And so it ends.
As expected, the U.S. Senate voted this afternoon to acquit President Trump of the two impeachment charges against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Less expected: One of those votes was not along party lines. Senator Mitt Romney, heretofore known for being on many sides of many issues—except raising taxes on rich people, that was always bad—during the 2012 presidential campaign, located his moral center and voted to convict Trump on the charge of abusing his office (though not on obstructing Congress), in the process becoming the first and only senator to ever vote to impeach a president from his own party.
“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’ Yes, he did,” Romney said. “The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so. The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders. The President’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.”
This statement, every word, is blindingly obvious and factually indisputable. But his vote nonetheless sent shockwaves through Romeny’s party. Or, perhaps, his soon-to-be-ex-party.
Soon after, Donald Trump Jr. called for Senate Republicans to expel Romney from their caucus. Asked about that at a press conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say whether the GOP’s erstwhile presidential nominee belonged in the GOP.
Maybe he doesn’t. After all, the Republican Party isn’t the Republican Party of eight or 10 or 20 years ago.
The Republican Party is the Cult of Trump.
Today, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, along with every other Republican senator not named Mitt, bent the knee to Dear Leader.
Neither of North Carolina’s senators gave a speech on the Senate floor defending their indefensible decision; they chose to release statements afterward instead.
“To remove a U.S. President from office, for the first time in our history, on anything less than overwhelming evidence of ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ would effectively overturn the will of the American people,” Burr said, as if he hadn’t voted against seeking testimony the White House had blocked. “For these reasons, I voted to acquit the President on both articles of impeachment.”
(Burr had previously said that even if Trump tried to extort foreign interference in American elections by threatening to withhold military aid to a country at war—or as he called it, a quid pro quo—it wouldn’t be an impeachable offense. )
Tillis, a dutiful Trump toady who is up for re-election this year, offered a Fox News-friendly word salad: “This entire impeachment effort was motivated by partisan politics and a desire to remove the President from office instead of allowing the American people to decide his fate at the ballot box in November. Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied the President basic due process rights from the start and ultimately presented a weak case for removal that was rejected by the Senate. The President has been acquitted and we now need to move on. I’m committed to continuing my work to deliver more results for North Carolinians to keep our economy and military strong.”
Moments after the vote, two Republican senators announced that they had “requested” Hunter Biden’s travel records from the Secret Service, apparently trying to do what Ukraine ultimately didn’t: gin up a sham Biden-family investigation to make Dear Leader happy.
The more uninhibited Trump feels, the more of this banana republic crap you’ll see—and North Carolina’s head cult leaders have shown us that they’ll keep clapping along and praising his name.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at email@example.com.
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