Will Senate Republicans demand -- or oppose -- a long impeachment trial?

Depends on who you ask, and on what they see as the benefits of a multi-week forum friendlier to Donald Trump than the current spectacle in the House. The Hill leads with the more pessimistic sentiment, noting that several Senate Republicans would prefer to dispense with Ukraine-Gate in the most expeditious manner possible:


Senators are pushing for a speedy impeachment trial as the proceedings appear poised to spill into 2020.

With House Democrats aiming to vote on articles of impeachment by Christmas, Republicans view a trial as all but guaranteed but are warning they don’t want to drag it out. …

GOP senators — who view it as all but guaranteed that President Trump will not be convicted — balked at a long timeline, questioning why they would want to eat up extra weeks on a trial that seems prebaked.

But wait! The Washington Post reports that Senate Republicans are considering whether to pressure Mitch McConnell to allow for a lengthy trial in case of Trump’s impeachment:

Some Republican senators and their advisers are privately discussing whether to pressure GOP leaders to stage a lengthy impeachment trial beginning in January to scramble the Democratic presidential race — potentially keeping six contenders in Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer.

Those conversations about the timing and framework for a trial remain fluid and closely held, according to more than a dozen participants in the discussions. But the deliberations come as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces pressure from conservative activists to swat back at Democrats as public impeachment hearings began this week in the House.

The discussions raise a potential hazard for the six Democratic senators running for president, who had previously planned on a final sprint out of Washington before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary.

“That might be a strategy,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said with a coy smile when asked about the possibility of a trial that disrupts the Democratic campaign. “But I’ll leave that up to others. I’m just a lowly worker.”


Which is it? It’s both, of course. It reflects the differing motivations of fifty-three politicians, a significant portion of whom will have to face voters in less than a year, and whose fortunes might be tied to the outcome of this decision. It also reflects the novelty and nature of impeachment, in that it’s tough to predict how this will end up playing out in the end.

Reading both articles, three potential strategies have emerged: immediate dismissal, short trial, and long trial. Immediate dismissal has apparently already been ruled out by Mitch McConnell, although our friend Hugh Hewitt endorsed it in a Townhall.com editorial airing today on Salem Radio Network:

At the first sign of objection from a Senator, McConnell should move to shut the whole thing down, saying, effectively:

“This far and no farther. We will not put our nation at risk of a future littered with these sort of vendettas dressed in the garb of impeachment. We won’t ever approve a purely partisan Article of Impeachment for trial.”

And the thus the Senate would flush these articles of impeachment from the record as it stands today.

McConnell, however, told reporters yesterday that a dismissal would not be appropriate:

“The rules of impeachment are very clear, we’ll have to have a trial. My own view is that we should give people an opportunity to put the case on. … On the issue of how long it goes on, it’s really kind of up to the Senate,” he said.


That leaves either a short trial of one to two weeks, or a longer trial of six to eight weeks. Those looking toward quieting down Congress and getting something done with the rest of the year might favor the first option, especially since the outcome will be more or less predetermined anyway. Nothing that’s been said will peel off 20 Republicans to vote for removal; so far it’s tough to imagine even one peeling away. The short option will allow enough time for Trump and his allies to make the case that this was a “witch hunt” or at best a policy dispute that got bloated by personal animus into an attempt to ride him out of town on a rail.

The long option offers more risk for Republicans in tough re-election fights, but two other advantages. First, it will tie up six of the Democratic candidates for perhaps as long as two months, preventing them from campaigning in early primary states. That might appear to hand Joe Biden a big boost, but the inevitable focus on the Bidens and Burisma in a long Senate trial might negate any advantage Joe Biden gets from that.

Second, it allows more time for Republicans to subpoena House members and staffers who handled the whistleblower complaint and then misrepresented their contacts in public statements. That means Adam Schiff might not just be an impeachment manager, he might be required to testify under oath, especially about the lies that got him four Pinocchios from the Washington Post. They might go as far as to subpoena the whistleblower to find out more regarding those contacts, too, although that could create some blowback of its own.


There is a fourth option. House Democrats might take the long strategy seriously enough to question whether they should hand Republicans that opportunity at all, and vote down the articles of impeachment. That would allow them to consolidate whatever gains they have made in messaging without risking them by putting Senate Republicans in charge of the narrative for the succeeding two months. Call it the War Games Option: The only winning move is not to play. It would take wiser heads than those currently on display among House Democrats to take that option, however.

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