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Bill Straub: Where is the line drawn on reprehensible conduct? After Sondland testimony, where is honor?

Well, it’s beginning to look like Trump was quite prescient when he declared during his successful 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” That bold statement apparently can be extended to the Republican members of the Senate, who have exhibited absolutely no enthusiasm for convicting and removing a president who has transformed the White House into a mob hangout.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, who has eagerly accepted the task of cleaning up after whatever mess, no matter how disgusting, Trump has made for him, is on record as saying it is “inconceivable” that the Republican-controlled chamber will come up with the votes necessary to hand ol’ Extremely Stable Genius his walking papers.

“I can’t imagine a scenario under which President Trump would be removed from office with 67 votes in the Senate,” McConnell said during a stop in Louisville on Monday.

McConnell, you’ll recall, has a history with impeachment, voting to convict President Bill Clinton in 1999 for lying under oath about a sexual affair with a White House intern. That effort fell short of the requisite number of votes to remove Clinton from office.

By any standard, Clinton’s gross and dishonest behavior falls significantly short of Trump’s overt conduct, done for political gain and raising understandable questions about the intentions of the United States in the eyes of the rest of the world.

But McConnell is seeking re-election in a Trump-crazy state in 2020 – The Donald carried the Commonwealth by almost 33 points against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and remains popular throughout – and has offered assurances that President Great and Unmatched Wisdom will continue to drive the nation off the rails if he has anything to say about it.

“The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader,” McConnell said in a web ad. Ol’ Root-‘n-Branch also introduced a resolution with Sen. Lindsey Graham criticizing the House’s impeachment proceedings.

Back in September, with much of the evidence against Trump already public, McConnell scoffed that it was “laughable to think this is anywhere close to an impeachable offense.”

“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand,” he said.

McConnell was whistling a different tune in 1999. In a transcript of a closed-door hearing held on Feb. 12, 1999, obtained and published by CNN, McConnell accused Clinton of blazing a “path of lies and lawlessness” to retain the presidency.

“He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, and he violated that oath,” McConnell said. “He pledged to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and he violated that pledge. He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he willfully and repeatedly violated that oath.”

“I think that the United States Senate has a clear choice,” McConnell said at the time. “Do we want to retain President Clinton in office, or do we want to retain our honor, our principle, and our moral authority? “For me, and for many members in my impeachment-fatigued party, I choose honor.”

“I choose honor.” That must be the most ludicrously laughable string of words ol’ Mitch has ever uttered. Who knew our boy was such a comedian? It’s like Belle Brezing offering a lecture on the benefits of chastity. Obviously, as he has demonstrated throughout his godawful tenure as Senate majority leader, ol’ Mitch doesn’t have a clue about anything having to do with honor, principle or moral authority. The only thing he knows is placing party above country.

In McConnell’s view, Trump has “done nothing wrong.” Clinton lied about a tryst. That was impeachable. Trump withheld funds approved by Congress and refused to meet the president of Ukraine unless he publicly declared that the nation was undertaking a bogus investigation into a political rival. He then lied about it, and almost everything else under the sun, constantly. That’s not impeachable.

Honor. That word should never be allowed to slip out of the pursed lips of Addison Mitchell McConnell.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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