Monday, January 13, 2020


This CBS report plays on many anti-Trumpers' hopes for a deus ex machina that will drive the president from power, but I'm skeptical:
The White House is preparing for some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, which could get underway in the coming days.

Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a "wild card" and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an "institutionalist" who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it.

Last week, Collins said she was working with a "fairly small group" of GOP senators to allow new testimony, adding that her colleagues "should be completely open to calling witnesses." Romney has expressed an interest in hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify under subpoena. Murkowski said last week that the Senate should proceed as it did during the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.

Gardner and Alexander have both said the Senate trial should be fair and impartial. Paul has said the president should be able to call his own witnesses, including the whistleblower whose complaint about Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.
When I read this, my first thought was that this group of Republicans would make a great show of wanting witnesses, but they'd find fault with Democrats' list of proposed witnesses and never agree on any motion that can get 51 votes. However, I see that (according to a Hill story from last Friday) Democrats are "planning to offer multiple motions on specific witnesses, instead of one motion that covered their request writ large." So this group of Republicans will have to find another way to dodge testimony from the witnesses the Democrats want, while still getting Brownie points for centrism (particularly Collins and Gardner, who are in tough reelection fights in bluish states).

I assume Rand Paul will be the first to peel off -- if he doesn't get any of the witnesses the right wants (Joe Biden, Adam Schiff, and so on), he won't vote for the witnesses Democrats want. I'm not sure why others will reject the Democratic motions, but I'm sure they'll think of something.

Or, of course, this might be Susan Collins pulling an Ivanka Trump -- telling the eager-to-believe press that she's being a moderating influence when there's no real chance she can deliver on her promises. This story might just be too good to check. I don't see what's in it for Alexander, for instance, or Murkowski.

I assume the numbers will dwindle as we approach any votes on motions. If not, I assume Trump will play the executive privilege card and the witnesses won't testify.
A majority of senators could still vote to subpoena Bolton or another witness once the trial begins, though that would require four Republicans to side with all Democrats on the matter. And even then, as Trump affirmed Friday, he would likely invoke executive privilege, which could then lead to a protracted court battle that would last much longer than the Senate trial.
That may be the bait-and-switch Collins is counting on if she really is assembling a group of pro-witness Republicans: that she'll get credit among gullible Maine moderates for demanding a fair trial while Trump gets the blame for the lack of testimony.

It won't be a fair trial. No Republican wants such a thing to take place. It's all theater.

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