According to Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein, Donald Trump's decision to limit the amount of information given to members of his own party for his rationale for killing Iranian military leader Qassem Suleimani may blow up in his face when his impeachment trial commences in the Senate.
With several GOP lawmakers -- Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) -- already on record not backing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on his plan to undercut the impeachment trial and acquit the president as fast as possible, Bernstein said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) might join their ranks and make life more difficult for Trump.
Noting Lee went directly to the media to vociferously complain about the briefing given to lawmakers on the reason for the killing of Suleimani, telling reporters it was "insulting and demeaning” before adding he was told by White House officials, "'Do not debate, do not discuss the issue of the appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran,’ and that if you do ‘You will be emboldening Iran,’” Bernstein said Lee would likely not be as intimidated by the idea of revolting against the president.
"This isn’t the first time Lee has dissented. He was one of a handful of Republican senators who voted against Trump on two measures that the president eventually vetoed: One to prevent Trump from transferring funds to pay for his Mexican-border wall, and another over U.S. support of Saudi Arabia and its allies in a proxy war in Yemen," the columnist explains. " So he’s willing to oppose Trump, including by voting against Trump’s priorities, on issues relating to what he sees as outsized claims of authority by the executive."
Lee, Bernstein explains, is uniquely positioned among most Republican senators when it comes to battling with Trump.
"Lee’s electoral situation gives him a fair amount of room. Utah is solidly Republican, but it’s not very Trumpy," he explained. "He might be joined in voting to convict by Utah’s other Republican senator, Mitt Romney. Lee isn’t up for re-election until 2022, when he certainly doesn’t have to worry about losing a general election because of some Trump die-hards staying home to punish him. He might have reason to fear a challenge to his re-nomination, but on the whole he’s probably about as safe as anyone. And as far as I know, Lee doesn’t have presidential ambitions of his own that could be destroyed by voting against Trump."
As for why Lee might make the leap, Bernstein suggests, "It doesn’t take a lot of heavy thinking to conclude that a senator upset that a president would ignore the law (in the form of specific congressional spending decisions) over money diverted to the border wall might also be unhappy about a president who refused to send duly authorized military aid to Ukraine. Or that he might find it outrageous or worse if that president refused to cooperate with congressional oversight efforts to determine what happened to the money. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that Lee hasn’t made that connection already."
That isn't to say that Lee is solidly in the Democrat's camp, the columnist writes, "Even if I’m correct that he really does deplore executive-branch overreach and favors standing up for congressional authority, Lee also no doubt has plenty of loyalty to his party and to his constituents, who surely oppose impeachment even if they’re less Trumpy than Republicans elsewhere," before adding, "In other words, at the very least he will be squeezed between his principled opposition to presidential abuse of power and his obligations to party and voters."
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