The walls are closing in on Trump. Last week, two-thirds of House Republicans joined Democrats in voting for a strong condemnation of Trump’s withdrawal from Syria and abandonment of the Kurds. All Wisconsin GOP and Democratic representatives voted to rebuke Trump. Wisconsin Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner was spot-on: “And, the long-term consequence I think is people will wonder what the word of the United States is worth, because we’ve been backing the Kurds for a very, very long time and all of a sudden that backing was pulled … And, as a result, a group of people … fighting on our side in all of the messes in the Middle East ends up getting a stab in the back”.
Later, at a White House meeting on Syria, Trump erupted in a tantrum at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He disparaged her as a “third-grade politician”. Pelosi told the press that Trump “just couldn’t handle” the bipartisan repudiation of his Syria withdrawal. Meanwhile, Turkey is slaughtering the Kurds, while Russian troops occupy former U.S. bases in Syria. Does Wisconsin GOP Representative Mike Gallagher, a former U.S. Marine officer, think Trump is fit to be commander in chief?
It went downhill for Trump. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, spilled the beans in an extraordinary White House press briefing. Mulvaney admitted that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was withheld mainly for Trump’s personal and political interests. He said that the aid was frozen until Ukraine would agree to investigate a cockamamie and debunked conspiracy theory peddled by Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson (It was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election. And, Ukraine framed the Russians to help the Democrats). Mulvaney’s admission of a corrupt quid pro quo undercut Trump’s repeated denials. A panicked White House got Mulvaney to try and walk it back. However, the damage was done. Does Wisconsin GOP Representative Jim Sensenbrenner still believe there was no quid pro quo?
Other Republicans were shocked. Florida GOP Representative Francis Rooney said: “The president has said many times there wasn’t a quid pro quo …and now Mick Mulvaney goes up and says, ‘Yeah, it was all part of the whole plan’. The only thing I could assume is he meant what he had to say, that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff … .” Rooney went on to compare Trump’s scandal to Watergate. And, Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski said: “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we (the Senate) had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period.” Former Ohio GOP Governor John Kasich went further: It’s the “final straw” and said he supports impeachment of Trump.
The House will impeach Trump. Will any Wisconsin GOP representative put country above party? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his Republican caucus to prepare for an impeachment trial. Twenty GOP senators would have to join all Democrats to convict Trump, thereby removing him from office. A very high bar.
A political storm, unlike any other, is coming.
–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.