So this is how he’s going to try to sell you-know-who on not calling any witnesses for the defense, huh? “Don’t you see? If you call Hunter Biden or the whistleblower, the Democrats win.” Even a five-year-old would see through that tactic.
I give it a 75 percent chance of working.
The newsy bit in the clip below is that Graham says he doesn’t want to see any witnesses at trial. Nothing for the defense and nothing for the prosecution either. How’s that going to work? The whole reason McConnell’s putting on this spectacle is because he’s worried about the backlash facing Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, both of whom are on the ballot next fall and both of whom come from battleground states where their inevitable votes to acquit won’t be well received by many. McConnell wants to create something that semi-resembles an actual trial so that Collins and Gardner can go home and say that the process was meaningful, they carefully considered the evidence, but in the end the proof just wasn’t there. That’ll hopefully mollify some swing voters who favor impeachment and removal.
But if House Dems can’t call witnesses, the argument that the trial is a sham becomes easy. “They won’t even hear from Gordon Sondland!” From what I can tell, Graham seems to imagine a “trial” that consists entirely of opening statements. Democrats will get up and run through Schiff’s report. Trump’s lawyers will get up and run through their own spiel, which will sound a lot like the counter-report compiled by Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. Then the Senate votes. No drama, no fuss, no muss. It’s as close as Graham and Senate Republicans can get to a motion to dismiss the charges.
Does he … have 51 votes to do this? I’m guessing that Collins, Gardner, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney will want to hear some direct testimony from the prosecution if only for appearances’ sake. But if they side with Democrats in calling certain witnesses for the House, that’ll make Graham’s and McConnell’s job in convincing Trump not to demand defense witnesses that much harder. That is, I assume the reason Graham’s opposed to hearing from prosecution witnesses is because he knows that’s the only way to make it seem “fair” to Trump that he doesn’t get to call anyone for the defense. “Neither side gets to call anyone, Mr. President!” But as soon as Schumer’s caucus wins a vote on calling a witness, that argument goes out the window. Trump may even demand to be able to call as many witnesses for the defense as the prosecution gets.
McConnell really, really doesn’t want to play games with Schumer involving witnesses. Three words: “Mutually assured destruction.”
At a Senate GOP luncheon this week, McConnell warned his colleagues against calling witnesses. “Mutually assured destruction,” he said, according to a Republican in the room.
McConnell is not sure Republicans have enough votes to only call Trump’s preferred list, the person said. Any agreement to call a witness would require 51 votes, and if Democratic votes were needed to end an impasse among Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would demand his own list of witnesses as part of any compromise.
Under McConnell’s thinking, this could possibly mean calling Vice President Pence and top White House aides, such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify.
“Witnesses would be a double-edged sword,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said.
There’s no scenario in which McConnell would beg for Democratic votes at the price of calling Pence or some other Trump crony. If he can’t get 51 to call a witness from his own caucus, that witness isn’t getting called. Simple as that.
Graham sees a trainwreck coming in which Collins and Gardner try to pander to Democrats back home by not calling Hunter Biden or the whistleblower and then suddenly find themselves in trouble with Republicans back home when Trump flies off the handle and excoriates them on Twitter for wimping out. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, either doesn’t see the trainwreck or doesn’t care because he thinks Republicans should call whoever Trump wants:
My personal view is the House conducted a partisan show trial. They denied due process. They didn’t allow the president to cross-examine witnesses. They didn’t allow Republicans to call witnesses. I think the Senate needs to do better. We need to respect due process. We need a fair proceeding. That means we need to let both sides present their case. And if the president wants to call witnesses, that the president wants to call Hunter Biden or the whistleblower, the Senate should allow the president call witnesses in his defense.
Gonna get hairy as the GOP tries to sort through this, although in the end it’s really up to the moderates. Imagine their predicament, though: On top of risking their political necks next fall by acquitting Trump, Collins and Gardner now also have to take a hard vote on how many witnesses they let him call. Here they are doing their best to pander to righties ahead of reelection by sticking with the president on impeachment and he’s putting them in a situation where they may feel obliged to disappoint righties anyway. I hope they enjoy their post-Senate careers.
One more tweet for you:
Privately, he’s stewing. Close adviser says Trump is somewhat taken aback that his actions toward Ukraine are ultimately what led to his likely impeachment: “Frankly, I think he’s a little surprised it’s the Ukraine thing that’s done it.” w/ @kaitlancollins and @Kevinliptakcnn
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) December 11, 2019
Exit question: Uh, what else has he done that’s worse than the Ukraine business that he thought might warrant impeachment?