Trump's GOP Impeachment Firewall Holds Strong

President Trump has had a rough couple of weeks, but his Republican wall of defense is holding in the Senate.

Senate Republicans by and large are standing by Trump despite polls showing growing public support for impeachment, even among GOP voters.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have criticized Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he pressed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate for president. But none has endorsed the House impeachment inquiry.

The Ukraine controversy, which has been the impetus of the House’s impeachment inquiry, comes amid other negative headlines for the White House. Members of both parties have ripped Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, and last week two associates of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani were arrested for alleged campaign finance violations in a probe that is not yet complete.

Regardless, Republican aides and strategists say it would be a political mistake for a GOP lawmaker to take on Trump publicly.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, you just keep your mouth shut and see how the cards fall,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell said there is broad recognition among Republican lawmakers that their political fates are tied to Trump in 2020. Even in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, Trump will be crucial to mobilizing the GOP base, and a public spat with the president over Twitter could prove devastating. Bucking Trump could also trigger primary challengers to Republican senators who are up for reelection next year.

“Their entire political livelihood is dependent on Donald Trump winning in 2020. So unless there’s some enormous smoking gun that no one foresaw — and certainly that’s not the case right now — they’re going to stick with Trump,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Syria Chaos Poses New Political Perils For Trump By Uniting Democratic And GOP Lawmakers Against Him

President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, clearing the way for Turkey's assault on Kurdish allies who helped in the fight against the Islamic State, has created a rare rift with congressional Republicans who have sharply criticized the decision.

For the president, the timing is poor.

Trump's move has helped unite Democrats and Republicans against him at a moment when he needs conservatives in Congress to fend off a fast-moving impeachment inquiry looking into the president's efforts to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top political rivals.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close Trump ally, has been one of the harshest GOP critics of Trump's decision, tweeting last week that abandoning the Kurds would "put every radical Islamist on steroids.”

Other GOP senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Mitt Romney of Utah, have joined Graham in blasting the president's pullout.

If the Democratic-led House decides to impeach Trump, the Senate would have to hold a trial with senators acting as jurors.

Removal from office would require at least two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes.

But another Republican strategist, Ford O'Connell, said he didn't think the Syria issue would make GOP lawmakers any less likely to defend Trump on impeachment.

"They've compartmentalized it largely as a policy difference with Trump," O'Connell said of the Syria pullout. "They knew that he's been saying this and he prides himself as someone who tries to deliver on his promises."

Republican senators have concluded they can't win in 2020 without Trump on the ballot, O'Connell said. He pointed out that every Senate seat up for election in 2016 was won by the party whose presidential nominee also captured that state.

"They recognize that their ability to hold the Senate after 2020 depends on their political livelihood," O'Connell said.

Read more from Christal Hayes and Ledyard King at USA Today 

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McConnell Tightlipped As Impeachment Furor Grows

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is keeping a low profile amid the growing impeachment battle surrounding the White House over President Trump’s political dealings with foreign governments.

McConnell made news in the first days of the two-week congressional recess, when he said he would have “no choice” but to move impeachment if the House sends over articles. 

Since then, however, he’s largely gone quiet, turning his attention to issues like opioid funding, getting money for Fort Campbell and judicial nominations. 

McConnell held an event last week in Kentucky with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a day after Trump publicly floated that China and Ukraine should investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. But reporters were removed from the event before the audience was allowed to ask questions. 

The GOP leader also skipped taking questions from reporters this week when speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Kentucky, as well as a separate event with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar touting a grant for the University of Kentucky. 

“Mitch McConnell has learned there is no point in weighing in on every story,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said in a discussion on McConnell’s actions. 

Read more from Jordain Carney at The Hill

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Bad Polls For Trump Shake GOP

President Trump’s troubles are deepening, according to several recent opinion polls that show rising public support for impeachment.

Those polls include one released Wednesday from Fox News that sent shock waves through Washington. It indicated 51 percent of voters support impeaching Trump and removing him from office.

Trump pushed back at that poll vigorously on Thursday, as did his campaign. But the broader fear among Trump loyalists is that Republican elected officials will begin to follow the trends in public opinion — and peel away from the president.

It’s a legitimate worry, according to some moderate Republicans.

The Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 51 percent favored Trump’s removal from office, a position shared by 57 percent of female voters, 50 percent of white female voters, 39 percent of independent voters and even 12 percent of self-described “Trump voters.”

Others, more supportive of Trump, asserted that such a breaking point is unlikely to ever come.

“Absolutely not,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, arguing that Republicans who abandoned Trump would doom themselves to defeat. “Running from him is a fool’s errand. Everything runs through Trump, so running from him is not a smart idea.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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'Everything And Anything': Democrats' Ever-Evolving Justifications For Impeaching Trump

Rep. Al Green has been trying for nearly two years to get his Democratic colleagues to start down the path of impeaching President Trump. He finally got his way — though the reasons now look far different than those the Texan laid out in his first attempt.

Then, it was over the president’s words after the 2017 racially-charged violence in Charlottesville that Mr. Green took to the House floor, and was roundly defeated.

Democrats have since tested out impeachment over Russian “collusion,” then impeachment for Mr. Trump’s attempts to hinder the Russia probe, then the president’s phone call trying to rope Ukraine’s president into investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Now, in the latest iteration, Democratic leaders say Mr. Trump’s efforts to stymy that Ukraine probe could be grounds for impeachment on its own.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Democrats have treated impeachment as a “prerogative” ever since the 2016 election and the first Russian-interference allegations. An ability to do something about it, though, became a reality when they retook control of the House in the 2018 election.

Polling shows support for impeachment has grown since Mrs. Pelosi announced the official inquiry, though most of those gains appear to be among Democratic voters who had been opposed, but are now on board.

Mr. O’Connell said things could change if the House takes the next step and actually votes on articles of impeachment. The White House this week all but dared Mrs. Pelosi to do just that — telling her they would refuse to cooperate with subpoenas unless there was a formal vote authorizing the impeachment investigation.

Mr. O’Connell warned that a vote like that carried political risks for both sides, but thinks it could turn out well if persuadable voters side with Mr. Trump.

Read more from Gabriella Muñoz at The Washington Times

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Elizabeth Warren's Own Document Disclosures Raise New Questions Over Work History Chronology

In presidential politics every scrap of biographical information a candidate puts out can and will be used against them.

That's the upshot of Elizabeth Warren's law school application, which the 2020 Democrat's campaign put out last year to blunt criticisms over wrongly claiming Native American lineage to help with law school teaching applications years later.

But detractors can now seize on releases as further evidence of the Massachusetts senator and top-tier candidate mudding the personal narrative that Warren weaves on the trail. That includes why she left her “dream job” as a special needs public school teacher to study law. Warren eventually secured a teaching post at Rutgers University, her law school alma mater, the University of Houston, the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School, where she made enemies on Wall Street as a fierce consumer advocate.

Warren’s 1973 application to Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey was posted on her website in 2018 when she revealed a DNA test showing she had one Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago. Her team annotated the document with red boxes to underscore how Warren, 70, identified as being white.

The application, however, also shows that a few months after Warren’s daughter — businesswoman Amelia Warren Tyagi, now 48 — was born in September 1971, she “became a nursery teacher for the Community School, Intervale, New Jersey” in February 1972. Warren omits the second teaching position from her stump speech and focuses instead on how a Riverdale Board of Education principal hired another speech therapist for children with disabilities in 1971 when Warren became “visibly pregnant.”

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told the Washington Examiner Republicans could use Warren’s little-discussed background disclosed in the documents to portray Warren as dishonest.

“The Trump folks are going to have to tie this up into, you know, a little knot and present it, but they're going to have to re-introduce Elizabeth Warren by saying, 'Here's what she says about herself, and here are the facts,’” O’Connell said.

There is a twist of irony in how opponents are leveraging information Warren’s own team made the public to undermine her.

“I don't think that they thought about it at the time,” O’Connell said. “The Native American thing they thought about, and that kind of blew up in their face.”

In the meantime, amid scrutiny of her pregnancy discrimination story, Warren’s standing by her version of events.

Read more from Naomi Lim & Emily Larsen at the Washington Examiner

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Trump And Clinton Spar Over Possible 2016 Rematch Amid Shakeup In 2020 Race

When President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter Tuesday that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton should get into the 2020 presidential race, the former secretary of state fired back, “Don’t tempt me. Do your job.”

The response was clearly a joke, but as Clinton hits the talk show circuit to promote a new book co-written with daughter Chelsea, some are starting to take the prospect of her making another run for the White House more seriously.

Clinton laughed off the speculation in a “PBS NewsHour” interview Tuesday. Asked about the president’s tweet—which said she should run after she explains “all of her high crimes and misdemeanors, including how and why she deleted 33,000 e-mails”—Clinton said Trump appears to be “obsessed” with her but is “either lying or delusional” with his allegations about her emails.

“So maybe there does need to be a rematch. Obviously, I can beat him again,” she said with a smile, adding, “But, just seriously, I don't understand, I don't think anybody understands what motivates him, other than personal grievance, other than seeking adulation.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell suggested the enduring speculation about Clinton reflects both her refusal to accept her loss in the 2016 election and growing doubts in the Democratic Party that the top 2020 primary candidates can win in the general election.

“I think part of this is ego driven for her,” O’Connell said. “I also think, when we look at the overarching theme, nobody thought the 20-plus candidate cattle call in the Democratic field would be this bad.”

In a Fox News column earlier this week, conservative commentator Liz Peek claimed unnamed Democrats unhappy with the current field of candidates are urging former first lady Michelle Obama to enter the race. O’Connell noted talk of an Oprah Winfrey 2020 bid continues to crop up from time to time as well, but wishful thinking about a last-minute, hail-Mary candidate is not unusual in presidential campaigns.

“When the party who is out of power is nervous about who they’re going to put up there, this inevitably rears its ugly head,” O’Connell said.

As the White House attempts to frame the House impeachment inquiry over President Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden as a baseless and unconstitutional effort by Democrats to undo the 2016 election, O’Connell predicted putting Hillary Clinton on the ballot again would bolster that argument.

“Nothing would feed more fodder to Trump’s claim the Democrats are trying to relitigate 2016 than if she jumped in,” he said.

“I think Hillary Clinton throwing her name in the equation would probably pour more flame on that fire and take Trump across the finish line because he’s an incumbent,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at ABC6

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Mitt Romney Calls President Trump’s Pressuring Of Ukraine Leader ‘Appalling’

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney has revived his feud with President Trump — slamming his calls for Ukraine and China to investigate presidential rival Joe Biden and his family as “wrong and appalling” — in an apparent bid to raise his profile as the leading GOP Never-Trumper in the Senate.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney tweeted Friday. “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Romney is ramping up his criticism of the president as the House of Representatives pursues an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Romney has a tumultuous history with Trump. After criticizing Trump during the 2016 election, Romney buttered up to the president-elect to become one of the finalists for Secretary of State — only to be publicly bypassed by Trump. Winning a Senate seat in Utah last year, he resumed his attacks on Trump.

“It would be one thing if this was the first time he criticized Trump,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. But, he said, “Romney doesn’t achieve anything by doing this but trying to elevate himself … It only gives the Democrats ammo.”

Read more from Lisa Kashinsky at the Boston Herald

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All In: Trump Bets His White House On Joe Biden

The water had been rising from the moment Democrats recaptured the House of Representatives. In September, the impeachment dam finally burst. Now there is no telling who will drown in the coming flood or even which political party will find itself most squarely in its path.

President Trump launched a full-court press against former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate. Trump has clearly calculated that exposing the Biden family's dealings in Ukraine will either weaken the veteran Democrat as a general election opponent or sink him altogether, paving the way for a more liberal challenger. Meanwhile, Democrats have decided impeachment is a risk worth taking. Both parties are gambling, pushing all their chips to the middle of the table.

Read more from W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner

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From The Right: Dems Are Crying Wolf

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is “the motto of congressional Democrats when it comes to getting President Donald Trump,” scoffs Ford O’Connell at The Hill. Impeachment has been Democrats’ “monomania” since the 2018 midterms, and since neither Russian collusion nor their “smears” of Justice Brett Kavanaugh caught on, their latest try is the Trump-Ukraine phone call and whistleblower complaint. Yes, Trump’s call was “ham-handed and ill-advised.” But claiming it was illegal and warrants “a fast-tracked impeachment” is just “wishful-thinking.” In fact, the whistleblower complaint “reads more like a premeditated political set-up” than “the misgivings of a concerned citizen.” Democrats should watch out: They’re playing a “high-risk game” that may not go over well with voters.

Read more from the NY Post Editorial Board

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