After another tumultuous week in Washington, with the prospect of impeachment growing by the day, Donald Trump faced a stinging rebuke from the man who holds the president’s fate in his hands: the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove the president. The New York Times reported this week that McConnell has begun preparing his caucus, offering a PowerPoint presentation “complete with quotes from the constitution, as he schooled fellow senators on the intricacies of a process he portrayed as all but inevitable”.
But as some Republican moderates will face pressure at the ballot box over impeachment, so foreign policy remains a key GOP interest, particularly the need for the US to look strong and to fight Islamic extremists.
McConnell’s rebuke was both oblique and partisan: he did not mention Trump by name and he did mention, and blame, Barack Obama three times. But it was nonetheless a rebuke.
“There is no substitute for American leadership,” he wrote. “No other nation can match our capability to spearhead multinational campaigns that can defeat terrorists and help stabilise the region. Libya and Syria both testify to the bloody results of the Obama administration’s ‘leading from behind’.”
McConnell also made pointed reference to bipartisan agreement in the Senate.
“In January,” he wrote, “following indications that the president was considering withdrawing US forces from Syria and Afghanistan … the Senate stepped up. A bipartisan supermajority of 70 senators supported an amendment I wrote [which] stated our opposition to prematurely exiting Syria or Afghanistan.”
McConnell said he had been “disheartened that nearly all the Senate Democrats running for president” did not back the amendment but “the consensus position of nearly all Republicans and a number of Democrats was encouraging”.