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Friday, December 13, 2019
McConnell Says ‘No Chance’ Senate Will Remove Trump
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Sean Hannity on Thursday that there was “no chance” that the Senate would vote to remove President Trump from office after he is impeached by the House.
“The case is so darn weak coming from the House,” McConnell said. “We know how it’s going to end. There’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office.”
“My hope is that there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment, and Sean, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got one or two Democrats,” McConnell added.
Earlier this week, McConnell raised the possibility of a brief trial in which no witnesses are called and the Senate votes summarily on evidence and arguments that would be presented by Democrats acting in the role of prosecutor against the president. At that point, McConnell suggested to Reuters that the Senate “could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial” or, he added, a majority of senators could decide “that they’ve heard enough and they believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment sent over to us by the House.”
President Trump seems to have embraced the idea having a long trial and turning it into a spectacle in which his defense attempts to put Joe and Hunter Biden on trial. On Dec. 5, Trump tweeted that Democrats should impeach him “fast” so that he could “have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify….”
A White House spokesman told reporters last week that the president “wants his case fully made in the Senate,” adding that, “We need witnesses as part of our trial and a full defense of the president on the facts.”
A vigorous defense could complicate matters for the Trump Administration. One of the articles of impeachment is obstruction on the grounds that the White House has refused to provide documentation and witnesses that were requested by Congress. Witnesses at the White House, the Pentagon, and even civilian attorney Rudy Giuliani all refused to comply with congressional subpoenas. In a long trial, these and other subpoenas might be renewed and enforced. At the very least, uncomfortable questions about why the president’s inner circle is not testifying on his behalf may be raised.
An extended trial would also give Democrats an opportunity to dig deeper and find more witnesses with information that is embarrassing for the president. By forcing a quick House vote, Democrats are passing up the opportunity to find more evidence against Mr. Trump, but a long trial in the Senate could mean that the president fails to benefit from their error.
Further, the Constitution specifies that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over an impeachment trial. Since John Roberts would control the proceedings, Senate Republicans will likely have fewer opportunities to score partisan points than Democrats did in the House where they controlled the committees conducting the impeachment process.
On the bench, Roberts has a history of avoiding partisanship and has a moderate record with one of his most famous (or infamous) decisions upholding Obamacare’s individual mandate as a tax. The chief justice is not a person who can be expected to toe the Republican Party line.
However, a summary vote to dismiss the impeachment has risks as well. The country is closely divided on impeachment with a slight plurality favoring the removal of Donald Trump. A rubber stamp vote to dismiss the charges against Trump is unlikely to win Republicans many friends among voters skeptical of the president. These voters would include many of the suburban voters who abandoned the GOP en masse in 2018.
In the end, Mr. McConnell seems correct that the Senate will vote to acquit Donald Trump. The numbers for removal just aren’t there. The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to remove the president, meaning that 20 Republican senators would have to defect and vote with Democrats. The chances of such a mass desertion of the president are nil at this point.
On conducting a short trial, however, McConnell is on shakier ground. Both sides seem to be adopting self-defeating strategies for impeachment with Democrats rushing what they could shape into a public approval nightmare for Donald Trump with a slow drip of investigations over the next year and the Trump Administration pushing for a long trial that it is unlikely to be able to control.
No one knows where the impeachment trial will ultimately lead, but, if it concludes early in the year, I have to wonder if voters will even remember it by November. Such is the nature of the incredibly fast news cycles of the Trump era.