Report: Senate GOP leaders leaning towards voting to acquit Trump before he has a chance to call any witnesses

If you watched this Lindsey Graham clip from last night, you already saw this coming. No defense case for the president. No witnesses called by Trump. House Dems would call their own witnesses, the president’s lawyers would cross-examine them, and then the Senate would vote.


No Hunter Biden testimony. No Joe Biden. No Adam Schiff. No whistleblower. Trump would be asked to do something he seems incapable of doing, keeping his mouth shut while he’s impugned by his enemies.

Formally shut, I mean. His attorneys won’t get to put anyone on the stand but he’s going to live-tweet the whole trial from his recliner, needless to say.

McConnell, Graham, and the rest are betting that the certainty of acquittal will soothe angry Trumpers who’ll be pissed that the president won’t get to go on offense. He’s a “counterpuncher,” after all, and the Dems have been beating on him for weeks — and now his own allies in Congress won’t let him get up and take a few swings at them. Conservative media will be unhappy, although I doubt any Senate Republicans care. They know no grudges will be held next fall so long as they deliver the proper verdict.

Top Republicans are leaning toward calling for a vote to acquit Trump immediately after House Democrats and the White House have delivered their arguments to head off partisan disagreements that might lengthen the trial.

“At that point, I would expect that most members would be ready to vote and wouldn’t need more information,” said John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3-ranked Senate Republican. “Many people have their minds pretty well made up.”…

“How many senators would enjoy a Trump rally? That’s probably your whip count for calling Hunter [Biden],” a Republican senator said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. Senate Democrats are not expected to provide any votes to call Biden or the others. Or, they might ask so high a price, demanding that in exchange, they be allowed to call Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, that Republicans balk.

“It becomes endless motions to call people, and I’m not sure what anybody gains from all that,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2-ranked Senate Republican.


Thune and Barrasso are numbers two and three in the Republican leadership. These aren’t rando backbenchers speculating about how things are likely to go. If anyone would know how the trial is shaping up, they would.

“Not sure how you have a fair trial without calling witnesses,” sniffed one unnamed House Republican to the Examiner about the Senate’s plan to short-circuit Trump’s defense. That’s exactly the position Trump will take, which will turn the tables on Lindsey Graham. Graham has been the most outspoken critic of the House process on Trump’s behalf among Senate Republicans, frequently attacking it as unfair and short of due process. Trump’s going to level the same charge against Graham’s Senate process, though: There’s no due process if I can’t present a defense. That would be a fun debate since defendants don’t typically complain about procedural unfairness in cases where they’re on a glide path to acquittal.

But Trump might reply that this isn’t any ol’ criminal or civil case. As has been said many times since the Ukraine scandal broke big, impeachment is a political process. Democrats have spent two months using official channels trying to build political momentum for removing the president from office. Why shouldn’t he be allowed two weeks to use official channels to build some political momentum of his own?

What will Lindsey say? He complained in yesterday’s interview that impeachment is hurting the country, which is why it’s crucial to end the trial ASAP. Trump will respond by saying that Democrats should have thought of that before they launched this process. If we want to deter future unjust impeachments, we should let the president present a vigorous defense on the grandest stage, his Senate trial, and give House Dems a bloody nose.


What will Lindsey say?

Graham’s fear here, obviously, is having to take a series of tough votes on whether to call individual witnesses. It’ll be painful to deny Trump a defense by voting to acquit as soon as the House’s case is finished but it’ll be even more painful if the caucus has to deny him that defense piecemeal by voting down one witness after another. You think Lindsey Graham wants to have to vote no on calling Hunter Biden and then no on calling Joe Biden and then no on calling Schiff and then no on calling the whistleblower? Even if he’s willing to vote yes on all four, he knows that vulnerable incumbents like Collins and Gardner who are facing reelection in battlegrounds next fall won’t want to take those votes. That’ll be Graham’s and McConnell’s ace in the hole when Trump starts complaining — the moderates won’t let us call these witnesses even if the rest of us wanted to. We need 51 votes.

If I were Collins or Murkowski or Romney, I’d refuse to let them scapegoat me that way. I’d announce up front that I’ll go along with whatever the rest of the caucus wants when it comes to calling witnesses. If Lindsey Graham doesn’t want Hunter Biden to testify, let him vote no himself or find three people elsewhere in the caucus to vote no. See what happens.

By the way, the witness list isn’t the only way the trial might disappoint Trump:

As soon as the House impeaches President Donald Trump, the Senate is, in theory, required to immediately begin a trial. But for a multitude of reasons, both strategic and mundane, senators say they are aiming to reach an agreement to take a breather and come back for the trial in January…

A delay might not be to everyone’s benefit. A person familiar with the White House’s thinking said the administration’s preference is to start the trial with no delay and it is actively seeking that result. And five Senate Democrats are still running for president; a trial starting in December would be less disruptive to their work campaigning in the early states, with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 2.


I don’t know why they want the trial to start ASAP. Trump’s lawyers need time to prepare for cross-examination. And the longer impeachment drags on, the more likely the public is to grow exasperated with it. If they start the trial next week, while Americans are still somewhat paying attention to the daily news, people might see it as a natural next step in the process. If they start the trial in January, with voters still in a post-holiday haze and having lost track of the impeachment saga, the reaction may be more “Are we still doing this?!”

If you’re bummed about Trump not getting to put on a defense, look at it this way: The quicker the trial is, the sooner Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren get back on the trail, the greater the chances that Trump will have a far-left opponent next fall. It’d be a supreme irony if an impeachment process stemming from Trump’s attempt to get dirt on Joe Biden ended up improving Biden’s chances in the early states by taking his chief competition away from the campaign for weeks at a critical moment. The Senate might be able to get this done by mid-January if there are no defense witnesses called. Plenty of time for the socialist and the near-socialist to get back to Iowa and make their pitch.

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