WASHINGTON – “My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior?” former Republican Senator Jeff Flake asked his Senate GOP colleagues in a passionate Washington Post op-ed Friday, regarding President Donald Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial.
“I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you,” he continued. “You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.”
Flake wrote to his former Senate colleagues that not only is Trump on trial, but “so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.”
Trump was impeached Wednesday on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Some time at the beginning of the new year, the articles are likely to reach the Senate to begin deliberation on whether to remove the president from office.
Trump is accused of putting pressure on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into 2020 front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had ties to a Ukrainian energy company.
Flake said Republicans could either “reasonably conclude” whether Trump’s “actions warrant his removal” or they do “not rise to the constitutional standard required for removal.”
However, he wrote, “There is no small amount of moral hazard with each option, but both positions can be defended.”
“But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has,” Flake continued.
“Personally, I have never met anyone whose behavior can be described as perfect, but so often has the president repeated this obvious untruth that it has become a form of dogma in our party,” Flake penned. “And sure enough, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that ‘the president did nothing wrong.'”
“My colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when the coequal branch follows that president off the cliff, into the abyss of unreality and untruth,” the former Arizona senator continued.
The former senator previously said that he thought at least 35 Republican senators would vote for Trump to be removed from office if they could vote in private.
His latest op-ed comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to look at sending the articles of impeachment from the House to the Senate, while Senate leadership debates how the trial should proceed. And partisanship appears to be running deep.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. R-Ky., stated recently that he believes there is “zero chance” the GOP-led Senate will remove Trump from office, and that he was in “total coordination with the White House counsel.” He desires a quick trial and has already voiced opposition to including new witnesses.
Following a meeting on Thursday with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., McConnell reiterated his desire for a quick trial and voiced his opposition to including new witnesses. Schumer instead wants to hear from additional witnesses who did not testify before either of the previous House committees investigating the charges. The leaders have yet to be able to come to an agreement.
Flake wrote that he doesn’t “envy” his old colleagues, “You’re on a big stage now. Please don’t accept an alternate reality that would have us believe in things that obviously are not true, in the service of executive behavior that we never would have encouraged and a theory of executive power that we have always found abhorrent.”
“If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late,” Flake concluded.