WASHINGTON ― Half a century after House Republicans voted to protect Richard Nixon, ultimately leading to an electoral bloodbath for the party, Senate Republicans appear ready to protect Donald Trump even as new and damning evidence continues to dribble out.
In closing arguments by the president’s legal team Tuesday, Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow dismissed the latest such material as “unsourced manuscripts” ― a characterization of former national security adviser John Bolton’s claims that GOP senators appeared eager to accept.
Asked if he had any concerns about not hearing directly from Bolton in the Senate impeachment trial, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott replied: “None.”
Fellow South Carolinian Sen. Lindsey Graham said that if Democrats insist on calling Bolton, he and others would demand witnesses whom Trump wants. “If you call John Bolton, we’re calling everybody,” he told HuffPost. “We’re not just going to call one witness.”
A month ago, Bolton submitted a manuscript for his forthcoming book to the White House to ensure no classified information would be released. On Sunday, published reports revealed that Bolton writes in the book that Trump told him he wanted to continue withholding military aid to Ukraine until its leaders opened investigations into the Democrat he most feared as a 2020 challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden ― the precise allegation behind Trump’s impeachment in the House.
Just days earlier, Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, released video of Trump demanding that his staff fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine upon hearing that she was not a supporter. “Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it,” Trump says on the tape.
The situation parallels what happened in 1974, when most Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against all of the proposed articles of impeachment against Nixon. Days later, a taped conversation was made public showing that Nixon knew from the start about his campaign’s involvement in the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters two years earlier. And a few days after that, Nixon resigned.
That fall, House Republicans lost 25% of their seats ― and among those 10 on the judiciary committee who voted against all three articles of impeachment, half of their seats flipped to Democrats in the November election. Of the seven who voted in favor of at least one of the articles, only one lost his seat that autumn.
Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and one of two candidates running long-shot bids to take the 2020 GOP nomination away from Trump, said today’s Republicans in Congress will suffer a similar fate this fall. “Republicans will lose control of the Senate and they will lose more seats in the House,” Walsh said. “Republicans will pay a big price for putting Trump before country.”
“It is a fool’s errand to stick with a guilty president when the guilt is clear,” said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “And the election loss is accompanied by a stain on one’s character that is indelible.”
In 1974, Ornstein was teaching at Catholic University and friendly with the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, New Jersey’s Peter Rodino. He said a major difference between then and now is that the GOP is no longer a true political party. “It is a cult,” he said, with members afraid and unwilling to criticize Trump.
Former Trump campaign strategist Jason Miller, however, said that Democrats’ hopes of new revelations have not worked. “The American public sees right through it,” he said, adding that impeachment has also angered Trump supporters to the point that they are now as energized about the coming election as Trump opponents. “He is at his strongest positioning of his presidency. Further, this process will lead to Speaker Pelosi losing control of the House this fall.”
California Democrat Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House after her party won 40 seats in the 2018 midterm elections, largely fueled by voter anger toward Trump.