Earlier this week, the conservative Daily Caller website asked the offices of each of the 53 Republican senators whether they opposed the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump. Just seven of them said yes.
Which is, well, verrrrrrry interesting.
The seven who did confirm they oppose impeachment to the Caller are: Sens. James Inhofe (Oklahoma), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Mississippi), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), Mike Rounds (South Dakota), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Jerry Moran (Kansas).
(It’s worth noting here that the criteria the Caller used for deciding who officially opposed impeachment and removal is relatively subjective. They say “seven senators explicitly rejected impeachment in their statement” but, for example, Portman’s spokeswoman said this: “As he has said many times, Rob does not support the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.” Which isn’t necessarily the same thing as opposing the impeachment and removal of Trump.)
Of the 46 Republican senators who didn’t expressly reject impeachment, almost half — 22 — simply declined to comment to the Caller. Which, in and of itself, is telling! Many of the others criticized House Democrats for their impeachment inquiry but failed to rule out the possibility of voting to remove him from office if it came to that.
That hesitancy to commit is born, in no small part, from Republican senators being extremely cautious amid this anything-is-possible administration. But it’s also a function of the fact that everything we have learned since the whistleblower complaint regarding Ukraine was revealed in late September is deeply concerning to any reasonably-minded person.
“The picture coming out of it, based on the reporting that we’ve seen, I would say is not a good one,” Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate told CNN’s Ted Barrett Wednesday morning regarding the testimony of US diplomat Bill Taylor this week. “But I would say also that until we have a process that allows for everybody to see this in full transparency, it’s pretty hard to draw a hard and fast conclusions.”
None of that — the Caller survey, Thune’s comments, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s reported studying-up on how a Senate trial would work — means that Trump is in serious danger of being removed from the Senate assuming the Democratic-controlled House impeaches him sometime later this year (or early next year).
It’s simply not there yet. And it may never get there!
But what the Caller survey makes clear — as well as all of the other hedging and silence from GOP senators — is that this cake is not entirely baked just yet. And it’s not hard to understand why.
With very, very few exceptions, Senate Republicans — very much including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — have a purely transactional relationship with Trump. They believe that he represents a chance to remake the federal judiciary, to remake American tax policy and the like. And they are somewhat (or very) afraid of crossing Trump because of his support within the base of the party and his demonstrated ability to turn voters against those who cross him.
That relationship is not based on any sort of warmth or actual loyalty, however. The reason McConnell and the rest go along with Trump — or refuse to say anything about his repeated abnormal behaviors in office — is because he remains a force who can do things for them and hurt them if they don’t.
In the short-term, that likely ensures a whole lot of “no comments” and “don’t want to prejudge” statements. But in the medium- and even long-ish term, the decided lack of affection and loyalty for Trump from Senate Republicans leaves the door open to a revolt against him if and when it becomes clear that he can no longer help (or hurt) them.
Again, that isn’t going to happen tomorrow. Or next week. But there are cracks. And an environment that could be conducive to those cracks spreading.