector General’s letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence — amount to just 21 pages that could easily be read inside of 15 to 20 minutes this is, an absurd excuse.

As with every other vote in the Senate, of course, the votes on Articles of Impeachment will be public votes, meaning that Senators will be required to go on the record for all the nation to see regarding their verdict. The fact that they would probably vote differently if the vote were secret, due largely to the fact that they don’t want to anger the Republican base or the President notwithstanding the fact that they apparently know that this President should be removed from office just demonstrates how cowardly they are and how much the GOP has become the party of Trump, as James Joyner and myself have both noted in the past. It’s bad enough that they are basically willing to let a guilty man who has violated his oath of office and the law go free and remain in office despite all of that. What’s worse is that they are consciously aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I’d like to say that there are enough Republicans in the Senate willing to take the risk and vote to convict if the evidence warrants it, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Impeachment, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Which republicans are likely to vote to remove?

    Possibly Romney and Sasse. Other than that, maybe Susan Collins and perhaps Martha McSally. Both face a determined Democratic challenge, after all, and such a vote might help them.

    On the other hand, Doug Jones might not vote to remove. I would, in his place, as winning in deep read Alabama in a presidential year is bound to be next to impossible however he votes at the Senate trial.

    If there are indeed any GOP Senators who support trump only out of fear, while they loathe him and wish he’d go away, then they should consider this:

    If Trump is impeached but not removed, then there will be no limits to his malfeasance after the Senate trial. He will let go of any remaining restraint, and simply do whatever the hell he wants, secure in the knowledge that the Senate has declared him to be above the law. If he wins a second term, even though he lost the popular vote again,

    But that’s not all. So will the next Democratic president.

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  2. Scott F. says:

    @Kathy:

    If Trump is impeached but not removed, then there will be no limits to his malfeasance after the Senate trial. He will let go of any remaining restraint, and simply do whatever the hell he wants, secure in the knowledge that the Senate has declared him to be above the law.

    I’m certain what you describe will be the outcome of Senate acquittal. Trump is a huckster first and foremost and he’s going to give his fans what they want. Since his fan base is rabid and immune to evidence, they will love him for his malfeasance.

    The cowardice of the Republicans has been something to behold, but frankly I’m more concerned about the base of whom they are afraid. As Doug notes here, GOP officeholders aren’t afraid of Trump, but of his supporters. The GOP has been riding this tiger of resentful, fearful, bigoted voters for almost 40 years now and Trump’s exit (whenever it comes) will not be enough to tame this beast now that The Donald has given it a taste of what it is like to be uncaged.

    Republicans better get comfortable lying in the fetal position, because it is going to take a lot of time and a ton of work for the “decent” Republicans to win back control of their party.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    There’s a column at NYT this morning on this topic by Peter Wehner, who very badly wants to believe there are Republicans with better angels. He first speaks of self-interest and of having believed Trump would grow and could be controlled (the Hindenburg fallacy). He then quotes a “conservative leaning clinical psychologist” on “cognitive accommodation”.

    “It’s easier to stay with the tribe,” this individual told me. “It’s easier to stay with the team.” Even when the leader of the team is thoroughly corrupt.

    At this stage it’s less about defending Trump; they are defending their own defense of Trump.”
    “At this point,” this person went on, “condemnation of Trump is condemnation of themselves. They’ve let too much go by to try and assert moral high ground now. Calling out another is one thing; calling out yourself is quite another.”

    He should, I feel, make a distinction between political professionals and voters. For the voters it’s maybe 90% psychology and 10% perceived self-interest. For the pols and other pros it’s all self-interest. Lindsay Graham is doing this so he won’t get primaried, end of story.

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  4. An Interested Party says:

    Lindsay Graham is doing this so he won’t get primaried, end of story.

    Congress really should legalize prostitution, particularly because so many of those in Congress already practice that trade…

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  5. Kit says:

    It’s a bit of a toss up. Who’s worse: the coward, the scoundrel, or the true believer? No easy cures exist for any of them.

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  6. JKB says:

    Whether these 30 who would overturn the constitutional election in secret or not is really not the important point. There are 45 on the Democrat side who seem to have just decided to skip the trial. The game today is to cast your vote based on the very biased media reporting rather than properly presented prosecution subjected to vigorous defense arguments.

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  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JKB:

    You are simply adorable.

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  8. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    There are 45 on the Democrat side who seem to have just decided to skip the trial.

    The President and his co-conspirators confessed. In public. How did you possibly miss that?

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  9. JKB says:

    @DrDaveT: The President and his co-conspirators confessed. In public.

    Even videoed, written, public confessions are subjected to the adversarial process of a trial unless the accused pleads guilty in court.

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  10. michael reynolds says:

    There’s another outcome besides conviction in the senate and failure to convict. There’s 55 votes for removal and 45 opposed, in other words, a majority for removal.

    Let’s look a couple months down the road. IF public opinion is 60% for impeachment, and Trump is impeached, and the Senate votes a majority short of two thirds, I’m sorry, but that will not be seen as vindication – it will be seen as Republicans putting party before country.

    And that is not an unlikely outcome.

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    You aren’t a court. So I assume you acknowledge Trump’s clear guilt. Right?

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  12. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “IF public opinion is 60% for impeachment, and Trump is impeached, and the Senate votes a majority short of two thirds, I’m sorry, but that will not be seen as vindication – it will be seen as Republicans putting party before country.”

    That’s probably the best of all possible outcomes. If Trump is convicted, the press will fall all over itself trying to make Pence look legitimate, even though he’s up to his eyeballs in the Ukraine stuff. And when Pence pardons Trump, all we’ll hear is how this is necessary for the nation to heal again.

    But if Trump loses the Senate but not by two-thirds, then there are a whole lot of Republican senators who voted for the criminal over the country and the constitution, and that could finally tip it to the Dems…

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  13. Kathy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I guess he didn’t miss it, but then Trump effectively said “I did not say what I said I said!!”

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  14. Teve says:

    Why aren’t any of the Trump Chumps telling us there is No Collusion! between Trump and the Ukraine?

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  15. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    Even videoed, written, public confessions are subjected to the adversarial process of a trial

    You keep forgetting that an impeachment is not a trial. The rules of evidence are different.

    I will, however, give you points for brass cojones in saying that Democrats shouldn’t leap to conclusions about what the President has publicly confessed to, while simultaneously believing (and spreading) every whacked conspiracy theory you hear about anyone named Clinton. I keep waiting for you to post a story tying Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to George Soros…

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  16. Barry says:

    @JKB: “Whether these 30 who would overturn the constitutional election….”

    Please read the Constitution. Look for the word ‘impeach’.

    ReplyReply

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