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What Is Mitch McConnell Thinking?

Mitch McConnell

Now comes McConnell’s impeachment effort, as effective and well-thought as his filibuster defense effort, and it is already looking like an embarrassing and risky bit of 4D chess.


Josh Holmes, the Mitch McConnell acolyte who defends him with the sleek loyalty of Grima Wormtongue with a full Windsor, called me a dipshit the other day for reporting a quote from a deputy chief of staff for a U.S. senator. I don’t take it personally, but I do think it’s indicative that McConnell world is a bit on tilt at the moment. Having been such a failure this cycle even as the House Republicans performed so impressively can’t feel good. The McConnell folks were all projecting confidence about the two Georgia seats, saying the $2,000 stimulus checks both candidates supported were unnecessary, building up the amazing ground game and effectiveness of the most expensive advertising blitz in the history of the U.S. Senate — so to have their effort turn into such an embarrassing disaster has to have them feeling a bit defensive.

Now comes McConnell’s impeachment effort, as effective and well-thought as his filibuster defense effort, and it is already looking like an embarrassing and risky bit of 4D chess. His acolytes are already depicting this as being some kind of redo of Tea Party crazies versus the establishment. It’s obviously nothing of the kind. Graham, Scott, Scott, Cotton, Rubio, Paul, Lee, Johnson, Hawley, Cruz, Ernst, Kennedy, Risch, Cramer, and Cornyn are all on the same side here: This impeachment is vindictive, unserious, and constitutionally dubious, in addition to being politically suicidal with small-dollar donors and the only path to making Donald Trump form a third party. This position is obviously true, and disputing it requires you to twist your brain in such a way that you end up as Mitt Romney. Nobody wants that.

The GOP Senate call this week was consistent with that. “During a GOP Conference call last week, Sen. KEVIN CRAMER (R-N.D.) was among several senators who said he was flooded with calls from constituents demanding he acquit Trump. He also said he was hearing from donors — including at least one from the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC — who wanted the GOP to do more to defend Trump, according to a person on the call.

“Other GOP senators on the line — including RON JOHNSON (Wis.), JOHN KENNEDY (La.), RICK SCOTT (Fla.) and JAMES RISCH (Idaho) — complained that they were even holding an impeachment trial. They peppered McConnell with questions about their options for getting out of it, including possibly appealing to the Supreme Court to throw out the case.

“McConnell’s staff explained to the senators that the chamber would not likely have standing to stop this in court. And McConnell made clear he did not view it as his job to help Trump with his strategy. Talk to Trump ally LINDSEY GRAHAM if you have advice, the Republican leader told senators floating ideas to assist Trump.”

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul both went on the air yesterday to denounce this process, and it’s worth watching both of their appearances. The effort by Chris Wallace and George Stephanopoulos to demand that the senators defend not lighting their party on fire is pretty blatant, and there’s not a lot of subtlety to it. Essentially, they want the Republicans in the Senate to accomplish a goal they cannot: eliminate the possibility of a Trump comeback in 2024. But doing so would also obviously encourage the destruction of the Republican Party.

I can think of no single act that would do more to increase the likelihood Trump forms a third party, and Wallace and Stephanopoulos (and Tapper and Todd) know that. So let’s not play pretend. A push for impeachment doubles down on the corporate donor loss with an online donor loss and a devastating hit to the ability to channel Republican rage toward electoral benefit. It is an act of political suicide. One cannot dissolve the people and elect another. Your job is to represent them.