- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2020

President Trump is happy to see his impeachment trial shift to friendlier terrain, but he’s not taking any chances, openly praising Republican senators and catering to those who hold the fate of his presidency in their hands.

Mr. Trump gushed about a dozen Senate Republicans, individually and at some length, in a long-winded aside while Chinese dignitaries stood silently during a trade deal signing at the White House on Wednesday.

The following day, he posted a week-old tweet from Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, about a bill honoring the late Roddie Edmonds, a master sergeant who refused to give up Jewish soldiers under his command during their time in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp.

“Looking at this strongly,” Mr. Trump tweeted less than two hours before House Democrats marched the articles of impeachment into the Senate chamber.

Mr. Alexander, who is retiring after his term expires this year, is among Republicans who have suggested they would like to see a vote on whether to call witnesses who have avoided the probe so far, making him a senator for Mr. Trump to watch.

Then on Friday, Mr. Trump singled out Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, in a crowded White House East Room as he toasted the title-winning Louisiana State University football team.

“We have a lot of politicians out there, so many I won’t really mention all of them,” Mr. Trump told. “Oh, there’s one I have to — hello, Bill, your senator.”

Members of Mr. Trump’s party hold a 53-to-47 seat majority in the Senate, making an acquittal on charges he abused his office and obstructed Congress all but assured, since 67 senators must vote to convict.

Democrats, though, say Republicans will be guilty of a “cover-up” if they refuse to consider evidence that trickled out after the House completed its impeachment inquiry. They’re hoping at least four senators will join them in forming a majority that calls witnesses who had a front-row seat for Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian officials.

In some ways, Mr. Trump’s courting is par for the course. He likes to tout his high approval rating within the Republican Party in the face of rampant Democratic complaints and probes into his presidency and business dealings.

For now, however, his Senate allies will be jurors and not partners in trade or other policy issues. Political analysts said that probably won’t stop Mr. Trump from weighing in.

“What he does will be conditioned by events during the trial. He’ll also hear and get advice from his legal team, but he does do his own thing,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. “Ultimately, he and Twitter will be linked as usual. So we will see how far he goes.”

Mr. Trump went the extra mile before signing the phase 1 trade deal with China, riffing a bit of tailored praise to Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

“We have some tremendous senators here and some really incredible people,” he told a packed East Room. “And I want to just say, the ones that are here, if I miss your name, stand up and I will promise to say it, because a lot of people wanted to be here.”

He lavished praise on the senators one day after calling Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, onto the stage during a campaign rally in Milwaukee.

Some analysts said they expect Mr. Trump to turn on senators publicly if he doesn’t like what he sees during his trial.

“He appeals to senators and if they don’t do what he wants, he attacks them publicly,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “There is no reason to expect Trump to alter his long-term style of dealing with people.”

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Mr. Trump had eased off his critiques of Senate Republicans in recent months, instead courting them with invitations to Camp David or lunch at the White House.

“Whether this continues once the trial gets underway remains to be seen,” said Mr. Manley, who served as a spokesman for former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. “Twitter discipline is not exactly his strength.”

For now, the president continues to tweet apace.

Beyond GOP support, he’s opining on the mechanics of the trial, suggesting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held the articles of impeachment from the Senate to tether Sen. Bernard Sanders to Washington instead of campaigning ahead the Iowa caucuses, which kick off the Democratic presidential primary in earnest Feb. 3.

“They are bringing him out of so important Iowa in order that, as a Senator, he sit through the Impeachment Hoax Trial,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Crazy Nancy thereby gives the strong edge to Sleepy Joe Biden, and Bernie is shut out again. Very unfair, but that’s the way the Democrats play the game. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to watch!”

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