Why two weeks? It’s not because they’ve done any rough calculations as to which witnesses will be called and how long it’ll take for direct and cross-examination of each, along with various other procedural niceties.
It’s because the outcome is a foregone conclusion and they’re trying to figure out how long the trial would need to stretch to make it appear sort of legitimate to the public instead of an obvious sham. If they do what Trump wants, which is to vote to dismiss the charges as soon as the House delivers the articles of impeachment, the sham will be obvious. Lindsey Graham told WaPo flatly today that there aren’t 51 votes to do that, since senators like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner who know they’ll be forced to cast a tough vote for acquittal will at least want to present a facade that they’re carefully deliberating on the merits. Gotta pretend to take your job seriously even if you don’t.
Plus, if Republicans vote to dismiss the charges then Trump’s lawyers won’t get to put on a defense. After so much presidential outrage about “due process,” Senate Republicans may figure that their voters would enjoy watching the likes of Gordon Sondland being grilled more than they’d enjoy seeing the charges tossed with no opportunity for Team Trump to finally rebut Schiff’s charges in an official setting.
No final decisions were made on strategy for a trial that, if it happens, would come in January at the earliest. But one prominent scenario discussed, according to officials, was a trial that would last for roughly two weeks, which several Senate Republicans view as the ideal option because they believe it would be long enough to have credence without dragging on too long…
But even a two-week trial could run counter to what Trump has expressed privately. The president is “miserable” about the ongoing impeachment inquiry and has pushed to dismiss the proceedings right away, according to people familiar with Trump’s sentiments…
During the meeting, there was also a discussion of whether to seek additional evidence or call witness such as Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president and potential Trump 2020 rival Joe Biden. The House impeachment inquiry is centered on Trump’s alleged attempts to Ukraine to announce investigations of the Bidens to help his reelection.
The senators and senior White House officials also discussed the potential of having limited or no defense on the president’s behalf — although several congressional allies have repeatedly stressed that they want ample time for Trump and his attorneys to make his case in public.
If they’re prioritizing speed then presumably Hunter Biden won’t be called, which may help explain why Lindsey Graham is suddenly showing new interest in pursuing Biden-themed investigations by the Judiciary Committee. Maybe that’s Trump’s consolation prize for when Republicans decide to sidestep the Biden issue during the impeachment trial itself.
The news about the two-week timeline comes from a meeting held today between various Trump-friendly senators and some of Trump’s top advisors, including Jared Kushner and Pat Cipollone. Also in attendance: Mick Mulvaney, the potential star witness in terms of describing what Trump knew and when about the mysterious delay in Ukraine’s military aid. If you’re bothered by the lack of “due process” in the House, remember that “due process” in the Senate means that the defendant can bribe his jurors *and* that the jurors can openly strategize with potential witnesses like Mulvaney on how the trial should best be held to produce an easy acquittal. Oh — speaking of White House meetings with the Senate:
Romney and Trump shook hands at the White House lunch Thursday, and Romney said there didn’t appear to be any signs of lingering tension between the two of them, even though Trump slammed the senator last month as a “pompous ass.”…
“It was a very delightful meeting with the president and vice president and senior members of his staff and several Republican senators. We were able to talk about vaping and considered various options, and each of us spoke about our thoughts in that regard,” Romney told reporters after the meeting.
Perpetual swing vote Susan Collins was also at today’s meeting for the president’s charm offensive. Question, then: Which odds are higher right now, that the votes to acquit Trump in the Senate after his trial will be bipartisan or that the votes to remove Trump will be bipartisan? It’s okay to answer “both,” as there’s a fair chance that Joe Manchin votes to acquit and that Romney and/or Murkowski vote to convict. But if I had to choose an either/or at this point I’d bet that Manchin defects before Romney and Murkowski do. The reason is the polling. It’s one thing for Romney to vote his conscience if there’s a groundswell of public support for removal, but the polls are actually moving in Trump’s direction. If you’re Romney, how eager will you be to eat a mountain of sh*t from your own party and lose even the tiny bit of remaining influence you have with the president to cast a vote that no more than half the public will support (and maybe less than that)?
You saw the Will Hurd video. You know which way the wind’s blowing here.
That is, the Democrats’ big impeachment push may produce a bipartisan verdict in Trump’s favor in the Senate (if Manchin crosses the aisle) without any bipartisan support for removal. Maybe in the House too: Retiring GOP Rep. Francis Rooney is a wild card but remember that a pair of House Democrats from Trumpy districts voted against authorizing the impeachment inquiry. If Rooney concludes that impeachment isn’t justified based on what he’s heard and those two Democrats vote against impeachment too, Democrats will be humiliated. Their impeachment pageant will have turned more votes in Congress against them than towards them.
Exit question: Could this all be wrapped up by New Year’s, as the original Democratic plan intended? They’ve heard most of the key witnesses at this point who aren’t being blocked by executive privilege. The witness they’d love to have is John Bolton, but Bolton’s refusing until a court rules on whether he’s required to testify. How long do they want to wait for him, not knowing how long it’ll take the court to rule, whether Bolton will appeal, or even whether Bolton will be useful to their case? They could forget about him and move ahead on impeaching Trump early next month, then McConnell could scrape together a quick trial before Christmas or at the latest in early January. Good news for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who’ll be back on the trail weeks before Iowa votes.