Littwin: The indelible stain on Trump’s presidency belongs to the entire Republican Party

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: U.S. President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade in the Rose Garden at the White House on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. Om December 18, 2019, Trump became the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: U.S. President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade in the Rose Garden at the White House on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. On December 18, 2019, Trump became the third president to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The headline, of course, is that Donald Trump is the third president to ever be impeached, and that whatever happens in the Senate — where we can expect a sure acquittal — won’t erase the historic stain on his legacy, as if legacy would ever be the right word to describe the damage Trump will inevitably leave behind him.

But to think the stain will stick solely to Trump misses the point. If you watched the eight hours of non-debate in the House and the impeachment votes that followed — wherein the lone Republican voting in favor of impeachment was ex-Republican Justin Amash, who left the GOP because he could no longer tolerate being in the Party of Trump — the mark is also forever stamped on the Trump enablers, the Vichyites, those who have helped to make the cult of Trump possible and, I shudder to think, possibly enduring.

On the cable shows, they were quick to point to the stark partisanship of our times as a culprit here — and, yes, one of three Democrats to defect on impeachment is apparently switching parties — but what happened on the House floor went far beyond partisanship, far beyond the outdated red vs. blue dynamic, and leads directly into what makes the Trump presidency so dangerous.

It wasn’t just that the Republicans — many of them rightly fearful of Trump’s power with the GOP base — defended Trump so completely. Or that so many were intent on showing off their fluency in Trump-talk — Stalinist, socialist, delusional, total Schiff show — as well as in applying the Trump standard to, uh, truth-telling. I mean, Trump as corruption fighter?

The real issue — even more obvious than the facts in the case, that Trump tried to browbeat Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing he would open a phony investigation against the Bidens — is that no Republican stood up to concede Trump had done anything wrong. One or two were brave enough not to nominate Trump for a Nobel on the spot, but that’s as far as the dissent got.

Since Trump described the infamous July 25 call as “perfect,” it seems Republicans have been competing to see who could best make the case. The clear winner Wednesday was Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who said Jesus had gotten a fairer shot from Pontius Pilate than Trump did from Democrats.

Others didn’t go all New Testament on us. They just went medieval. What we heard was that it was all a Democratic sham, a plot to undermine the 2016 election, a slap at the 63 million who voted for Trump. Didn’t Zelensky say he felt no pressure? Didn’t Ukraine eventually get the money without making any announcement? Wasn’t it only unelected bureaucrats who ever said anything about quid pro quo? 

It was all easy enough to counter, if anyone was listening (and no one was). And Democrats tried. John Bolton’s mention of the Giuliani-Mulvaney “drug deal.” The testimony that Ukraine did know of the $390 million of military aid being held up and that it didn’t get the money until the whistleblower complaint landed. Mick Mulvaney’s very public “quid pro quo” admission. Trump’s very public admission that, yes, he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

I mean, it was as if everyone had blocked out that part of the Zelensky call when Trump said, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…”

In one of the few bright moments of the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, in the speech of his life, laid out the case against Trump with unexpected eloquence. But eloquence was wasted on this day. Trump deserved to be impeached. More than that, he dared Democrats to impeach him. But as much as Trump, it was the enablers — he did nothing wrong, nothing — who forced Nancy Pelosi’s hand. It was the enablers who failed to object when Trump said that Article II of the Constitution meant he could do whatever he wanted, including sandbagging Congress at will.

When Bill Clinton was impeached, he was, of course, contrite about lying. That’s Bill Clinton all over. Few people can do contrition as well as he can. But many Democrats noted their disappointment in his behavior even if a strong majority said they didn’t believe that lying about sex, even perjured lying about sex, rose to the level of removing a president.

There was no contrition here. No one said, yeah, Trump may have crossed a few lines, but you don’t overturn an election for that. When Trump was asked if he felt any responsibility for the impeachment proceedings, he said no. Of course he said no. He was too busy, I guess, tweeting about Pelosi’s teeth falling out of her mouth. You really can’t make this stuff up.

On the night of impeachment, Trump was at a rally in Michigan complaining about Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell’s vote for impeachment. She had succeeded her late husband — the long-serving Michigan Rep. John Dingell — in office. And during a condolence call from Trump after Dingell’s funeral, she had told the president she thought her husband was “looking down” on the proceedings. Which prompted to Trump to, uh, joke at the rally that maybe Dingell was actually “looking up” instead of down. What do you do when impeachment just isn’t enough?

Democrats said they were forced to impeach Trump now, 11 months before the 2020 election, because he’s on a “crime spree” and might cross even more uncrossable lines if not stopped. That’s not a stretch, particularly knowing the Senate won’t convict him. The truth is, he’ll cross whatever line you draw in front of him because that’s who Trump is. And the sound you’ll hear will be the dependably craven congressional Republicans cheering him on. Because that’s who they are.


  1. Yes…Colorado houses a few of these republican trumpers….the worst one is Comrade Senator Corrupt Con-man Gardner…He KNOWS that trump is guilty of everything…Yet, here he is, defending the guy, in full knowledge that he is committing a crime as well…then there are the loud, and mostly whiny republicans, always with the projection, and never with the truth….It is a good thing we have many great Democrats in our government, both here and in DC, willing to honor their oaths of office to protect us from the crime ridden and pathetic republicans…

  2. Mike, first GREAT pic to go with the piece, and I agree totally with what you wrote. I did think Jon Meacham’s (historical perspective) comments yesterday were thought-provoking though. We’re all at least partly responsible for allowing the country to get to this place, where critical thinking and thoughtful discourse and reason—Lincoln’s “better angels” are gagged by greed and fear. If you didn’t see his comments, I recommend them.

  3. “Vichyites”? I wonder how many we lost there. I wonder if that even Googles. Good analogy, though. I’d love to see someone take a crack at illustrating/cartooning what a bottle of toxic Trump “Vichy Water” would look like.

  4. Funny how conservatives are such a fan of judicial activism from judges who don’t share the positions of the majority of Americans.

    That’s a textbook definition of the celebration of the tyranny of the minority.

    That’s quite a policy stance.

  5. Many thanks for this and other columns, Mike. I am a US American abroad, reading your sage words from the “s*&hole” country of Rwanda, which is actually the “Switzerland of Africa” and much more peaceful, stable and relatively prosperous than the USA or my original home of the UK. Cheers, Jeremy

  6. Jay, You paint with too narrow brush. I have not seen honest poll for many years, and have lived through many administrations. Born in FDR era, of Depression, which was extended far too long, as he and Harry Hopkins ( advisor) imitated what was happening in Russia, with Marxist policies.
    ———- History recorded what happened with a Social Democrat, in Germany, who was Army Corporal during WW I. And whole world went to war. So are you going to lead Colorado into that same path, so future generations will know what nuclear war really is, when practiced over entire planet? Mike littwin seems to have great desire to be that “Corporal” though I do not remember him having served in any army, of any country. May be wrong about that.

  7. Jeremy, Have you considered how much torture, killing, injuring it takes to achieve that “peaceful, stable, relatively prosperous” that you write about? If all those countries are so peaceful, and happy with their government, why are so many trying to get out of there, and all seem to look to USA as a safe, place to work? Just asking, what experience you have, and your status is in that country? Are you part of stabilizing, representing USA?
    ——I served during 1950 to 1976, and did not see, read, or hear of those countries being so peaceful, through all the Administration , 1930s to now.

  8. who cares what you think trump has done or not done? The US Senate will throw out the BS Impeachment of which they have nothing on him to even convict him with. But it was okay when Clinton was helping the cigar industry in the 1990s and hanging out with Monica Lewinsky. I wil vite for Trump againand so will my wife, the only regret I have is not being able ot vote multiple times for Trump. I am moer curious if it ever comes out to see how much Biden(aka Bite Me) and his idiot son were doing in the Ukraine, maybe that is why Pelosi (aka Pussy Galore) is not so quick to send articles of impeachemnt to the Senate because she might hurt Biden. His son is about as shady as it gets.

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