America has seen many twists and turns in the impeachment investigation of Donald J. Trump. Americans have witnessed credible career officials and political appointees corroborate the original “whistleblower” charges that President Trump tried to exploit Ukraine for his own political purposes. They have seen the Republican party, on the whole, shamelessly defend the POTUS using any sliver of anything as something to cling to while defending him. A new New York Times report threatens to force GOP defenders of Trump in both the House and the Senate to either give in to some Democratic demands or be forced to essentially endorse a cover-up.
From the report:
Opposition to the order from his top national security advisers was more intense than previously known. In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.
By late summer, top lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget who had spoken to lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department in the weeks beforehand, were developing an argument – not previously divulged publicly – that Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief would simply allow him to override Congress on the issue.
And [acting White House Chief of Staff Mick] Mulvaney is shown to have been deeply involved as a key conduit for transmitting Mr. Trump’s demands for the freeze across the administration.
Rachel Maddow’s blog highlights why these details could put GOP Senators, even Mitch McConnell, in a very uncomfortable position:
These are no small details. The Times’ report … paints an exceedingly damning portrait of a White House operation that began hatching Trump’s Ukraine scheme as early as June, with Mulvaney emailing an aide, Robert Blair, asking “whether we can hold [military aid] back” from Ukraine, despite congressional approval.
In the months that followed, top members of Team Trump directly urged the president to follow a more responsible course, only to find Trump ignoring their pleas. It led some in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make absurd assertions about the sweeping powers of presidential whims.
The article specifically referenced a pointed email from Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s top budget official, to Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB who was directly involved in executing Trump’s scheme. “You can’t be serious,” McCusker wrote on Sept. 10, after learning of Trump’s plan. “I am speechless.”
Why does all this matter? Here’s why …
Democrats have been negotiating with the GOP leadership in the Senate on trial rules. Republicans have been trying to eliminate the possibility of any new witnesses appearing that might bolster the case against Trump. The Democrats have asked for specific Trump staffers like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, and Robert Blair.
These new revelations in the report make it almost impossible for McConnell and the GOP to deny seeking their testimony. And fortunately for Democrats, they will not need all the Senators to turn their back on Trump – just four.
So far, no Senate Republicans have publicly endorsed hearing from these specific witnesses. Although Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has said she’s “disturbed” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) plan to keep the Senate GOP in “total coordination” with the White House during the impeachment proceedings, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added this week that McConnell’s comments were “inappropriate.”
Collins was also quoted as saying that she’s “open” to hearing from witnesses, though the senator went on to tell Maine Public Radio, “I think it’s premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented and get the answers to the questions that we senators can submit through the Chief Justice to both sides.”