In Texas on Thursday, former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said that at least 35 Republican senators would vote to impeach the president — if they could do so privately.
Flake's colleagues, particularly those who are up in 2020, have had precious little to say. The president has put them on a tightrope — again.
In the first days after the release of the whistleblower complaint, the country was — as usual — divided right down the middle in terms of support of impeachment proceedings: Democrats overwhelmingly for, Republicans overwhelmingly against, independents not yet convinced. I put it that way because what should be worrying Republicans, among many other things, is that the news keeps getting worse and worse, and with it, the inevitability of articles of impeachment being not only introduced but also approved.
It is terrible to be afraid of your own president. But how can you not be? Even people with borderline personality disorder generally have some limits.
Donald Trump has none.
No limits. No judgment.
The only question is what his party will do.
When I worked at the Democratic National Committee 10 years after Watergate, the most stunning thing to me was that Richard Nixon risked his presidency to wiretap a struggling fundraising operation in what was shaping up to be a landslide defeat for Democrats. How insecure could he have been? And, really, is Hunter Biden an effective weapon against the father of Donald Trump Jr.? Why would the president take such needless and reckless risks?
For Trump, it's not insecurity. Just the opposite. It is the monumental arrogance of a monarch who is above the law. It is precisely what the Founding Fathers rebelled against.
Of all the things Donald Trump doesn't need, it is the help of a foreign power to get himself re-elected. And using Hunter Biden as the weapon? After years of defending his own family's finances? Donald Trump is many things but not stupid. Having spent the last two years denying that he ever sought such help, he picks up the phone and breaks every rule of diplomacy and democracy and asks Ukraine to dig dirt on his rival's son ...
And then, when the news comes out, he goes on a rant about the whistleblower being a traitor.
Why shouldn't he act like he is above the law? His party has allowed him to be.
Democrats will proceed. The president, by his actions and reactions, has made that inevitable.
This is not "fake news." Imagine Bill Clinton or Barack Obama doing any of those things. Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans would be frothing, trampling one another in their rush to condemn these acts as "high crimes and misdemeanors."
So what does he do now? What do his colleagues do? What do Republicans who have always held themselves out as believing in the rule of law do when the leader of their party so flagrantly and blatantly ignores it?
Trump had almost gotten past special counsel Robert Mueller. But there is no ending the disaster with Trump, because he is the problem. There's no staff change that matters, no inquiry that will stop him.
Subpoenas will be issued. Hearings will be held. There is simply no context in which the president's comments are defensible. The conclusions are inevitable: Hunter Biden did nothing wrong. Joe Biden certainly did nothing wrong. The president sought the help of a foreign leader in his partisan re-election.
What more do Republicans need? What more do independents need?
The issue now is not whether Elizabeth Warren (or Joe Biden) can be nominated or elected. It is whether Donald Trump can be. An impeachment trial is formerly judged by the Republican Senate. This one will also be judged in November, if not before.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)