Juan Williams: Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose

Juan Williams: Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose

As the political winds shift in the perfect storm of the 2020 election and impeachment, think about this:

GOP strategist Mike Murphy last week said on MSNBC that a Republican senator had told him that as many as 30 GOP senators would vote to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE if it were a secret ballot.

Let’s give those 30 Republicans the benefit of the doubt. Each of them has a conscience. Maybe they can’t live with giving Trump a free pass on using military aid money to press another country to find dirt on his Democratic rival, Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE.

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At the risk of sounding cynical, it does occur to me that Senate Republicans for the first time see Trump’s scandal possibly costing them their majority.

Next year, 23 Senate Republicans will be up for reelection with Trump at the top of the ticket.

Murphy warned that, given Trump’s antics, Senate Republicans are thinking they are “going to lose Colorado with Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump: 100 ventilators 'immediately' being sent to Colorado GOP senator calls for investigation into 'mismanagement' of strategic ventilators Romney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine MORE. We’re going to lose Maine with Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Senators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Senators push for changes to small business aid MORE. We’re going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play.”

At one time, Trump kept Capitol Hill Republicans in line by threatening to have his supporters back a primary challenge to any dissenting GOP member seeking reelection.

Now, that threat has to be weighed against the increasing fear of a weakened president handing the Senate to Democrats.

There is evidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) sees impeachment imperiling his majority next year.

Last week, McConnell showed independence from Trump by coming out publicly in support of continuing military aid to Ukraine.

More important, he also pushed the White House to share the whistleblower complaint with Congress.

And McConnell has to deal with a well-known Senate Republican daring to separate himself from Trump on the Ukraine scandal — Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Senators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus MORE (R-Utah).

Romney said he is “deeply troubled” to see reports of Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to damage Biden. And he later told reporters: “I can’t imagine being in the Senate or in any other position of responsibility and looking around to see who’s with you. You stand for what you believe in.”

Loss of the majority might prompt Republican senators to start their own version of the wave of retirements — 15 so far — that have hit House Republicans since Democrats claimed that majority in the 2018 midterms.

Team Trump knows it has a problem. The president last week tweeted out a video of Romney’s sad, losing face on the night of the 2012 presidential election.

And Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump jokes he'll 'look into' pardon for 'Tiger King' after asked by reporter at virus briefing Twitter says coronavirus disinformation spread by Chinese officials does not violate rules Former lawyer for trophy hunting group joins Trump administration MORE described Romney as “forever bitter that my father succeeded where he so embarrassingly failed.” The son added that Romney is straying from the president because he is “desperate to be loved by the left and the media.”

But Romney is not the only Republican willing to speak out.

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseAmerica's governors should fix unemployment insurance Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus MORE (R-Neb.) — who was recently endorsed for reelection by Trump — is on the record as saying Republicans “ought not just circle the wagons.”

And outside the Senate, Republican voices challenging Trump for the GOP nomination suddenly, thanks to impeachment, have a larger platform.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldTrump becomes presumptive GOP nominee after sweeping primaries Trump sweeps through mini-Super Tuesday primaries Trump glides to victory in Super Tuesday GOP primaries MORE, one of three Republicans challenging Trump for the GOP nomination, said Trump’s telephone call with the Ukrainian president amounted to “treason, pure and simple.”

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The shifting political dynamic among Republicans is a budding version of the sudden shift among moderate Democrats in the House that led Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls for investigation into reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in DHS custody Wisconsin highlights why states need a bipartisan plan that doesn't include Democrats federalizing elections Pelosi defends push for mail-in voting: GOP 'afraid' to let people vote MORE (D-Calif.) to announce the start of impeachment.

Pelosi shifted only after seven moderate freshman Democrats — several from districts Trump won in 2016 and all with national security backgrounds — penned an op-ed for The Washington Post calling for impeachment.

Until those moderates stood up, Pelosi had a clear reason to resist calls for impeachment. She was protecting them, and in doing so, boosting her own chances of keeping her House majority.

“As members of Congress, we have prioritized delivering for our constituents — remaining steadfast in our focus on health care, infrastructure, economic policy and our communities’ priorities,” the seven freshmen wrote. “Yet everything we do harks back to our oaths to defend the country. These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect.”

Now more than half the members of the US House of Representatives — 223 as of Saturday — have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.

These politicians know how to read polls. And the polls are shifting in favor of impeachment, too.

Before Pelosi’s announcement a majority of Americans opposed impeachment.

Last week, an NPR/PBS/Marist poll found 49 percent backing for an impeachment inquiry and 46 percent opposition.

The preservation of political power, pure self-interest — from both Democrats and Republicans — is at the heart of the start of impeachment proceedings against the 45th president of the United States.

CORRECTION: Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, members of Congress can force a vote every six months on Trump's declaration of a national emergency. The vote cannot be prevented by GOP leadership. An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.