Mitch McConnell rigged the impeachment trial in a way that traps GOP lawmakers into backing Trump: columnist
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addresses the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (mark reinstein/

Writing for the Washington Post, Paul Waldman explained that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it nearly impossible for anyone in his caucus to vote in defiance of President Donald Trump and still hope to have any future in politics.

While it has been a given that multiple Republican lawmakers are under the gun because they represent so-called "swing states," Waldman said that states are less likely to flip back and forth in future elections because the battleline between Democrats and Republicans have hardened under Trump.

"While there are no Democrats who seriously believe the necessary 20 Republican senators will vote to remove President Trump from office, there’s hope that a smaller number — four, or five, or six — might join with Democrats to make Trump’s impeachment trial more comprehensive. Perhaps some of those vulnerable Republicans up for reelection would vote to subpoena witness testimony and documents, if they’re worried enough about November’s election to locate their consciences," Waldman wrote. "On the surface, it seems like a plausible idea. Unfortunately, political reality makes it all but impossible, in a way that reveals a great deal about what the upcoming election will be like."

At issue is McConnell's strict rules for the Senate impeachment trial that allows no "middle way" to buck the president while also voting to let him off the hook and stay in office.

"There are only seven truly vulnerable Republican senators: Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and the two Georgia senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both of whom are running (Loeffler was appointed to fill the seat of Johnny Isakson, who retired last year)," he wrote.

Focusing on Gardner he wrote, "Here’s Gardner’s problem, the same one faced by other senators from swing states. If he goes along with McConnell and votes to refuse any more evidence to be admitted, Democrats will rightly charge him with complicity in not only covering up Trump’s misdeeds but in validating those misdeeds themselves, confirming that there’s nothing wrong with the president coercing a foreign government to help his reelection campaign. That will alienate Democratic voters. But if Gardner votes to allow new evidence, Republicans will call him a traitor."

"Those are his only choices. There isn’t some clever way to satisfy everyone. Given how McConnell has constructed this trial — and how Trump has built his whole presidency — you’re either with Trump or you’re against him," he adds before knocking down the notion of sympathetic -- and dependable -- swing voter.

 "As Gallup reported this week, the third year of Trump’s presidency set a new record for polarization in presidential approval, an 82-point gap between Republicans’ approval of Trump (89 percent) and Democrats’ approval of him (7 percent)," he explained. "So Gardner is stuck in two ways: The trial has been built by McConnell and the White House to permit no middle ground between supporting Trump absolutely and opposing him absolutely, and Gardner’s constituents aren’t really looking for him to find that middle ground anyway."

Adding that if Gardner votes "against Trump, his Republican constituents would abandon him, but he wouldn’t win many converts among his Democratic constituents, and he’d lose. At least if he sticks with Trump he has a chance," Waldman suggested none of the other wavering Republicans are likely to take a chance. "So if you’re looking for those vulnerable Republicans to signal their open-mindedness by voting to allow new evidence in Trump’s trial, don’t get your hopes up. It’s just too much of a risk for them to take."

You can read the whole piece here.