GOP embraces Trump as never before with anti-impeachment

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California) speaks during a press conference with Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (Los Angeles) at the US Capitol on December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2019

GOP embraces Trump as never before with anti-impeachment

  • Moderate Democrats from swing districts seemed most at risk in the short term, with several of the 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 most vulnerable
  • But Trump’s Republican critics and Democrats said the House GOP’s solid backing inextricably bound Republican lawmakers to Trump and would ultimately inflict a damaging blow

WASHINGTON: House Republicans’ unbroken opposition to impeachment is their most unapologetic embrace of President Donald Trump yet, binding them to a president whose loyalty from his party’s core conservative voters is matched only by his opponents’ loathing for him.
Just three months ago, initial revelations of a phone call in which Trump tried squeezing Ukraine’s new president to announce an investigation into Democrats gave a handful of Republicans pause. By Wednesday, the Democratic-led House neared a vote to impeach Trump over expected unanimous GOP opposition, a moment spotlighting his hold on congressional Republicans and raising questions about the vote’s political impact.
“Trump is strong as a tank with Republicans,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a member of the House GOP leadership. He said that along with what he called Democrats’ weak evidence against Trump and unfair impeachment process, “The combination of the three make this one of the easier votes we’ll cast.”
In the short-term, it was moderate Democrats from swing districts who seemed most at risk. Nearly all were expected to back impeachment, which could cost some their careers in next November’s congressional elections. The most vulnerable include several of the 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016, many of whom are freshmen.
“Today may be the only consequential vote they ever cast, because they won’t be back,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., one of Trump’s staunchest defenders.
But Trump’s Republican critics and Democrats said the House GOP’s solid backing inextricably bound Republican lawmakers to Trump and would ultimately inflict a damaging blow.
“You can play to the base and excite the base and turn an election here and there, but that’s not a long-term strategy. Demographics will take care of that” as anti-Trump younger, diverse voters join the electorate, said former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, who declined to seek reelection last year after clashing with Trump for years. “There will be a time when we Republicans wake up from this and say, ‘We did this for this man?’”
“I don’t think the Republican Party nationally really exists anymore. It is now the Trump party,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon “When he goes at some point, it will be interesting to see how they define themselves, what they stand for.”
In Trump’s past pivotal fights — including his failed effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law — congressional Republicans strongly rallied behind him, but there were small but significant numbers of defectors.
A handful of Republican lawmakers had expressed concern when word of Trump’s pressuring Ukraine first emerged in September. While stopping short of abandoning him, several initially took a middle-ground position, saying they wanted to learn more about what happened.
Wednesday’s expected unanimous GOP vote was coming after party leaders held numerous impeachment briefings for lawmakers. Those sessions were aimed at making sure they were “getting information to people,” said No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalize of Louisiana.
Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., said early on that he wanted to learn more about what happened with Ukraine. After saying he was open to impeachment — and announcing his retirement the next day — he said Wednesday he was opposing impeachment after “agonizing over it” and deciding there was insufficient evidence to justify Trump’s removal.
Rooney said that Wednesday’s vote further aligns his party to Trump.
“And that’s not necessarily the Republican Party that I’ve been part of and been a funder for, for many years,” he said. “This is a different era that we’re in for Republicans, and I don’t know where it’s going to go.”
With the impeachment vote coming just 11 months before the next presidential and congressional elections, Republicans said they believed it was Democrats who would be hurt.
“Pelosi has made this the party of impeachment,” Scalize said of Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. ”Clearly this has been a personal vendetta they’ve been carrying out to please their most radical base.”
“What we’re defining ourselves as is defenders of the Constitution,” said Rep. Lynn Cheney, R-Wyoming, another member of House GOP leadership. Asked if it was risky for the GOP to unanimously align itself with Trump, she said, “There is absolutely zero peril for the Republican Party to align itself with the Constitution.’’
One freshman Democrat from a closely divided district is Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, who is supporting impeachment.
“It’s about the presidency and I think it’s about upholding rule of law,” she said when asked how the GOP’s solid support for Trump would affect that party’s reputation. “So their conscience and their oaths are their own to consider.”
Peter Wehner, a Republican who served in the White House under GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, said the Republican vote against impeaching Trump would only strengthen the “absolute headlock” he has on his party.
“For some period of time, the brand is going to be the Trump brand, which is divisive, misogynistic and unethical,” Wehner said. “The trouble for Republicans is that brand, the searing impression it’s going to leave, is going to be most vivid for the rising generation of voters.”


Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

Updated 27 September 2020

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

  • Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops downed 2 Azerbaijani helicopters and 3 drones in response to an attack
  • Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it launched a military operation along the “contact line”

YEREVAN: Armenia said early on Sunday that neighboring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 0410 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, in turn, said it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.

Meanwhile, Turkey vowed complete support for Baku and called on Armenia to give up its “aggression.”
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkey is a key ally of Baku with close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan due to a dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Armenia says is a genocide.
“The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia’s aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire,” Akar said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly” condemned the clashes and said Armenia “once again violated international law and (has) shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.”
He called on the international community to “say stop to this dangerous provocation” in a tweet.
“Azerbaijan is not alone. It has Turkey's full support,” Kalin added.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement went further, promising: “However Azerbaijan wants, we will stand by Azerbaijan in that manner.”
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.