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GOP lawmakers know what has to be done, but they know it will likely mean an electoral wipeout in 2020 

Informed Dissent

You can take this to the bank: Before the year ends, Donald Trump will become the third American president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The mounting, overwhelming evidence of his bad acts, the constitutional obligations and, frankly, Trump's real-time, in-plain-sight meltdown – which has so far included calls for the whistleblower (now reportedly under federal witness protection) and a member of Congress to be treated as traitors and, on Sunday night, a threatened civil war if he is removed from office – all point to its inevitability.

You can take this to the bank, as well: By the time it happens, the American public will want it to happen. They'll want the Trump Show to end, one way or the other.

The president will only degenerate, as more shoes drop, as more whistleblowers come forward, as more witnesses are called, as more documents are subpoenaed, as more officials leave – as his entirely unprepared White House, stripped of the Republican Party's best minds and most skilled operatives, is left to dangle in the dark as the walls close in, while the president tweets furiously into the void.

What happens next depends on Republicans – in particular, the ones who haven't been completely sucked into the Fox News alternate-reality vortex of bullshit, the ones who, in their bones, know that our democracy is in dangerous, unprecedented territory. And, despite all appearances, I still believe (or maybe hope) that there are enough of them in the halls of power to make the right call when the time comes.

They've read the same documents and stories we have. They know that Trump's excuses for Ukraine are paper-thin, even as they mouth them for TV cameras. They know they can whine about the whistleblower's complaint being "hearsay," but they also know that the report was meticulous.

They know that the president and Rudy Giuliani have confirmed that they spent months pressuring Ukraine's government to dig into debunked allegations about Joe Biden's family. They know that the White House has confirmed the whistleblower's account that officials moved records of Trump's calls with Ukraine's president – and almost certainly the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well – to a classified server so as to spare the president humiliation and possibly criminal inquiries. They know that Trump unilaterally blocked aid to Ukraine, and they know that, on the phone call, when Ukraine's president asked about buying anti-tank missiles key to fighting Russia, Trump responded, "I would like you to do us a favor, though."

They know that, while the president's most ardent defenders – among them Sen. Lindsey Graham and North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows, who have Gorilla-Glued their lips to Trump's ass – have harped on the fact that the "favor" Trump sought had to do with something called Crowdstrike, and that the Biden stuff came a few seconds later, this doesn't exactly help. Because they know that the reference to Crowdstrike is a nonsensical conspiracy that emerged in the right-wing fever swamp, a theory that Russia was framed for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee server and the evidence is in Ukraine.

Besides, they also know that Trump did ask for Ukraine's help in investigating the Bidens, so as to provide him with vague innuendo he can wave around no matter how times it gets fact-checked, and they know that had a Democrat done this, they would be demanding that Democrat's impeachment.

They also know that Trump knows that Russia really did help him become president. The Washington Post reported last week that, in the same meeting in which he shared classified intel on ISIS, Trump had assured the Russians in 2017 that he didn't care about their election interference – a year before he shared a stage with Vladimir Putin in Poland and told the world he believed Putin that Russia hadn't interfered in American elections.

And though they often deny it, they know they've seen the president's Twitter feed – including his Sunday tweet favorably quoting Dallas megachurch preacher Robert Jeffress saying (on Fox News, of course) that removing Trump would "cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country would never heal," or when he likened U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff paraphrasing parts of the Ukrainian call memo during a hearing last week to treason.

They know that this is all beyond the pale. They know that Trump is an unstable narcissist only loosely tethered to reality. They know what should be done. They know that they have the power to bring it about.

They know that, in 1974, Richard Nixon was convinced he could hang on until Republicans told him it was over – that he would be replaced and removed. They know that if enough House and Senate Republicans came out tomorrow and said publicly what they reportedly say privately, the president would have little choice but to resign, and if he didn't, Mitch McConnell would have no choice but to hold a trial that ended with his removal.

But they also know that going into 2020 with a clear conscience would likely mean facing an electoral wipeout: Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Congress, Medicare for All, Green New Deal, tax hikes for the rich, all of it.

And even if that didn't happen, they know that, in their rural states and gerrymandered districts, doing what's right would hurt them politically; the GOP has sold its soul to Trump and his made-for-cable-news authoritarianism, and going against the leader is a gamble with limited rewards.

And they know that, should Trump somehow survive this, their party and its propaganda machinery will be only more tightly wrapped around him.

So they have a decision to make. This will be their moment of truth.

This story appeared in the Oct. 2, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.

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