As the media’s hysteria died down Monday over the Senate's vote against witnesses, President Trump's impending acquittal approaches deflating the media’s hopes and dreams. During a break in the trial Monday, ABC News broke in to tout their wish that more punishment would come to President Trump through a Senate censure.
ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams argued the only honest action Republicans could do at this point would be to put a “permanent branding” on President Trump by condemning his phone call with the Ukraine as “wrong” even if it wasn’t impeachable:
There's an intellectually consistent position to take on that which is, that you can take the position that it was wrong but that he shouldn't be removed from office over it. And that to me is the only fight remaining, which is are they going to get -- you want to talk about impeachment, having a stamp, a permanent branding on him, I don't know that that has it. If you have enough Republican senators saying it was wrong, that's more of a brand. That's more of a deterrent to him doing it again….
Senior national correspondent Terry Moran also hoped more Republicans would be “willing” to condemn President Trump, for the public and history’s sake.
To chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, Moran posed, "[S]o who's going to go on a limb and do what we're talking about. Which Republicans out there are willing to take this to the public and to the official record for history, what he did was wrong, what he did was inappropriate and I want to state that on the record. You're going to get punished if you do that, yeah?"
To congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, Moran hyped the possibility that the Senate could punish Trump with an official censure, instead; something that hasn't happened to any president since Andrew Jackson:
On the question, look we're talking about something that the president has done that warrants conviction and removal from office versus something he's done that's wrong but doesn't deserve that punishment. That sounds like a case for censure in a normal Senate maybe. You hear any whispers of anything like that? That senators are saying, ‘well, you know, let's lay it on the record in a formal way, let's have a censure of the president for this conduct.'
Bruce didn’t disappoint, touting how such a thing was being talked about, noting that Republicans are “looking for some way...to voice their displeasure.”
As Bruce continued spreading Democrat fears that Trump was a “danger” to the 2020 election, she was more skeptical about Republicans downplaying these concerns. Moran also was incredulous. “Has Donald Trump learned a lesson from this?” he wondered.
Abrams claimed it was dependent on Republicans to publicly censure President Trump, for America’s future:
“This is why it becomes critical as to what the Republican senators do and say about this. If there's the sense they're taking the position enmasse the president did nothing wrong, then there is no accountability, then this was all for naught, then the whistle-blowers and others who came forward should be concerned about [the] future,” he claimed.
Read a partial transcript of ABC's live coverage, below:
ABC Live Special Impeachment Coverage
12:17:06-12:20:52 PM EST
TERRY MORAN: That raises a question. This breathtaking takeover of the Republican party by a person who just a few years ago was a Democrat and who in many ways repudiates much of the Republican orthodoxy and gospel of the Republican party over the past 25 years, now he owns it, as Cecilia says, so who's going to go on a limb and do what we're talking about. Which Republicans out there are willing to take this to the public and to the official record for history, what he did was wrong, what he did was inappropriate and I want to state that on the record. You're going to get punished if you do that, yeah?
JON KARL: Indeed. We saw Lamar Alexander do that even as he was announcing his vote against having witnesses. He made it clear that he believed that what the president did was was wrong, just again, not to the level of removing him from office. Obviously Mitt Romney has been out there but he's really been a caucus of one in the Senate. He's the lone republic who has gone out time and time again to criticize the president but by and large this is his party, as Cecilia said, and even those Republicans who are up for re-election in purple states, states that are not solidly Republican, even those Republicans like Cory Gardner, have made a calculation to survive in this Republican party you've got to stand with the president.
MORAN: That may be one of the reasons why Susan Collins is in as much trouble as it seems she is, that she hasn't attached herself at the hip to Donald Trump as Cory Gardner has. I want to go to Mary Bruce, if i can. On the question, look we're talking about something that the president has done that warrants conviction and removal from office versus something he's done that's wrong but doesn't deserve that punishment. That sounds like a case for censure in a normal senate maybe. You hear any whispers of anything like that that senators are saying, well, you know, let's lay it on the record in a formal way, let's have a censure of the president for this conduct.
MARY BRUCE: It's certainly something that has become a topic of conversation here. Right now It's not clear if they're really going to go ahead and take that step but they certainly are looking for some way, right, to voice their displeasure. Though perhaps given the way this process has shaped out, they just leave it as is.
But it is interesting to this conversation about the Republican party. Yes, you are seeing some Republicans coming out and saying that what the president did was not right. Not something I would have done as one of his top defenders said over the weekend, but that is still a very small number of Republicans. It is surprising when they do it because it is so rare, but this is not some, you know, overwhelming number here. In fact, I could probably count them on one hand. You have still seen -- I know because I've been asking the question now for months -- top Republicans who have still simply not given an answer to that question of how they feel about the president's actions regardless of the question of whether it rises to the level of impeachment. It will be interesting when we get to this next phase because after the closing arguments senators will have a chance to go to the floor and speak their mind. It's something that we know Democrats pushed for because they are considering the lens of history here and many of their members who have had to sit silently now for weeks want to get their view on the record. Some Republicans are likely to take advantage of that as well, especially Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, perhaps Lamar Alexander and others who have very publicly wrestled with this process. It's also a chance for them to go and get their opinion on all of this and on the president's actions into the record as well. It's something that will be very interesting to watch tomorrow as we head towards this final vote, Terry.
MORAN: It may be the primary interest in these proceedings, as they end with a whimper not a bang, I guess.