Trump’s threats and extreme mistrust between the parties on Capitol Hill are forcing the consideration of the most extreme measures to keep safe a whistleblower who has followed the law to expose the President’s alleged abuse of power.
Democrats are making fresh efforts to maintain the early momentum of their impeachment gambit by flinging new subpoenas at Trump’s administration and have associates of his lawyer Rudy Giuliani in their sights.
And the President’s GOP allies are being forced into rhetorical pretzels as they try to cope with his wild swings and false claims on Ukraine while saving their own political skins.
“It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent,” Portman told the Columbus Dispatch, while adding the caveat that impeachment was not merited. But most Republicans refused to go as far as Portman. Only a few responded when more than 80 were contacted to ask if they were concerned about Trump’s behavior.
Trump began the week bristling with defiance and insisting that he was “not at all worried” that a second whistleblower who CNN reported on Sunday has direct knowledge of the events described by the first, was already talking to lawyers.
Syria move shocks the world
Trump’s disruptive mood stretched beyond US borders on Monday into a military conflict that is every bit as intractable as his showdown with Democrats.
He suddenly gave a green light to Turkey to invade northeast Syria, a move that could put America’s Kurdish allies in mortal peril. The rush of Republican senators — even including Trump’s ally Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who flocked to criticize the move recreated the hawkish GOP national security coalition that the President crushed with his “America First” ideology and wariness of foreign entanglements.
“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counter-terrorism partners,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky.
A cynic might suggest that the GOP lawmakers were embracing a chance to criticize the President on an issue that is hardly a critical one for conservative voters while avoiding accusations that he abuses his power in his dealings with Ukraine.
Any Republican lawmaker who wants to have a serious political career in the years ahead cannot afford to anger the all-powerful Trump base, especially those who fear primary challenges as they seek reelection.
Dems’ impeachment inquiry takes next steps
The Democrats’ impeachment investigation is grinding relentlessly onward. On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is due to give a closed-door deposition and will become the latest official or witness to the President’s dealings with Ukraine to tell his story.
New Democratic subpoenas are flying across Washington with demands for documents on Ukraine hitting the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget. Democrats also warned that if associates of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani deny requests for documents and depositions they will be compelled to comply.
The President complained on Monday that the Democratic investigation was making it impossible to do his job. But his belligerence and unrestrained conduct in reality is making it hard for Congress to fulfill its constitutional role.
The House Intelligence Committee is discussing extraordinary measures to protect the identity of the whistleblower who set off the impeachment circus by accusing Trump of pressuring Ukraine’s President to investigate Biden in a call.
Among possible measures are the use of an off-site location for any testimony — potentially including highly secure sites at the CIA or at Fort Meade base outside Washington, the home of US Cyber Command. There could also be limits on the number of Capitol Hill staff and members who could attend and the voice of the yet-to-be named whistleblower could be disguised.
That such measures are needed is unusual in itself. What makes this scenario stunning is that they are being discussed as a direct result of threats made by the President. Trump demanded to meet his “accuser,” suggested the person was “spying on the US President” and appeared to suggest the whistleblower’s sources should be executed like “in the old days.”