Will Doug Jones provide Donald Trump a bipartisan acquittal in an impeachment trial? This is a clever move by a Democratic senator from Alabama looking for a miracle in November. As I predicted yesterday, Jones took a page out of Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s playbook in claiming that he’s a little skeptical that the House made a case for removal in his appearance on ABC’s This Week. Jones told Raddatz that “gaps” remain in the case, and if “dots aren’t connected,” he will have no choice but to vote to acquit.
However, this was not so much an endorsement of Donald Trump’s defense as it was an attack on Senate Republican plans to go to a quick dismissal vote. If Trump’s really innocent, Jones tells Raddatz, Republicans should insist on calling the witnesses for whom Adam Schiff couldn’t be bothered to wait (via RCP):
SEN. DOUG JONES: Any time we’ve got an impeachment article, it’s very, very significant. I think what we’re trying to do is just get the rules, whatever those rules may be. I think it’s full, fair, complete trial that Democrats are looking for. I think the American people are looking for that. I think that members of the Republican caucus are looking for that as well.
The well the last thing they want is to be able to vote on this in sometime in January and have new and different facts come out that may have changed their vote down the line. I don’t think we’re in a — in a rush, but everyone wants to get this thing moving, get it over with, but do it in the fair, full and complete way.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Let’s talk about the vote. The majority leader has said that he believes that at least one or two Democrats in the Senate could defect and vote to acquit the president. Is he talking about you?
JONES: I have no idea what Mitch McConnell’s talking about these days. He talks about being an impartial juror, but at the same time, he’s going to take an oath to be a partial juror. I have yet to figure out what he’s talking about.
I’ve seen him criticize the House Democrats for the way he’s done things, but at the same time, he’s trying to rush to judgment and trying to push forward things that’s not going to be a full and fair trial. You know, I think that are people in the Democrat —
RADDATZ: I know, sir, you say you’re going to be an impartial juror. Given everything we have already seen in the House and that phone call, what is it that you need to know more about? What reason could there be to make you not vote to convict the president?
JONES: Well, first — first of all, Martha, let me — let me say this. I — I think these are really serious allegations. If a president of the United States is using his office and the power of the presidency against a country that is dependent upon the United States of America, and he’s doing that to withhold aide that is there to battle Russians, you know, those javelins are made in Alabama that the president of Ukraine was talking about. They’re there on the front lines against Russian aggression. If he’s doing that just to get a political advantage for his own personal campaign, that is a serious, serious matter.
What I’m trying to do because, quite frankly, I didn’t sit in front of the TV set the entire time the last two or three months. I’ve been trying to read this. I’m trying to see if the dots get connected. If that is the case, then I think it’s a serious matter. I think it’s an impeachable matter. But if those dots aren’t connected and there are other explanations that I think are consistent with innocence, I will go that way too. I have got to make sure that I — what I really want to see, though, is to — to fill in the gaps. There are gaps.
Now, people can make up their mind with gaps in testimony, but I would like to see a full and complete picture. And we don’t have that because the president has refused to have his people come and testify and deliver documents. He says the Senate’s going to give him a fair trial and he wants these folks the testify. Well, let him tell Senator McConnell to let him come testify and get this — let’s get this going as soon as we get back.
That last part is too clever by half. If McConnell does offer the concession of setting up witness subpoenas for Democrats, then the trial can’t get “going as soon as we come back,” which Jones knows full well. The four witnesses that Senate Democrats want called to the trial have already indicated that they would go to court to settle the executive-privilege issue. That will take months to unwind, even if the federal courts expedited the matter, which is why Schiff and Jerrold Nadler refused to fight to get their testimony in the first place.
This is why the dots aren’t yet connected and why “gaps” remain in the record. House Democrats didn’t wait to get any direct testimony or evidence of wrongdoing; they simply took second- and third-hand testimony and rushed into impeachment. It’s a shoddy piece of work, and Jones knows it, which is why he’s forced to publicly consider a vote to acquit. However, what he’s really doing is supporting Chuck Schumer’s strategy to lay the blame for the failure of House Democrats at the feet of Mitch McConnell, a sleight-of-hand that the media is presently eating up.
That’s what makes this a clever move for Jones, who’s going to lose in November no matter what anyway. He’s doing his best to be seen as being reasonable, but Jones is doing Schumer’s grunt work here and nothing more.