The reports on the ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurds — and that is what Turkey is doing — are heartbreaking. Supposedly, there is real anger among Senate Republicans about Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds, but what is not getting reported is the inadequate response from those supposedly outraged Republicans: economic sanctions on Turkey. Some Senate Democrats are saying outloud that sanctions against Turkey will not stop the Kurdish ethnic cleansing.
“By the time sanctions are imposed on Turkey many of our key allies in the fight against ISIS will have been killed,” Sen. Brian Schatz, a senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a tweet. “Republicans in the Senate have to do more than disagree. They must use all their power as Senators to push back. Everything else is for show and for cover.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a series of tweets Thursday that only the president, and not Congress, could repair the crisis, and he called on Republicans to pressure Trump.
“Trump, not sanctions, can save the Kurds. So shouldn’t GOP be using the MASSIVE leverage they have over him right now to get him to change course, instead of passing sanctions he’ll ignore anyway?” he said. “Splitting NATO is a huge win for Russia.”
That leverage Murphy is talking about is the Senate firewall against removing Trump from office. Think that is a reach? You need to read what conservative lawyer and commentator Andrew McCarthy of the National Review wrote about this very topic.
I’d wager that the flames of impeachment were stoked more this week by President Trump’s foreign policy than they have been by any purported impeachable offense his opponents have conjured up over the last three years. By redeploying a few dozen American troops in Syria, the president acceded to a Turkish invasion of territory occupied by the Kurds. Ostensibly, that has nothing to do with the impeachment frenzy over Ukraine, whose government Democrats accuse the president of pressuring to dig up dirt on a political rival. But Turkey’s aggression could crack the president’s impeachment firewall.
There is rage over Trump’s decision. It is rage over a policy choice, not over high crimes and misdemeanors. Only the most blindly angry can doubt the lawfulness of the commander-in-chief’s movement of U.S. soldiers, even though it rendered inevitable the Turks’ rout of the Kurds.
Ironically, though, the lack of an impeachable offense is not the relevant impeachment consideration. Nor does it matter much that, while excruciating, the president’s decision is defensible and will be applauded by Americans weary of entanglement in the Muslim Middle East’s wars (as I discussed in a column on Thursday).
What matters is that President Trump has damaged his support among Senate Republicans. How badly remains to be seen.
As you can see from the above, McCarthy thinks that Trump’s actions with Turkey and the Syrian Kurds are defensible. But McCarthy goes into the argument that removal of a president is a political action, and while the Senate will “judge” any articles of impeachment from the House, there is no way to remove political considerations about a president’s fitness for office from any trial in the Senate. In other words, while the House Democrats may not include Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds in an article of impeachment, the Senate Republicans may factor this into any decisions they make about Trump.
I want to stress that McCarthy is not some never Trumper, at least from what I have read about him.
Anyway, if the Senate Republicans really wanted to try and save the Kurds, they would get on the phone and threaten Trump with a “yes” vote on impeachment. Trump would cave. He caved before when it came to shutting down the government. Tragically, we will witness the slaughter of the Kurds before Senate Republicans grow some spines.