Republicans, some Democrats reject impeachment talk
WASHINGTON (AP) — The day after President Donald Trump was implicated in a federal crime, members of both parties dismissed talk of impeachment, with some Democrats expressing fears today about such a politically risky step, and Republicans shrugging off the accusations or withholding judgment.
The legal entanglements surrounding Trump – the guilty plea by former lawyer Michael Cohen and the fraud conviction of one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort – delivered a one-two punch that left lawmakers struggling for an appropriate response ahead of the midterm campaigns.
Trump's strongest supporters echoed his "no collusion" retorts, suggesting that, absent any evidence that he worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election, there is just no high-crimes-and- misdemeanors case for impeachment.
Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to tamp down expectations from their liberal base of taking on the president for fear that impeachment talk will cause GOP voters to rally around Trump in November.
The dynamic underscored the political difficulty of impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill, especially for Republicans who have been reluctant to criticize the president but now face a new chapter in what has been a difficult relationship.
In pleading guilty to campaign-finance violations and other crimes Tuesday, Cohen said Trump directed a hush-money scheme before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom said they had sexual relationships with Trump. Trump has accused Cohen of making up "stories in order to get a 'deal'" from federal prosecutors.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brushed past reporters without answering questions about Cohen or the possibility the lawyer's accusations about an illegal campaign cover-up are grounds for impeachment proceedings. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is away from Washington, had no direct response. An aide said he needs more information.
Other Republicans, though, filled the gaps.
"No collusion=no impeachment," tweeted the influential radio host Hugh Hewitt, setting the day's tone.
He explained that impeachment is a political and legal term of art and said there needs to be a tipping point in public opinion that would push Congress to act. It's not there yet, he tweeted.
Doug Deason, a Texas-based donor and major Trump supporter, said voters simply don't care that Trump behaves badly at times and has associated with people who broke the law.
"In no way, shape or form did we think we were hiring St. Trump to repair the morals of the country," he said.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a Trump confidant, said: "Anything short of the campaign actually conspiring with Russia to try to impact the election, anything short of that will just be background noise."
Even those few Republicans who have been willing to speak out about Trump are treading carefully in the wake of Cohen's guilty plea.
"I don't think I've witnessed anything like I've witnessed over the last year and a half. Probably, the American people haven't in modern times," said retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. But he stopped short of passing further judgment on the Cohen case.
"I'm sure there's going to be other revelations that come up," he said, "and I think we ought to just let the process work."