According to a report at The Atlantic, Donald Trump is using more than threats of retaliation — via Twitter or rally attacks — to keep Republican lawmakers in line as they ponder his possible ouster in his Senate impeachment trial soon to come.
As Peter Nicholas, writes, “How has the president avoided a rebellion within his own party? No doubt congressional Republicans fear Trump because of his unshakable grip on the party’s base. That’s long been the case. But there’s another reason they’ve shielded him from impeachment: He’s wooed Republicans who can protect his interests, cultivating relationships with them in ways that are not always visible or understood.”
As the report notes, the president has focused on key influential lawmakers to flatter and groom, using them as a shield against others in his own party who differ with him on his policies and conduct.
Nicholas notes that the president might actually be getting a bigger boost for his charm offensive after ordering the killing of Iranian military official Qassem Suleimani.
“Americans tend to rally behind a president facing looming national-security crises, and lawmakers take cues from voters,” he wrote. “That could help strengthen Trump’s impeachment advantage within his party, and even Democrats from conservative states might be more sympathetic to the president in a Senate trial if Trump is overseeing an armed conflict with Iran.”
However, previous to the killing of Suleimani, the president was working behind the scenes schmoozing, flattering and bestowing favors, Nicholas writes.
“Risky as it is for Republicans to buck Trump politically, Trump has built personal ties with key members of Congress that have cemented their loyalty. Read Trump’s Twitter feed or listen to his rallies, and he comes off as an unhappy man, filled with grievances and self-obsessed. But that scabrous persona isn’t what he necessarily shows Republican lawmakers, nor is it what they care to see,” he explained. “Representative Peter King of New York is an illustrative case of a lawmaker Trump has reached out to. An independent-minded Republican who announced in November that he was retiring from Congress, King broke with his party 20 years ago and voted against impeaching President Bill Clinton.”
Writing, “King is the sort of lawmaker whose vote Trump can’t take for granted,” he adds, “And the president hasn’t, wooing him from the start: King told me that in the summer of 2017, Trump invited him aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Long Island to give a speech about the gang MS-13. That proved to be a fateful trip. On the flight back to Washington, Trump ousted Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and replaced him with then–Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Aboard the plane, the president confided in King about the move, asking for his thoughts on Kelly.”
“’He’s down-to-earth, easygoing, friendly,’” King told me of his interactions with the president. “’He can be pretty profane about this guy or that. I have to remind myself that I’m with the president of the United States, but I feel like I’m back on the street corner in Queens.’” When he’s in Trump’s company, he added, it’s like being with “’ a stand-up comic and raconteur,’” Nicholas writes.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc) is also a major recipient of Trump’s largesse.
“Two potential jurors were part of his all-Republican entourage when he attended Game 5 of the World Series on October 27: Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. (Over repeated rounds of golf and meetings since taking office, Trump has defanged Graham, who once called him a ‘nut job.’ Now Graham is one of the president’s closest allies. He got a private briefing on the Iran strike while golfing with Trump in Florida earlier this week—a courtesy that doesn’t seem to have been extended to other congressional leaders,” the report states.
“Perhaps Trump’s most important relationship on Capitol Hill is with McConnell. There isn’t much warmth between them—Trump scorned McConnell’s judgment in 2017—but the collaboration has proved mutually valuable. He’s focused on one of the senator’s pet projects: stocking the federal courts with conservative judges. And Trump appointed McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his transportation secretary, and in an administration marked by endless churn, she’s held the job from the beginning,” he continues. “McConnell is now helping shepherd Trump through impeachment. It’s largely up to McConnell how Trump’s Senate trial could unfold, and the two have talked often about impeachment. Though at times the president has suggested he wants full vindication in a trial, complete with witnesses and tough cross-examination of his accusers, McConnell favors a streamlined trial that dispenses with the impeachment articles quickly. Trump seems ready to go along.”
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