- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Republican senators are refusing to abandon President Trump, saying he might step over the line at times, but it’s no reason to toss him out of office if House Democrats follow through with impeachment.

Their reluctance to ditch the president, despite being stung by his military pullout in Syria and racially charged rhetoric, underscores the tall task facing Democratic impeachment hawks who want Mr. Trump removed from office before the 2020 election.

“It’s a high bar,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican.

House Democrats on Tuesday said they inched closer to proving a White House plot to hold up Ukrainian military aid for political aims, though any move to impeach Mr. Trump would go to the GOP-controlled Senate for trial. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict Mr. Trump for him to be removed from office — and so far, there is little indication that the needed 20 Senate Republicans are willing to make such a drastic break from the president.

Mr. Trump says House Democrats want to impeach him as “quickly as possible” because they cannot win in 2020 and see it as their only option. But he’s made his disgust with impeachment and would-be turncoats plain, saying Republicans must not allow Democrats to run roughshod over him.

“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!” Mr. Trump said in a tweet that shocked many in Washington for its use of the word “lynching.”

Mr. Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria and about-face on the G7 summit were already tying Republicans in knots, and his chief of staff appeared to undercut a key GOP talking point on a possible quid pro quo involving the aid to Ukraine.

His decision to describe his plight as a “lynching,” a practice that evokes horrific crimes against black Americans in the South, forced Republicans to defend the president once again. In doing so, it exposed the grab bag of approaches Republicans are using to show loyalty while insulating themselves from the thornier aspect of backing an unpredictable president.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would have used different language, while Senate Republicans said they’re leery of Mr. Trump’s behavior but that it’s not impeachable.

Others backed the president forcefully, calling his “lynching” tweet apt.

“This is a complete sham and a joke, and if that term ‘political lynching’ bothers you, I’m sorry, call it a sham proceeding. I really don’t care, it’s the conduct,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Trump ally. “The point is what’s happening in the House is unfair, it’s a political sham, it’s a kangaroo court, it is a mob taking over, it is what happened to [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh — you’re guilty unless you can prove yourself innocent.”

Pressed on the racial overtones around the term “lynching,” Mr. Graham said he was from South Carolina and did not need the reminder.

“I am saying that lynching throughout history has been conducted against African Americans, but lynching throughout history has been conducted against people you don’t like — when mobs take over because of the color of your skin, your religious background and sometimes politically,” he said.

The White House said Mr. Trump wasn’t trying to draw comparisons to minorities who’ve been murdered.

“The president is not comparing what’s happened to him with one of the darkest moments in American history. He’s just not,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. “What he’s explaining clearly is the way he’s been treated by the media since he announced for president.”

Republicans are responding to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric against the backdrop of a fast-moving impeachment inquiry.

A U.S. diplomat, William Taylor, offered damning testimony behind closed doors on Tuesday. Democrats described it as detailed and revelatory, potentially accelerating their push to impeach Mr. Trump over an alleged “quid pro quo” involving Ukraine.

Senate Republicans discussed some of the rules surrounding impeachment during a conference luncheon Tuesday but did not discuss a timeline, according to Sen. John N. Kennedy, Louisiana Republican.

“My personal feeling is that the speaker, she’s on her fifth try — she tried collusion, she tried conspiracy, she tried Stormy Daniels, she tried taxes, she tried emoluments clause, and now they’re trying this,” Mr. Kennedy told reporters. “I think that’s the way most Americans see it whether they agree with it or not.”

His depiction of the impeachment push as a see-what-sticks endeavor aligns with Mr. Trump’s view on the matter.

“I’ve gone through the impeachment now since the beginning on Russia, on Mueller, on all this stuff,” Mr. Trump told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity late Monday.

Mr. Trump said Republicans need to stick together like the Democrats do, pointing to the lack of “Mitt Romneys” on the other side. He singled out Mr. Romney, Utah Republican, because the former presidential nominee has become a nemesis of sorts on various issues.

Whether Senate Republicans hold ranks remains to be seen, but Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, told reporters there seems to be some Republicans who never stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Trump.

“Look there are a couple of individuals in the Republican Party who never did care for Trump; I’m on the other side of that,” Mr. Inhofe said. “It’d be better if we were united but this is a political situation, I’ve never seen everyone united on some of the things.”

Mr. Trump says if Republicans don’t stick together now, it could poison the well for all presidents.

“Some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he tweeted.

His argument was overshadowed, however, by use of the term “lynching” in the same tweet.

Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, said the comments exuded ignorance and will further harm Mr. Trump’s standing with the black community.

“Of course, he has no understanding of this horrific history, I assume. And for him to say something like that was disgusting,” Ms. Lee said. “It hurts. It’s painful, and he should apologize.”

• Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.

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