There are only three Democrats in the Senate who might be gettable by Trump. One, the perennial, is Joe Manchin of blood-red West Virginia, although he’s not a sure thing. Remember that Manchin has already said he can’t see how the trial will be fair if the Senate doesn’t call Bolton. That was his way of nudging Susan Collins and the centrist GOP that if they want some political cover from a Democrat voting “not guilty,” they need to step up and provide Manchin with a little political cover too. Manchin has an obligation to his party to at least make Trump sweat a little before he’s inevitably acquitted. I think he’ll get a witness or two and vote with Trump in the end.
The second is the newcomer, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema’s spent the past two years making a name for herself as a quasi-independent centrist Democrat, the sort of liberal who stands a good chance of being reelected in reddish Arizona. For that reason lots of political junkies are predicting she’ll end up voting with Trump too. Not me. Voting with Trump might help her on balance in Arizona but it would hurt her badly in a national primary, in case she ends up running for president someday. (Which she might, especially if Democrats nominate a lefty like Bernie this time and lose handily.) Impeachment is a major litmus test for her and she must know it. If she wants a national future as a Democrat, she has to convict.
The third is the star of the clip below, Doug Jones of Alabama. Jones should be a natural to vote with Trump given how red his state is, but then Jones also should have been a natural to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the same reason. He voted no. Given his willingness to push the Schumer line about McConnell’s trial rules here, even going on camera to do so, sounds like he’s starting out as a presumptive no in this case too. That’s political suicide but I think Jones has always been resigned to losing his reelection bid, which explains his Kavanaugh vote. His 2017 win was a perfect-storm fluke in which the GOP nominated an unpopular candidate to face him who was then crippled by an old scandal involving teenaged girls right before the election. It can’t be replicated. Either he’s voting his conscience on stuff like Kavanaugh and impeachment or he’s playing a long game in which he ingratiates himself to his party and hopes for an appointment of some sort by the next Democratic president.
The “tell” in the clip that he’s sticking with his team is that he’s complaining about how McConnell’s resolution doesn’t require a vote on whether the Senate should hear witnesses. Right, but the Senate definitely is going to have a vote on whether to hear witnesses and Jones surely realizes it. McConnell wants this process to look diligent and deliberate for the sake of Republicans who are up for reelection next fall. There’s no way he’d deny Collins and the rest the opportunity to call witnesses if they decide they have to (which they may, per Manchin’s point above about Bolton). Nor is McConnell going to try to block the evidence gathered by House Democrats from being entered into the record. The draft resolution didn’t *automatically* admit that evidence but there’s no doubt Collins et al. will vote to admit it in order to deny Democrats an easy “COVER UP!” argument.
In fact, as I’m writing this news is breaking that today’s final resolution differs from last night’s draft resolution in a few key respects:
Two big changes to McConnell resolution:
– two additional calendar days of open arguments
– House evidence automatically entered into trial, subject to hearsay objection
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) January 21, 2020
So the evidence will come in automatically, and all of the huffing and puffing Jones does in the clip about the trial being held in the dead of night apparently will have been for nothing since it looks like they’re going to take their time on opening arguments after all. No doubt that was another concession made by McConnell to the Collins contingent. Centrist Republicans probably weren’t thrilled with the “cover-up” optics of arguments taking place during hours when most of the country is asleep and leaned on Cocaine Mitch to slow down a little. Maybe McConnell agreed in return from some concession by the RINOs — e.g., they’ll call only two witnesses, Bolton and Hunter Biden, and no one else. We’ll see.
The point is, Jones is already carrying Schumer’s water and thus seems unlikely to cross the aisle to side with Trump in the end. It could be a fake-out, of course: Maybe Jones is going to appease Democrats in Alabama by pushing hard for procedural fairness before voting in the end for acquittal to appease Republicans. I don’t think that’ll work, though. Democrats are destined to claim that the trial was a sham no matter what happens; if Jones votes to acquit *and* ends up arguing that the trial was kinda sorta legitimate because McConnell made some key procedural concessions then Dems might be even more mad at him than if he had just kept his mouth shut and voted “not guilty.”
These proposed rules have this trial taking place in the middle of the night without any guarantee for relevant documents and witnesses. The American people deserve a fair trial, and so does President Trump — but this ain't it, folks. pic.twitter.com/RARBvxqz3b
— Doug Jones (@SenDougJones) January 21, 2020