Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned President Donald Trump to stop attacking Republican senators who will soon consider his fate at an impeachment trial, Politico reports.
This article first appeared on Salon.
McConnell met with Trump one-on-one at the White House last week and warned Trump to stop attacking senators like Mitt Romney, R-Utah, whom the president called a “pompous ass” after Romney said that Trump's demand for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden was “wrong and appalling.”
Attacking Romney was a “big mistake,” a former Senate aide told Politico, adding that the Utah senator will still be around in the chamber for at least another five years. “You can’t go guns blazing on the Senate.”
Trump appears to have listened to McConnell’s advice and has not attacked Romney since the meeting. Instead, Trump has adopted more of a carrot than stick approach in wooing Republicans to stick with him on impeachment.
Trump has instead reached out to his defenders in the Senate, like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and even took a group of lawmakers to a World Series game this week, although they were greeted with boos and “lock him up” chants. He also brought Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., to play golf with him on Saturday.
The president also hosted 10 Republicans in a Situation Room meeting last week, where one attendee told Politico the president insisted to lawmakers that the impeachment process “was unfair and he hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Shortly after that meeting, Graham introduced a Senate resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry. McConnell also spoke out at a private lunch last week, urging Republicans to defend Trump on the impeachment “process” after some lawmakers expressed concern that it was difficult to defend the president on the substance of the allegations against him, The Hill reported.
Trump is also employing a new tactic that critics called “bribery.” He is tapping into his massive fundraising network, which has already raised more than $300 million for his re-election campaign, and urging donors to contribute to Republican senators who have supported him amid the impeachment probe — while snubbing vulnerable lawmakers who have not signed onto Graham’s resolution, Politico reported.
Richard Painter, vice-chair of the government watchdog Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, who previously served as White House ethics chief under George W. Bush, called Trump’s tactics “criminal” and tantamount to “bribery.”
“Any other American who offered cash to the jury before a trial would go to prison for felony bribery,” he tweeted. “Any senator who accepts cash from [Trump] before the impeachment trial is guilty of accepting a bribe and should go to the slammer.”
The House of Representatives voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry on Thursday in a vote almost entirely along party lines. McConnell told Republican senators earlier this month that Trump’s impeachment trial could begin as soon as Thanksgiving.
Ahead of the House vote, Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., who left the Republican Party after calling for Trump’s impeachment, urged his GOP colleagues to consider the larger picture before reflexively defending the president.
"This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name,” Amash said. “To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.”