Pelosi is a sharp operator who surely realizes what little leverage she has over McConnell and how unlikely it is, to say the least, that 51 votes will materialize to approve Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s list of witnesses, among them former national security adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Her actions, then, are likely an attempt to agitate the president.
Trump is eager to fight back. He and his acolytes initially sought testimony from witnesses on the Senate floor without which, they insisted, an adequate defense would be impossible to mount. But McConnell painstakingly explained the perils of this approach to Trump, emphasizing how unrealistic it was to expect 51 of 53 Republicans to agree to Trump’s dream witness list of Hunter Biden, the government whistle-blower whose complaint alleged that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Hunter and Joe Biden, and others. McConnell’s strategy worked.
Pelosi’s play has to be that the president, seeing the exoneration he’s convinced a Senate trial would deliver slipping away the longer she withholds the articles, will pressure McConnell to drop his opposition to witnesses, fracturing the unity of Senate Republicans such that some would go so far as to side with Schumer. That appears a remote possibility. But to the extent the mercurial Trump loses patience, Senate GOP insiders are confident that McConnell can keep him in the fold. The majority leader, the senior Republican Senate aide said, “was able to walk Trump back from the ledge the first time. There’s no reason he can’t do it again.”