WaPo Editorial Board: GOP Senators Are Complicit In Trump’s Assault On Democracy
President Trump’s impeachment defense brazenly asserts that he has done nothing wrong and broke no laws, and if Republican senators vote to acquit him, they will only enable Trump to further assault “the foundations of American democracy,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote on Tuesday.
Trump faces trial in the Senate over two articles of impeachment handed down by the House: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated from the beginning that he will not take the matter seriously and attempt to end the trial as quickly as possible — all while working hand-in-hand with the White House.
But rather than the apparent rigging of the Senate trial, the editorial board said it is the likelihood of Republican complicity in Trump’s defense that will create the most danger for American democracy.
“By asking senators to ratify those positions, Mr. Trump and his lawyers are, in effect, seeking consent for an extraordinary expansion of his powers,” the board wrote. “An acquittal vote would confirm to Mr. Trump that he is free to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to induce such interference. It would suggest that he can press foreign leaders to launch a criminal investigation of any American citizen he designates, even in the absence of a preexisting U.S. probe, or any evidence.”
Acceptance of Trump’s defense “would also set the precedent that presidents may flatly refuse all cooperation with any congressional inquiry, even though the House’s impeachment power is spelled out in the Constitution” — and even further, “it would establish that no president may be impeached unless he or she could be convicted of violating a federal statute — no matter the abuse of power.”
This would likely come back to haunt Republicans if in the future they conclude that a Democratic president has violated his or her oath of office; nonetheless, they appear ready to honor Trump’s wishes.
While some GOP senators — including Rob Portman (Ohio), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — have voiced the opinion that Trump was wrong to ask Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, all have claimed the offense does not rise to the level of impeachment.
The protections offered by taking this stance are minimal, the board wrote, preserving only “some guardrails on the president’s behavior.”
“Mr. Trump’s defense is designed to destroy those guardrails. If Republican senators go along with it, they will not only be excusing behavior that many of them believe to be improper. They will be enabling further assaults by Mr. Trump on the foundations of American democracy.”