How much can they stand?

The moment Republicans figure Donald Trump cannot keep Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren out of the White House is the moment they decide he has to go.

The rapidity with which GOP senators went from declaring him an unfit con man  in 2016 to becoming boot-lickers following his unexpected victory was head-snapping. But it should also serve as a reminder of how quickly these people can change their minds when the need arises.

In return for a couple of supreme court justices — and because they were afraid of his base — they have put up with Trump’s lies, pornstar pay-offs and utterly un-Republican stance on trade, deficit spending, immigration and national security.

They also figured that if they pandered to his narcissism — and as long as there were enough grown-ups surrounding him to check his impulses — he couldn’t do too much damage. Why, he might even grow into the job.

That hasn’t panned out. Now Republicans are starting to look at the clock, the polls and the  inescapable fact that Trump is not making America great again. Quite the contrary. He is doing huge damage to the country and its global relationships. And he is doing it in their name.

Day by day, the evidence hardens that Trump put the squeeze on Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to help his reelection, which would be illegal. 

He wanted a statement from Zelensky he could use to slime former Vice President Joe Biden and discredit the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller that the Kremlin had helped put him in office. 

If Zelensky obliged, Trump would give him an Oval Office meeting and the weapons Ukraine needed to hold off Russian-backed revanchists in the Donbas. If not…nice country you’ve got there, Volodymyr, would be a shame to let more of it be annexed by my good friend Vladimir Putin.

The evidence is coming directly from Trump’s own mouth and that of his acting chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney; from the transcript of a telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky the White House itself edited before releasing; and from the sworn statements of Trump administration appointees. The latter confirm that Trump and his inner circle knew what they were doing had to be covered up.

This is not, as Trump’s spokesperson would have it, “a coordinated smear campaign by far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war in the Constitution” with “selective leaks” from “secretive meetings”  based on “triple hearsay”. 

Serious Republicans pols know these talking points are a sham. They were appalled when Trump on Tuesday tweeted that he was being lynched, as if he were an African-American being strung from a tree by the Ku Klux Klan.

The cracks are starting to show. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who more than anything else cares about maintaining a Republican majority in the upper chamber next year, unloaded in the Washington Post on Trump’s between-golf-rounds decision to abandon the Syrian Kurds. On Tuesday, he declined to defend Trump in a lie.

More importantly, he is indicating that if and when the House of Representatives does impeach Trump, he will not seek a Senate vote to dismiss the matter, as he could, but is ready to put the president on trial. And if he’s ready for a trial, I’d wager he’s ready for a conviction.

Why? Because, love him or loathe him, he is a politician and he has to know that Trump means disaster for his party. The hardcore Trump base is not a winning coalition. 2016 was a fluke decided by 70 000 votes in three states. The quicker Trump is gone, the more chance the Republicans have of finding and fielding a credible alternative to the Democrat, who, as of today, looks to be Warren, a genuine populist terrifying to Republican donors.

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