David A. Graham: Republicans are prepared to go down with Trump
The great week started in earnest on Monday, with the Iowa caucus. On the Republican side, Trump captured a Robert Mugabe–esque 97.1 percent of the vote, in part thanks to his success in enrapturing the Republican Party and crowding out would-be challengers.
The news on the Democratic side was even better for Trump. Thanks to an absolute debacle of mismanagement by the Iowa Democratic Party, the results of the caucus were not released Monday night. Full results are still not in. The fiasco allowed conspiracy theories to run rampant—with the active encouragement of the president’s sons—spreading divisions among Democrats and fostering just the sorts of doubts about the electoral system that Trump has long sought to foment. The result also encouraged Michael Bloomberg to amp up his already large spending, a late Groundhog Day that guarantees the Democrats will see six weeks (or more) of additional chaos and division.
Last night, Trump delivered his State of the Union address. The event was supremely weird, and more spectacle than speech. But based on the president’s Twitter feed this morning, he is pleased with the way it was received.
All that was just the warm-up for the climax, or anticlimax, of the week: the Senate vote on impeachment. Only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, will vote to convict Trump on either count. That means Senate will not reach a majority to convict—much less reach the 67 votes required to remove Trump from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
This represents both a political and practical triumph for Trump. The president has been infuriated by impeachment and eager for it to end. Democrats maintain that the Senate acquittal is tainted because the trial included no witnesses, and it is true that majorities of Americans in polls both supported calling witnesses and believe that Trump abused his power. But there is only so much spinning to be done: Survival isn’t much of a victory, but it is a victory nonetheless.
David A. Graham: Whatever the question, the answer is Trump
The practical implications are potentially huge. The pending end of the trial has inspired predictions that Trump will emerge completely unshackled, able to do whatever he wants—a warning that Democratic impeachment managers also sounded as the trial wrapped. On the other side, Republican senators have insisted that Trump is chastened and will straighten out his act. Both arguments have flaws.
“I believe that the president has learned from this case,” Senator Susan Collins said in announcing plans to vote to acquit Trump. “The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.” Other senators, including Joni Ernst and Lamar Alexander, have advanced similar claims.
Trump himself quickly and forcefully showed how gullible or disingenuous this is. Asked about Collins’s comments, he again said that he did nothing wrong, and reiterated that his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.”