Donald Trump finally found the one criminal, unconstitutional, impeachable act the GOP couldn't enable him on: naming his own Doral resort in Florida as the site for next year's G-7 summit on Thursday. The move blew up in his face so badly that he abandoned it Saturday night. The Washington Post:
Trump blamed his G-7 reversal on critics, saying on Twitter that his decision to scrap plans for a summit at the Doral club was “based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.”
But behind closed doors, several aides and allies said, Trump changed his mind in response to pressure and frustration from his own party.
In the month since Democrats announced their impeachment inquiry, Republicans have struggled to offer a coherent response. With no White House war room, GOP lawmakers have seized on process-related responses.
At the same time, they’re being asked to defend the president’s erratic approach to policymaking, including his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops and abandon Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. That announcement was roundly condemned by Republicans, including some of his staunchest defenders. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), in a rare public rebuke of Trump, wrote a withering op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday, just days after 129 House Republicans backed a resolution criticizing the president’s move.
Trump’s decision to host next year’s G-7 meeting at his private golf club only increased the anxiety among GOP lawmakers, some of whom have grown weary of having to develop new talking points almost daily.
Privately, and occasionally in public, several Republicans said they were not prepared to defend the president from charges that he was engaged in self-dealing on the G-7 site selection.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) said Friday that Trump should avoid even the appearance of impropriety that comes with holding a global summit at his private property. “I think that would be better if he would not use his hotel for this kind of stuff,” he said.
Rooney, who announced his retirement the day after his comments, also said he was considering backing Trump’s impeachment over his handling of Ukraine policy.
Trump has been closely watching Republicans and their comments about impeachment, according to one administration official. The president was told repeatedly his G-7 decision made it more difficult to keep Senate Republicans in a unified front against impeachment proceedings, the official said. Before he changed course, Trump had waved off concerns from advisers who said hosting world leaders at his club would not play well.
The NY Times confirmed the story as well, and the speed at which both papers had these insider accounts by Sunday night tells you just how serious this is.
By late Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump had made his decision, but he waited to announce the reversal until that night in two tweets that were separated by a break he took to watch the opening of Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program.
“I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter before again promoting the resort’s amenities. “But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!”
Mr. Trump added, “Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020.”
Mr. Trump suggested as a possibility Camp David, the rustic, official presidential retreat that Mr. Mulvaney had denigrated as an option when he announced the choice of Doral. But Mr. Mulvaney said the president was candid in his disappointment.
The president’s reaction “out in the tweet was real,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president isn’t one for holding back his feelings and his emotions about something. He was honestly surprised at the level of pushback.”
Mr. Trump’s unhappiness may also extend to Mr. Mulvaney, who at his Thursday news conference — whose intended subject was the summit hotel choice — essentially acknowledged that the president had a quid pro quo in mind in discussions with Ukrainian officials.
But advisers to Mr. Trump were stunned. The president has frequently expressed unhappiness with Mr. Mulvaney to others, and he recently reached out to Nick Ayers, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, to see if he had interest in returning, according to two people close to the president. Mr. Ayers is unlikely to return to Washington, but the conversation speaks to Mr. Trump’s mindset at a time when he is being urged by some advisers to make a change, and several people close to the president said Mr. Mulvaney did not help himself in the past week.
Mr. Mulvaney conceded on Fox News that this was all avoidable. “It’s not lost on me that if we made the decision on Thursday” not to proceed with the Doral, “we wouldn’t have had the news conference on Thursday regarding everything else, but that’s fine,” Mr. Mulvaney said. At another point, he acknowledged his press briefing was not “perfect.”
Other than that unfortunate press conference, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
We've reached the point now where we know that there is a limit to how many Republicans will follow Trump over the cliff. It took nearly three years and a brazenly impeachable crime committed on live television in order to do it, but there is a limit. It's the first actual glimmer of hope in a long time, frankly.
Up until now, there was no bottom to the depths of which the GOP would sink to cover for Trump. Now? We've found it. It's covered in rhinoceros crap and under 75 feet of hydrochloric acid, but the bottom is there.
And if there's a bottom, it means that maybe we can finally get rid of the asshole. Will Bunch:
My rough estimate is that it will ultimately take the involvement of about 50 GOP members of Congress to turn things around and bring this national nightmare to its rightful climax. Right now, a narrow majority of Americans support the president’s impeachment and removal from office, but a real sense of justice and momentum would come from gaining a sliver of Republican votes for impeachment in the House — maybe 30 or so.
Those 30 votes would mean a solid majority for charging Trump — say 260-175 or so — but more importantly that would certainly persuade some Senate Republicans to support removal. How many? If every Democrat backed Trump’s ouster, it would still take 20 Republican senators to reach the necessary 67 votes. That would mean the group that’s so far made only measured critiques of our unworthy president (Romney, Sasse, Murkowski) would need to team up with the politically vulnerable in 2020 (Collins, Ernst, etc.) to oppose the president. But only 66 votes out of 100 and Trump can coolly put the smoking gun back in its holster and strut down Fifth Avenue knowing he got away with it.
There's a theory that if enough GOP senators abstain on the final vote to convict, that the remaining Democrats could be enough to get a two-thirds vote.
This rule could become relevant in a variety of ways. The most significant is the number of Republicans actually required to “jump the fence,” as Democrats hope. Twenty Republicans is a tall order: Even for Republicans who are shielded from reelection in 2020, a vote to convict Trump is obviously hazardous. If a few Republicans didn’t appear, that would reduce the number of Republicans required to vote with Democrats.
There’s also a more stark scenario. Recently, former Senator Jeff Flake speculated that at least 30 Republican senators would cast their vote for impeachment against Trump—but only if it were held on a secret ballot. (Flake went further, suggesting the number might be as high as 35.)
But suppose those 30 senators were seeking a way, as Flake suggested, to remove Trump while avoiding the rage of his base. They might boycott the proceedings—or, when the big day of the vote arrived, mysteriously not show up. With 70 members now present, the number of senators required to convict Trump is no longer 67. It’s 47: exactly the number of seats Democrats and independents currently hold in the Senate.
It's the longest of shots. But at this point, it's better than the zero chance of Trump's removal that I would have told you existed even a few weeks ago.