There are two paths for holding President Trump to account for his abuses: one passes through the Senate, the other through the ballot box. With Trump declaring he’ll do everything he can to obstruct House impeachment efforts, his opponents need to keep both options in mind as they move to overcome his obstruction, his lying, and his increasingly unhinged behavior.
One road seemed entirely impassable until Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president became public: Even if the House passed one or more impeachment articles, no one could believe that enough Republican senators would turn on him to remove him from office. Now, that possibility has gone from being a laughable impossibility to a just-barely-conceivable long shot.
It’s a plausible if still-unlikely path because so many Republican senators have either been silent or responded to recent events with word salads that provide Trump with little comfort. It’s also plausible because a sizable minority of the Republican rank-and-file are abandoning the president. A Washington Post-Schar School poll last week found 28 percent of Republicans supporting the House impeachment inquiry while an astonishing 18 percent said they favor removing Trump from office. Mr. I-Only-Care-About-the-Base must be petrified that a chunk of that base doesn’t care about him.
Trump has never been in as weak a position as he finds himself in now. This helps explain the scorched-earth letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Tuesday effectively telling one popularly elected house of Congress to go stuff it. In what New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait described as a “deranged, quasi-legal rant,” Cipollone ludicrously claimed that the House inquiry “lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation.”
The president is aware that if he loses too many Republicans, he loses everything. He thus moved Wednesday morning to cast the fight entirely in partisan terms. “The Do Nothing Democrats are Con Artists, only looking to hurt the Republican Party and President,” he tweeted. “Their total focus is 2020, nothing more, and nothing less. The good news is that WE WILL WIN!!!!” Presumably he hopes those capital letters and four exclamation points will inspire his one-time allies to put their blinders back on.