Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Republicans to skip President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and go straight to a vote, but the White House may have different plans.
While McConnell has not made it clear publicly how he wants the impeachment trial to run, he has hinted at trying to limit its stage time as much as possible, according to the Washington Post. Some Senate Republicans were pushing for Hunter Biden and others to testify as recently as last week, but now, they are uniting under a strategy of limiting the trial to no witnesses and burning through the process in two weeks toward a vote in January. The strategy conflicts with prior messaging from the White House, however. (RELATED: Instead Of Airing Sen. Lindsay Graham’s Opening Statement On FISA Abuse, CNN Informed Its Viewers About Airplanes)
Before Trump’s impeachment hearings in the House, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland told reporters he believed “very strongly” that Trump would need witnesses to testify in the senate to provide a “full defense of the president on the facts.”
But McConnell has been very clear that he won’t be taking any chances when impeachment lands on his doorstep.
“Nancy Pelosi’s in the clutches of a left-wing mob. They finally convinced her to impeach the president,” McConnell said in an October ad. “All of you know your Constitution. The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader.”
While Senate Republicans could balance out what they saw as a lopsided impeachment inquiry in the House, they are of the opinion that calling witnesses is an unnecessary gamble. According to the Washington Post, McConnell’s camp fears that if they begin calling witnesses, the pro-Trump block may not be strong enough to limit the witnesses to only Trump’s list.
There are 53 Senate Republicans, and while that number are likely to be united against removal, they may not be so unified on barring Democrats from calling witnesses.
By McConnell’s logic, if Republicans have the votes now to acquit the president, there is no need for a long process that might cause that to change. (RELATED: House Democrats Unveil Two Separate Articles Of Impeachment, Accusing Trump Of Abuse Of Power And Obstruction)
“I don’t need any witnesses at all. I am ready to go,” Sen. Lindsay Graham told Fox News on Thursday. “I don’t want to give it any legitimacy because it is a crock.”
Other high-level Senate Republicans agree.
“If you get into a long convoluted [process], this thing could drag on for a really long time,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune, according to Politico. “If both sides get into a bunch of motions about who we bring who [Democrats] bring and we’re having numerous votes on that? I think that’s something, I think, in the end neither side is probably going to be crazy about.”
President Trump, however, may not be able to pass on the opportunity to get a pound of flesh from opponents like Schiff and – indirectly – Joe Biden.
House Republicans split more vocally from their Senate colleagues, however. Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks sent a letter to Sen. Graham urging him to “rethink” the strategy and present a more robust defense of the president.
“It is urgent we fight fire with fire and tell them enough is enough,” Banks said in the letter, according to Politico. “House Republicans have done all they can to push back and expose their motives to the American people, soon it will be at your doorstep.”
The letter came just days after another from Banks asking Graham to use his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to subpoena Rep. Adam Schiff’s phone records, a request Graham curtly denied. (RELATED: The Media’s Lies About The IG Report Explained By Chuck Ross)
“We’re not going to do that,” Graham told reporters on Thursday. “You got two different bodies here. Are we going to start calling House members over here when we don’t like what they say or do? I don’t think so.”
House Republicans like Banks are jaded from an impeachment inquiry under Schiff that prevented them from pursuing certain lines of questioning or calling virtually any witnesses. (RELATED: DOJ Watchdog Faults FBI Over ‘Significant Inaccuracies’ In Surveillance Warrants Against Trump Aide)
But as Senate Republicans hold their breath waiting to see if Trump will press for a lengthy trial, some House Democrats are getting cold feet. A group of 10 House Democrats floated the idea of censuring Trump rather than impeaching him on Tuesday. Most Democrats in the group come from districts Trump won in 2016, according to Politico.
“I think it’s certainly appropriate and might be a little more bipartisan, who knows,” Democratic Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader told Politico. “Time’s slipping by.”
“Right now, there’s no other options. This is another option,” another Democratic member said.
Trump’s White House has yet to take a public stance on McConnell’s trial strategy, but if the president loudly opposes it, the Senate would likely comply, and Americans would be in for a weeks-long trial to reach what most already see as a forgone-conclusion: Trump’s acquittal or the dismissal of his charges.