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In the coming weeks, we will be hearing plenty about all the pomp that goes with an impeachment trial in the Senate – along with President Trump’s blasting of Democrats and Twitter rants.

It’s no secret that Trump will be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Idaho Sen. Jim Risch worries that we may be seeing a new normal in presidential politics if Trump is defeated in November. Impeachment could be used as leverage any time that a president’s political party differs from the majority in the House.

“This would apply to Republicans and Democrats,” Risch says.

If the election comes down to the state of the economy, “then Trump should win hands down,” Risch says. “If there was anybody else other than Donald Trump that didn’t have a personality as big as all outdoors, people would be focused on what he has accomplished, opposed to how he sounds like somebody scratching a chalkboard. I won’t live to see a more prosperous time. Unemployment is at record lows. Salary growth is at near record highs and the stock market is up. If all this happened in the first couple of years of Barack Obama, he’d be the fifth head on Mt. Rushmore right now.”

And Obama would be hailed as a hero if he ordered the killing of Soleimani, who Risch described as worse than Bin Laden.

In Risch’s mind, there should be no debate as to whether Soleimani was an “imminent” threat. “The U.S. intelligence was exact in this case,” he says. “I know the number of targets, but I can’t disclose it. Had they not taken him out, American lives would have been lost, and it would have been a significant number.”

On the airwaves, Trump takes a daily thrashing from Democrats, late-night comics and media talking heads and he often doesn’t help himself with his harsh responses. Risch, who chairs the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and is one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, offers a different view of the president.

“He and I are good friends. We talk about a lot of things, and don’t always agree, but he’s the kind of guy you can have a legitimate argument with, or spirited discussion. If you treat him with respect, he’ll treat you with absolute respect. I’m not at all interested in arguing with him publicly,” Risch says.

“I’ve had the opportunity to know every president, from a greater or lesser degree since Ronald Reagan,” Risch said. “This president is so much different. Others were usually stiff, and if you had a conversation, it was generally one-sided. This guy (Trump) is a human being that you can relate with. You can joke with him. He can dish it out as well as take it, and he takes no offense.”

The president’s demeanor isn’t always calm, but he becomes “presidential” under pressure. Risch saw that side of Trump after Iran shot down an American drone in June, which led to some high-level exchanges about a military response.

“He went around the table, listening carefully to everyone’s view. He’d play devil’s advocate and push back when he heard something that was over the top,” Risch said. “At the end of the day, there was only one guy in the room who was going to make the decision. My friends to the left are fond of saying that he will get us into war, but this can’t be further from the truth. I’ve never met anyone who is more comfortable in his skin when it comes to decision-making.”

Risch dismisses the critics and books claiming that Trump’s administration is off the rails.

“This guy who is supposed to be out of control just completed a trade agreement with Japan, Phase 1 of a trade agreement with China and NAFTA,” Risch said. “He has reined in Iran, which kept pushing the envelope, and took us from a bad place with North Korea.”

If impeachment casts a permanent stain on the Trump presidency, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggests, then the fans gathered at the New Orleans Superdome for the national championship football game between LSU and Clemson didn’t get the message. And neither did those who attended the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia in November. Risch flew with the president on Air Force One to both games and saw the crowd reactions for himself.

“It was awesome,” Risch said.

But the football fans who cheered wildly for Trump don’t get the ultimate say. Risch and his colleagues will have to sit through the entire proceedings, pretending to be “impartial” jurors, and we all know what happens from there.


Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at

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