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Trump's impeachment trial comes at a high point for fans

Posted January 19, 2020 8:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2020 8:44 p.m. EST

— As Donald Trump sees it, America lucked out with a good President — "even though they're trying to impeach the son of a b***h."

With his impeachment trial pending, critics see a train wreck. Yet Trump's moment of historic shame comes at a high point for fans -- and explains why Republican senators are in no mood to convict him.

Border crossings by undocumented migrants are way down. Trump stood up to China, Mexico and Canada and got new trade deals. Freeloading allies are spending more on defense. Unemployment is at half century lows. Stocks are up and who doesn't like rising wages? Those liberal media hacks and Washington snowflakes had it coming. And so what if Trump leaned on Ukraine for dirt on his political rivals?

Take the killing of Qasem Soleimani: Foreign policy sages fret about long-term reprisals from Iran, the administration's unsubstantiated casus belli and an impulsive commander-in-chief. Yet supporters see a decisive President zapping an enemy who had helped kill hundreds of US soldiers, and rocking a regime that preaches "death to America."

You can choose your truth about the Trump presidency. The big trade deals, for example, are effectively climb downs. Mexico never did pay for the wall, and Trump's separation of children from undocumented parents will stain America's conscience. And beyond impeachment, he's knee-deep in financial investigations and accusations of self-dealing.

Trump's historically grim approval ratings should spell 2020 disaster. Much of the rest of the world is rooting against him, and millions of Americans are just exhausted. But a good chunk of the nation thinks Trump is doing a great job, and others may be open to persuasion.

Meanwhile, the President has a potent reelection narrative: Trump the outsider never went native in Washington, and he didn't forget who sent him there. That's his best hope for November's election.

'History will find you'

That's Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, warning his Republican colleagues that they will pay a price in posterity if they do not allow the admission of witnesses that he believes are key to a fair impeachment trial in the Senate. "I hope at the end of the day enough Republican senators will understand history will find you. Make certain that you can make a decision that you live with in terms of our constitution and your own professional career," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

1868 vs. 1998

After the White House announced that Harvard professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz would join Trump's impeachment defense team, the man known as a "lawyer of last resort" began previewing his arguments on television.

Over the weekend, Dershowitz told CNN's "State of the Union" that he would deploy an 1868 reasoning that a president's conduct must be "criminal-like" in order to justify impeachment (referencing the same historic impeachment case that US Vice President Mike Pence described in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Friday). He also argued on ABC's "This Week" that the House's charges against Trump aren't the kind of impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors" imagined by the nation's founders.

But back in 1998, Dershowitz had a slightly different stance on what it took to get impeached, telling Larry King that "it certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime."

"We look at their acts of state," he added. "We look at how they conduct the foreign policy. We look at whether they try to subvert the Constitution the way Iran-Contra did by going behind the back of Congress."

Number of the day: 2

The supporters of two back-of-the-pack Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Andrew Yang, could end up making a decisive difference in the Iowa caucuses -- for one of the race's frontrunners. As CNN's Dan Merica explains, Iowa rules allow voters whose preferred candidates don't make a minimum threshold to "realign" with another candidate who did.

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