If there is one thing that Donald Trump does not need exactly at this point in the impeachment inquiry is to alienate US Republican Senators.
But giving way to Turkey's President Erdogan and dropping the Kurds might cost Trump the impeachment battle.
Here, Trump simply miscalculated. His move to “bring the troops back home” from Syria by dumping the Kurds backfired miserably.
That alone in the recent days made more Republican Senators rise against him in opposition than all of his Ukraine and Russia shady dealings and unconstitutional conduct combined. And some of this anger is already being transferred to the impeachment inquiry.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham – the second most important Republican Senator in the impeachment – was visibly pissed off with Trump’s decision in Syria for which he was not even consulted. He called it “irresponsible” and "unnerving to the core".
Several days ago, Senator Mitt Romney found himself rather alone as the first Republican Senator to break ranks when he spoke out against Trump’s conduct in the July call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
But several days later, Lindsey Graham – obviously angry – announced on Tuesday that he will have Rudy Guiliani speak before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Ukraine matters. That, of course, opens Guiliani up to grilling by Senate Democrats, and Senator Dianne Feinstein is ready to go, as she said on Tuesday. On the face of it, it might look like Graham is trying to help Trump, but this is really a pay back.
Who would’ve guessed? It worked like a charm. Republican Senators are visibly irritated with Trump over the Kurds. Much so that they are directing this anger at the impeachment inquiry.
This is the one thing Trump shouldn't have done.
Staunch anti-impeachment bulwark Mitch McConnel – who will be the key figure as Senate Majority Leader when the impeachment reaches the Senate -- also spoke against Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. So did Republican Senator Ben Sasse. Romney and Republican Senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement criticizing Trump for severely undercutting American credibility. Republican Senator Susan Collins called it a “terribly unwise decision”.
Republican Senator Liz Cheny – the third most important Republican Senator in the impeachment – said Trump’s decision was “sickening”. Even Republican Senator Marco Rubio who is well known for being a Trump excuser rose up criticizing Trump over the Kurds.
Then on Wednesday, the big news came that Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Chris van Hollen were introducing a bill to sanction Turkish leadership and any military assistance to Turkey. The sanctions include visa travel restrictions on the Turkish leaders which will actually prevent Trump from meeting Erdogan in Washington next month, as was initially planned.
The Kurds question – which may have seemed of third-rate importance of the “tribal” kind to Trump -- is the turning point, a crack in the unified Republican Senator front in the impeachment.
Trump brought this upon himself. It is hard to imagine anything at this point that would have Republican Senators more unnerved. Many of them have spent years crafting these policies and working with the Kurds to have it undone by Trump in just a phone call.
In seeking a distraction from the impeachment or a reminder of why people elected him, Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds by withdrawing US forces has done him more wrong than if he had just stood still and done literally nothing in the impeachment saga.
The impeachment needs 20 Republican Senators to vote against Trump and one could see the cracks.
Disagreement over foreign policy has long been a point of divergence between him and Republican Senators and that as well might be the secret to Trump’s impeachment, as the Kurds episode seems to foreshadow.