Spoiler alert! If you want to wait until the end of Senate trial to know the outcome, don’t listen to the interview below with Hugh Hewitt and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). If, however, you’re among the 99% of Americans who know how this partisan theater will conclude, Perdue reminds us that Senate Republicans aren’t inclined to endorse House Democrats’ process or product. That means no witnesses to supplement their case, Perdue says, or any witnesses that haven’t already testified in the House. “I am very clear,” Perdue concludes “that no witnesses should be called outside the scope of these two pitiful articles of impeachment.”
Besides, an acquittal is in the bag, Perdue tells Hugh, as “I think we’ve got the votes for it right now. I mean, there is no evidence” in the House case:
DP: Well, my prayer is that given what we’re doing, and we’re totally united behind this on the Republican side, is that there will be 24 hours of presentation by the House over two days. There will be 24 hours, up to 24 hours of presentation by the President’s team over two days. Then 16 hours of questions from the members of the Senate. That’s no longer than two days. And then, there will be four hours apiece for the House and the President’s team to sum it up. That’s it. So you could be talking about six, seven days at the best. Now at that point, we have to vote motions about witnesses or any other information we may need, or we could have a vote to acquit or dismiss or whatever at that point.
HH: Do you believe that will happen?
DP: I hope it will. I think we’ve got the votes for it right now. I mean, there is no evidence. Look, Hugh, this is, you’ve said it, but this is just an illegitimate process. I worry, and I’ve said this before, I wanted to just vote to dismiss now upon receipt of the articles, because frankly, the articles are illegitimate. And what we’re doing is historically very dangerous, because we are accepting an illegitimate result from a totally bogus sham trial over in the House.
Not only is this an illegitimate impeachment, Perdue argues, it’s so bad that they might get a couple of Democrats to cross over in the end for acquittal. They did with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, Perdue argues, and this impeachment greatly resembles the strategy Senate Democrats deployed against the confirmation of the Supreme Court justice in 2018:
HH: Do you believe that there is a chance that Senator Manchin, Senator Doug Jones, or any other Democrat will join with the Republicans in bringing the Senate trial to a quick conclusion because of the institutional damage being done to our, both the presidency, the House and the Senate?
DP: Well, you would certainly hope so. I mean, this is, when we were sworn in last week, you could hear just a deadly silence come over the floor of the United States Senate. That’s very unusual. I think we all realize this is historic, and I hope and pray that a few of these guys will rise above this nonsense and do what’s right for the country. A couple of those guys have done that in the past. One or two of them voted for Kavanaugh, and a couple of them are up for reelection this time. So you know, I think there’s some hope that we will get a few Democrats at the end of the day to vote on acquittal.
HH: Now Senator Perdue, this does have the Kavanaugh feel, by which I mean late hits, unsubstantiated claims, sketchy characters coming forward with completely uncorroborated accounts that Democratic House members want into the record, Lev Parnas in particular. Do you think that playbook echoes with any of your colleagues as being an illegitimate descent into a due process-less exhibition of the worst instincts of American politics?
DP: Here’s one of the worst fears I have, Hugh, is that Democrats are all about power. And the evidence of that started in the Kavanaugh case, that you’re guilty until proven innocent if you disagree with me. And that, we saw that in Kavanaugh. We saw it, we see it in this case right now. They despise this president so much, they are in denial about this economic turnaround we have going on in the United States, which is the best in U.S. history. They’re in denial that what we actually believe in on the conservative side actually works. So what I’m concerned about is the historic precedent that impeachment now is not about protecting the republic. It’s another tool that a party can use to unseat a duly elected president and influence our own elections here.
Perdue’s not the only Senate Republican concluding that this is less about Ukraine and more about 2020 — and not just the presidential election. Hugh plays the most relevant part of this interview with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who sees this as a power play to gain control of the Senate. Like Perdue, Scott doesn’t plan to vote for any witnesses that House Democrats didn’t call for their articles of impeachment:
SCOTT: What I do realize is that the whole conversation about witnesses have nothing to do with impeaching the President. It has everything to do with removing at least four senators from office who are Republicans. The entire process of calling witnesses that were not heard in the House is about getting Cory Gardner to take tough votes. It’s about having Susan Collins take tough votes. It’s about having Thom Tillis in North Carolina take tough votes. It’s about Martha McSally taking tough voters. The subplot to having witnesses before the Senate has nothing to do with illuminating the case or bringing more information to the surface. It has everything to do with putting those pivotal senators between a rock and a hard place.
Well, yeah, of course it does. That’s why those four senators have danced around the issue very, very carefully. They want to be able to tell voters in their purple states that they approached this fairly and equitably, regardless of the fact that the outcome was never in serious doubt. Mitt Romney’s statement last night gives a pretty big hint, though, that he’s not inclined to differ much with the consensus in his caucus, and Perdue also suggests that McConnell has gotten everyone on board on strategic matters.
That’s what makes the closed-session option so appealing to some in the Senate Republican caucus. John Bolton’s testimony could be easily managed, and it would allow them to claim a concession to House Democrats on witnesses. That won’t change the outcome of the trial either, except to say that they checked off the box in the end before acquitting Trump. It might also unlock a crossover vote from Joe Manchin and maybe even Doug Jones, depending on what Bolton has to say. But in the end, this whole process has been one long spoiler alert on the outcome, in large part because House Democrats never bothered to build a case that could get past partisan suspicions over their motives. That’s on Adam Schiff, not Mitch McConnell.