After Christmas dinner, a family friend declared that President Donald Trump “will never be impeached.”
This was an awkward moment. The woman had not only cooked a fine meal, she was about to slice the pumpkin pie. I wanted to tell her the truth without jeopardizing my dessert.
I wondered how she missed the news that Trump had been impeached precisely a week before the holiday, which I considered an early Christmas gift to all Americans. Maybe she had read the president’s barrage of tweets, which declared the entire ugly process was a sham that didn’t really count.
Perhaps if I told her without showing a trace of glee, she could accept it. I diplomatically corrected her, noting it was still up to the Senate to conduct a trial on the two articles of impeachment the House approved.
“Well, he’ll never be convicted, and he will be re-elected,” she said. The first part of her statement is almost certainly correct. As for the second, I’ve long stopped telling people not to expect a repeat of 2016. I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and I know my party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
She handed me a more-than-generous piece of my favorite dessert. It was delicious, though not as tasty and satisfying as knowing Trump will always be remembered as the country’s third impeached president.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, like my friend, many others among Trump’s Wyoming backers are confused about the impeachment process. This is especially true in light of our congressional delegation’s unwavering support despite his well-documented lies and erratic behavior.
I don’t understand the feverish loyalty to Trump in Wyoming, which gave him an astounding 46% margin of victory, the largest in the nation.
The president hasn’t made good on his empty promise to bring back the coal industry, and won’t even if he does return to the White House. His other big campaign promise, that Mexico would pay for a border wall, is a joke, as is the project itself. During Trump’s three years in office, only three miles of new wall have been built.
I know some Wyoming Republicans who are embarrassed by Trump’s antics, extreme-right policies and increasingly hostile tweets. The state party’s leadership, however, is all-in on his presidency and will never retreat. Largely forgotten is that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), not Trump, won the majority of Wyoming’s delegates to the GOP national convention three years ago.
It can certainly be argued that Wyoming’s congressional delegation is giving most of its constituents what they want. After all, not only will there be no political price to pay for excusing Trump’s bald-faced corruption, it is propelling Wyoming’s lone U.S. House member to national prominence.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, of course, was already well-known as the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and from her pre-Congress stint as a Fox News commentator. In only her second term, she’s risen to the No. 3 position in the minority party’s leadership as head of the House Republican Conference.
Cheney is now a dominant force on the national airwaves, scolding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for leading the march to impeachment. After the speaker announced she wouldn’t send articles of impeachment to the Senate without assurances it would conduct a fair trial, Cheney tweeted that Pelosi was “making a mockery of the Constitution, the rules of the House and every member of the House Democrat[ic] caucus who voted to impeach.”
Pelosi’s strategy has enraged Trump and his supporters, but the person defying the Constitution is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who went on Fox News to announce he will work “hand in glove” with Trump’s defense team.
The Constitution says that each senator must take an oath to “do impartial justice,” and the trial must be transparent and fair. McConnell’s outrageous declaration is the antithesis of what the Founding Fathers spelled out.
The Casper Star-Tribune recently labeled Cheney a “Republican star,” whose prominence is credited in part to her aggressive attacks on Democrats. But many of the congresswoman’s claims have been baseless, including her charge after the vote that the inquiry was conducted in “secret,” with Republicans not allowed to question witnesses during depositions. The release of those transcripts proved that wasn’t the case.
“Even though they stacked the deck in their favor, they failed to prove their case,” Cheney said of Democrats at a press conference. “They were unable to present any evidence of an impeachable offense, yet went forward with an impeachment vote.”
What Cheney conveniently failed to mention is that Trump prevented key members of his administration from testifying and refused to release reams of documents that House committees subpoenaed. It is precisely this evidence that Pelosi and Senate Democrats want to be part of the trial.
Nevertheless, every Trump administration official who ignored his demands and bravely testified painted a grim portrait of a commander-in-chief who used congressionally approved military aid to try to shake down a foreign government to investigate his leading Democratic rival. The fact that Trump failed does not absolve him from committing an impeachable offense.
In his statement on the House’s historic action, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said, “this political and partisan impeachment is rapidly losing public support.” This also isn’t true. National polls have consistently shown that at least half the nation’s voters wanted to see Trump impeached and removed from office — and that’s with evidence still being withheld.
Barrasso has voted for Trump’s position 91% of the time according to fivethirtyeight.com, and Wyoming’s senior U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi isn’t far behind at 89%. I don’t expect either to abandon the president now.
As chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Barrasso isn’t going to do anything to rankle McConnell. Joining Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan signaled Barrasso is firmly in the president’s camp.
But Enzi, who in 1999 voted to convict Bill Clinton after his impeachment, is not seeking re-election. He is free to vote his conscience without fear of reprisal from the president, who tends to threaten “turncoats” with primary challengers.
Enzi has been even-handed in his statements on Trump’s impeachment, saying he is prepared to serve as a juror and weigh all the evidence.
But only a fraction of the evidence has been turned over. The Senate needs to hear from many witnesses about Trump’s Ukraine actions.This includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and the president’s private attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
It would only take four GOP senators to vote with Democrats to enact rules for the trial to allow witnesses and additional documents. House managers of the case against Trump should have the ability to present all the evidence against him, while the president faces his accusers and defends himself.
Trump has proclaimed his innocence at every turn, so he should welcome the chance to have his name publicly cleared by his associates’ testimony.
Enzi’s Senate career has been built on his willingness to work across party lines. McConnell’s unabashed vision of a sham trial in which all Republicans march lockstep to Trump’s acquittal flies in the face of Enzi’s expressed faith in a bipartisan system.
If Enzi decided to vote for additional evidence, it would not be a betrayal of his party or loyalty to Trump. It would show every Wyoming citizen that he takes his job as a juror seriously, and that he is willing to put partisanship aside for the greater good of the nation.
And it would be one heck of a high note to end his Senate career on.