Printable Page Headline News   Return to Menu - Page 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 13
GOP Tries to Delegitimize Impeachment  12/11 06:30

   The president and his allies have largely glossed over the substance of 
allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making light of what 
is likely to be only the third presidential impeachment in the nation's 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- They're calling it a circus, a farce and even zany.

   President Donald Trump and his Republican allies spent weeks trivializing 
the House impeachment inquiry ahead of Tuesday's historic unveiling of formal 
charges against the president.

   Where Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton treated the prospect of impeachment as 
a serious threat to their presidencies, Trump's boosters have tried to brush 
off the whole thing. Believing that acquittal by the GOP-controlled Senate is 
all but certain, they're out to convince voters to punish the president's 
Democratic accusers --- or at least tune out the Washington spectacle.

   To that end, they have belittled the impeachment process with mockery, 
schoolyard taunts and an unyielding insistence that Trump did not a single 
thing wrong. They have stonewalled, refusing to allow witnesses to testify; 
protested by declining to send their own lawyers to hearings; and dished out 
the ultimate Trumpian insult: calling the proceedings boring. 

   In the process, the president and his allies have largely glossed over the 
substance of allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making 
light of what is likely to be only the third presidential impeachment in the 
nation's history. 

   It's a strategy borne of Trump's instincts and informed by the results of 
polling and focus groups. The president and his allies believe the effort has 
been effective, especially when it comes to keeping independent voters 
skeptical of the process. It is also a reflection of the country's increasingly 
polarized political environment.

   "Why would we legitimize this process that the American people can't even 
follow, aren't digesting," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Monday 
when asked why the White House had chosen not to participate in the House 
proceedings. She equated cooperation to "colluding with an illegitimate 

   She showed her disdain for the effort by accusing Judiciary Committee 
Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., of "playing a game of Inspector Clouseau, 
Secret Squirrel" by waiting so long to unveil the articles of impeachment that 
were announced Tuesday.

   GOP critics have been going all-out to find new ways to mock what Trump has 
long called a "witch hunt" and a "sham."

   Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, compared the impeachment hearings to "the 
cantina bar scene in Star Wars. It's surreal." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 
dismissed the "zaniness that's taking place on Capitol Hill." And Rep. Devin 
Nunes, the House intelligence committee's top Republican, called the House 
hearings "a show trial, a planned result of three years of political operations 
and dirty tricks."

   But even if GOP legislators are more than willing to complain and erect 
parliamentary roadblocks, many lawmakers, particularly the senators who would 
serve as jurors in an eventual Senate trial, have been less comfortable 
defending the president's conduct.

   Nor has that been a priority for White House aides, who have been firing off 
rapid response emails about procedural unfairness but have done little to 
engage on the substance of the charges. 

   During the early days of the inquiry there was tension between the West Wing 
and the president's outside allies, who felt the White House was doing too 
little to defend the president against the charges. Trump himself was initially 
unwilling to bring on new staff or set up a "war room," concerned that such a 
move would suggest he felt vulnerable or make him look guilty. Ultimately, 
Trump consented to the hiring of former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and 
Republican strategist Tony Sayegh, a move that has helped to mollify some 
outside critics.

   There also was a sense of confusion early on, as administration officials 
and allies struggled to keep up with rapidly unfolding news about Trump's 
attempts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Even some of 
the president's closest supporters were unclear about details of his 
interactions with the president of Ukraine.

   With little clarity about what really had happened, Republicans took aim at 
the process, seeing it as an easy place to start. Once the scope become 
clearer, officials inside and outside the building began to refine their 
messaging, based in part on polling and focus group testing.

   America First Policies, a nonprofit backing Trump's policies, for instance, 
conducted focus groups early in the process that focused specifically on 
independent voters who might be open to voting for Trump in 2020.

   Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the group, said the sessions turned up 
frustration with Congress over endless investigations and not perusing 
bread-and-butter issues. Many people, she said, felt the impeachment inquiry 
was highly partisan --- a sentiment reflected in polling data --- and felt the 
whole endeavor was a waste of time and money, especially given the 
quickly-approaching 2020 election.

   The group has targeted its advertising to speak to those frustrations, which 
are also reflected in messaging from the American Action Network, which is tied 
to House GOP leadership and has spent millions on anti-impeachment ads.

   As Republicans have pushed to delegitimize the House impeachment process, 
they also are professing great reverence for an expected Senate trial on 
friendlier turf. Trump sees a Senate trial as a forum where his allies will be 
able to publicly defend him and turn the tables on Democrats in dramatic Court 
TV fashion.

   "It's pretty clear the president wants a trial," said White House spokesman 
Hogan Gidley. He offered a list of some of the witnesses Trump would like to 
call, including House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the whistle 
blower whose complaint sparked the inquiry, as well as Biden and his son, 
Hunter, who had dealings in Ukraine.

   "The president's eager to get his story out," Gidley said.

   But Republicans in the Senate caution that Trump may not get the show he 
wants because Senate rules require a majority of senators to approve individual 
witnesses, and some are weary of creating a spectacle. Senate Majority Leader 
Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that no decisions have been made yet about the 
length or structure of a Senate trial.

   "The Senate has two choices: It could go down the path of calling witnesses 
and basically having another trial or it could decide --- and again 51 members 
could make that decision --- that they have heard enough," he said.


Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN