Ken Starr once said “[Y]ou cannot defile the temple of justice,” in reference to his investigation of President Clinton. I suspect he, along with Alan Dershowitz and Robert Ray, will do just that as members of Trump’s impeachment legal team. Their biggest challenge, however, might not be wrangling Trump or even defiling the law—it might just be a two-bit Ukrainian-American businessman named Lev (or similar goon).
Lev Parnas, a former “associate” of fallen New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, released a trove of documents and correspondences that fill in substantial gaps in the Trump-Ukraine scandal. Since the release of these documents earlier this week, Parnas has already given multiple interviews, giving the public a peek behind the curtain of the unusual and shifty position he had as one of Giuliani’s associates.
Almost certainly, more information will be released. My guess is that the other Giuliani associate arrested with Parnas, Igor Fruman, will come forward with information of his own in an attempt to show good-faith, a leave turned, or what have you. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Parnas made the comment that “It felt like my family left me,” referring to how his former circle left him high and dry after his arrest. I suspect Fruman feels similarly, and will justify any “talking” with his current legal troubles and sense of betrayal from the den of thieves.
For obvious reasons, all this amounts to trouble for Trump and his legal team (who probably have the most thankless job ever divined by this cruel universe), but also to a large extent trouble for Senate Republicans. As more concrete information about Trump’s conspiracy to leverage disbursement of military aid to the Ukraine comes to light, Senate Republicans look increasingly unjustified in their impeachment trial game-plan. As it stands now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to have any interest in holding a meaningful impeachment trial. As per usual, Senate Republicans are following his lead. This likely means no testimonies from any of the many characters in this saga.
But, here’s the thing: I’m not sure it really matters if anyone gets to testify. If anyone like Parnas, Fruman, Bolton, or, God willing, Giuliani, publicly reveal just the right amount of damaging information to save their own asses, it’s probably game over and Trump will have a high likelihood of being convicted by the Senate. Why? Trump is edging ever closer to becoming an untouchable; and yes, I believe there is a tipping point, even for Senate Republicans if not McConnell himself.
Despite what people like to say about Trump’s steady approval rating, Senate Republicans will cry uncle before they go down with Trump. They risk alienating any reasonable people who would even consider voting, not just for them individually, but for Republicans generally in the future if they so blatantly overlook the preponderance of evidence against Trump. The long-term viability of the party as a legitimate American institution is in extreme risk as they venture ever further down what has become the Beltway’s equivalent of the River Styx.
The biggest problem with the Republican Party’s strategy in backing Trump is simple: they’ve riled-up an electorate that wants a dynasty and will no longer settle for a conventional candidate. They’ve smoked the good stuff, so they think, and will forever be searching for a better high. That’s completely unsustainable for Republicans, and that’s probably the biggest reason why they’d cut their losses. And all it takes to fell this house of cards is one Lev, or similar.