Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has effectively marshaled the Senate Republican caucus, according to a new report in the New York Post, and the GOP is united behind a no-witness impeachment trial — if the House ever transmits the articles of impeachment they voted on before their holiday recess.
Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been looking to drive a wedge between Senate Republicans by suggesting that any impeachment trial that doesn’t feature witnesses additional to those who testified in front of Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) House Intelligence Committee — the committee actually charged with gathering evidence and testimony in support of the House’s articles of impeachment — would be a show trial, and that Republicans who supported McConnell’s decision to bar witnesses would be “complicit” in the White House’s treachery.
The “wedge” doesn’t seem to have worked. The New York Post reports McConnell believes he has his entire caucus united: “After weeks of behind-the-scenes debate, Senate Republicans have hit on their strategy for handling President Trump’s impeachment: a brief trial — with no witness testimony — and a fast acquittal.”
That doesn’t mean the trial will be swift. Republicans still plan on examining the evidence presented at the House hearings and will allow the White House to mount a defense.
McConnell’s achievement comes just as President Donald Trump warmed to the idea of witness testimony, telling reporters late last week that he would call former Vice President Joe Biden to the stand if Democrats were successful in their bid, so that his lawyers could ask him about his dealings in Ukraine — and, specifically, about whether he wielded the influence of the Obama White House with Ukrainian officials in order to wave them off of investigating an oil and gas company that employed his son, Hunter.
Biden said, over the weekend, that he’d refuse to comply with any subpoena — a deeply ironic outcome for Democrats, who charged the president with “obstruction of Congress” for refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas and refusing to allow his own employees to testify in front of House impeachment committees.
Schumer was pushing the idea of a more comprehensive Senate trial, despite battling against a witness trial in 1998, during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, apparently in order to patch holes in the Democrats’ argument for impeaching President Trump. The New York Democrat proposed taking testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in the hopes of substantiating Democrats’ claims that Trump abused his power and demanded the Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden in return for an increase in foreign aid.
McConnell did tell Fox News last week that he is prepared to make things difficult for Democrats if they are, indeed, successful at convincing enough Republicans to vote for a witness trial. “If we go down in the witness path, we’re going to want the whistleblower. We’re going to want Hunter Biden,” he said. “You can see here that this is the kind of mutual assured destruction episode that will go on for a long time.”