Are Republicans About to Screw Up Trump's Senate Trial?

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks back to his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


It’s a question that could go either way given the latest details of how Republicans are planning to approach this.

According to Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, they may be looking to punt completely. No witnesses, no defense, just letting Democrats rattle on and then voting. The wisdom of such a strategy is certainly debatable, but when is the last time such cowering worked out in the positive?

This from the Washington Examiner.

Senate Republicans do not expect to call witnesses President Trump might want to hear from most in an impeachment trial, conceding there are not the votes to summon key figures such as Hunter Biden and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint sparked the process.

Senate impeachment rules require a majority vote to call witnesses, and with just two out of 53 votes to spare, there is no “appetite” among Republicans to pursue testimony from people that Democrats blocked Republicans from subpoenaing during the House investigation. Indeed, Republicans might forgo calling witnesses altogether, saying minds are made up on Trump’s guilt or innocence and that testimony at trial on the Senate floor would draw out the proceedings unnecessarily.

Not calling Joe and Hunter Biden is one thing, as it could conceivably devolve into a fight Trump doesn’t really need. I can just imagine the elder Biden chastising Republicans on national TV for using his son against him after he’s already had one die in recent years. I’m not sure that’s a visual the Republican party needs or wants, as it could unintentionally boost candidate Biden in an election year.


But they aren’t even going to call the whistleblower? They aren’t going to ask Adam Schiff about his machinations? They aren’t going to get Alexander Vindman under oath and make him answer for leaking classified information? I understand being risk averse, but that strikes me as politically dumb. Further, it’d be letting people off the hook who shouldn’t get to pretend like the past two months never happened.

There’s also another huge pitfall with the strategy of not even mounting a defense. Take this position, for example.

“At that point, I would expect that most members would be ready to vote and wouldn’t need more information,” said John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3-ranked Senate Republican. “Many people have their minds pretty well made up.”

Sure, but how does that look to the voters? If they see Republicans completely avoid the process, just going straight to a vote, it’s going to play right into Democrat claims that the system is being gamed. This is a rare opportunity to turn the tables, and to instead hand the left yet another talking point seems ridiculously stupid to me.

I’m old enough to remember when Lindsey Graham was making daily appearances on Fox News rattling about how many people he was going to subpoena. Now, he’s saying no witnesses at all. That’s not a good look and it’s giving a free pass to the subversive bureaucrats who perpetrated this nonsense.


I think there’s a middle ground that needs to be reached here. Certain figures do need to be brought in to answer questions they avoided under Schiff’s rules. Yet, it doesn’t need to become a two month long circus either. But to simply hand Democrats the stage and not mount a defense at all will waste every bit of momentum Trump has gained in the last week or so. McConnell has to come up with something better than that.


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