Republican Lawmakers Know Trump Obstructed Justice, But That Doesn't Mean a Blessed Thing

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Republican Lawmakers Know Trump Obstructed Justice, But That Doesn't Mean a Blessed Thing

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told CNN’s New Day on Monday that several Republican lawmakers have spoken to him privately to “express concerns” about the clear examples of obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller Report, and the difference between what the report said and how Attorney General William Barr summarized it. You can watch that appearance here:

The good stuff comes in the first two minutes, when Coons reveals that he’s had private conversations with Republican colleagues who think Trump’s actions rose to the level of being illegal. That said, he takes pains to point out that none of them would say this publicly, and that none of them would even come close to voting for impeachment.

This comes on the heels of a surprising statement from Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican, who said the unthinkable on Twitter: That Trump was guilty of “impeachable conduct”:

The entire thread is worth reading, and not because Amash is necessarily telling us anything new—we've seen this exact analysis before, including here at Paste. Multiple times. But it usually comes from the left, and by usually I mean “always.” So it's remarkable to see this kind of thorough, seemingly honest evaluation from a D.C. Republican. Did you ever expect a federally elected Republican to say this in 2019?

Of course, the liberal hope in the aftermath of Amash’s bold move was that it would open the floodgates, and Republicans would abandon Trump en masse for the good of the country. But Jim Newell at Slate put it succinctly when he said that this was “not a sign of things to come.” Amash was already described as the “loneliest Republican in the house” by CNN before he fired off his latest salvo, and Newell made the point that he’s nothing if not an aberration:

In some sense, this was a big deal: Amash is the first Republican congressman to make such a statement, an achievement touted widely in the coverage this weekend. But in another, much more realistic sense, it was not, because Amash is likely the last Republican to make such a statement as well. The lawmaker, now in his fifth term, is an outlier within his caucus. The dam is not breaking.

Exactly. I mean, Chris Coons won’t even support impeachment, and he’s a Democrat. It’s the same all over among the party leadership, because they’re too scared of the fallout. They probably shouldn’t be, but they are, which means that when it comes to Trump and impeachment, Republicans aren’t even on the defensive. They can stand as a single unblinking unit, as they have over and over for going on decades, and they’re going to get what they want because they control the Senate and the Democrats in power in both chambers lack the fortitude to pressure them.

Amash’s statement is nice in theory, and it’s nice in theory that Coons’ Republican colleagues believe that Barr fudged the truth on obstruction, but these are just cosmetic “wins” for those of us on the left. It’s not going to change the reality on the ground, and in terms of D.C. realpolitik, the only person who might be hurt by any of this is Justin Amash himself. Trump still has the loyalty of Republican voters—overwhelmingly—and until that changes, which it won’t, the vast majority of his senators and congressmen will toe the line. To believe otherwise is to commit the sin of wishful thinking, and to put the onus for “fixing” this presidency on the very people who will never, ever do it.

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