Josh Hawley: I'll introduce a resolution on Monday to dismiss the impeachment charges against Trump

He’s been running for the 2024 nomination since the day he was sworn in as a senator, aiming to win over Trump’s base by picking fights with populist enemies like Big Tech. This move won’t hurt his chances.

He went on:

Senate rules currently require the chamber to hold a trial once the president is impeached. McConnell himself has cited them as reason for why he can’t simply toss the articles of impeachment in the trash once Pelosi delivers them. In reality, he would want to hold a trial anyway for the simple reason that it helps vulnerable Republican incumbents like Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, and Susan Collins to show voters back home that they’re taking the case against Trump seriously before they inevitably vote to acquit. They’re going to try to soften the political blow by doing the same “prayerful” shtick about their deliberations as Pelosi did for hers. No need to make voters on the other side any angrier than they’re destined to be by appearing arrogant and contemptuous of the Democrats’ allegations against Trump.

Hawley doesn’t care about that, though. His seat is safe-ish in Missouri and he has his eye on the White House. He’ll be as contemptuous of the House effort as he can be in order to make an impression on Trump fans even though his proposed resolution to change the rules would obviously be an uncomfortable vote for Gardner, McSally, and Collins. The base wants to see Pelosi punished for impeaching the president and for her dopey delay strategy in refusing to send over the articles. What better way to do that than to change the rules to empower the Senate to dismiss impeachment if it isn’t brought in a timely manner? Federal courts allow it in criminal cases. Why should impeachment be different?

Two problems, though. First, Trump wants a trial. That’s the only bit of leverage Pelosi has over McConnell in her delay strategy. Mitch can’t ditch the trial process a la Hawley’s idea because Trump doesn’t want him to. The president’s frustrated that his side hasn’t had an opportunity to engage on the merits of the Democratic case and now he’s about to get it. Gardner et al. can and will cite that too when they inevitably vote against Hawley’s resolution and Trump fans start complaining about it: The president deserves to be heard. Why does Hawley want to deny him that opportunity?

Second, it’s just too soon for a nuclear option like the one Hawley has in mind. Again, McConnell wants to create at least the appearance that Senate Republicans are taking these charges seriously. If they make a sudden move towards dismissing the charges, that plays right into the Democratic argument that they’re in the tank for Trump and that they’re running a sham process. McConnell might consider Hawley’s proposal a few weeks from now, if Pelosi continues to drag her feet and polling shows that the public is annoyed by the Democrats’ delay, but they’re not going to approve a momentous Senate rule change on day one of the new term to hurry her up. Especially since, as I say, Hawley’s resolution almost certainly won’t pass. All it’ll do is divide Republicans by pitting the populist panderers against the squishy RINOs, with the former supporting Hawley’s rule change and the latter opposing it.

And Hawley knows that, of course. He doesn’t mind dividing the caucus and making McConnell’s job harder if it earns him a little cheap goodwill from the base for his 2024 campaign.

Or … does it make McConnell’s job easier? Cocaine Mitch isn’t going to greenlight a rule change this early in the standoff but it doesn’t hurt to have the right wing of the caucus making some noise about it to put pressure on Pelosi to hurry up with the articles already. “I can’t hold them back forever,” McConnell might say. “Eventually even our more moderate members will grow impatient and decide that this prosecution is unjustifiably dilatory.” But here’s the thing: Pelosi might prefer that outcome. Trump’s acquittal is a fait accompli; for Democrats, the game now is to somehow maneuver Republicans into making that acquittal look as illegitimate as possible. If they hold a full trial and then find the president not guilty, that’ll look pretty legit. If instead they cook up some rule change that allows them to deposit the evidence in the trash without having considered it on grounds that Pelosi moved too slowly, that gives Dems an opening to accuse them of having thrown a tantrum and concocted a pretext to avoid having to face the evidence. That’s a better talking point for Pelosi. And if she can get the GOP to move very quickly towards dismissal, to the extent that many voters would consider it rash, so much the better for them. That’s what Hawley’s resolution would risk.

The way around that is for the resolution to contain some sort of reasonable fixed deadline, which would put the onus firmly on Democrats in seeming unreasonable. If the new rule is “The Senate may dismiss any impeachment articles without trial,” that’ll seem rash. If instead the rule is that the Senate may dismiss any impeachment articles that haven’t been delivered by the House within, say, 10 days of passage, that’ll sound more credible. Then the heat would be on Pelosi to explain why 10 days isn’t enough. I think that’s what Republicans will do if the standoff drags on for a few more weeks with no end in sight.

Exit quotation from Marco Rubio, preparing for Democratic complaints when no witnesses are called at the trial: