This is how Trump’s defenders actually view the situation — and the awful implications of this should not be sugar-coated.
Yet the scheme may not prove as easy to get away with as they think. Handled properly, Democrats can use it to demonstrate that Republicans themselves know Trump’s substantive defenses are weak and his corruption is indefensible — and vividly show how Republicans are functioning as Trump’s full-blown accomplices.
The Post has the latest on McConnell’s scheming: Republican senators are “coalescing” behind a quick impeachment trial that would call no witnesses and result in a quick acquittal vote. Republicans are trying to resist Trump’s stated desire to turn this into a huge and messy spectacle by insisting on hearing from witnesses such as Hunter Biden.
In essence, Trump envisions a trial that would become a mere continuation of the corrupt scheme for which he’s being impeached in the first place. It would keep on trying to validate Trump’s invented narrative of Joe Biden’s corruption, but use the trial to do so, when previously he tried to extort Ukraine into helping him do it.
But there’s a problem with this, as The Post reports:
McConnell is not sure Republicans have enough votes to only call Trump’s preferred list, the person said. Any agreement to call a witness would require 51 votes, and if Democratic votes were needed to end an impasse among Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would demand his own list of witnesses as part of any compromise.Under McConnell’s thinking, this could possibly mean calling Vice President Pence and top White House aides, such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify.“Witnesses would be a double-edged sword,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said.
Republicans might not have 51 GOP votes to realize this scheme — any such process decisions would require majority approval. This would mean if only a handful of the 53 GOP senators declined to approve it, Democrats would have leverage to demand witnesses of their own.
McConnell doesn’t want that. As The Post notes, McConnell cryptically hinted at this, suggesting recently he hopes 51 GOP senators just say “they’ve heard enough and believe they know what will happen.”
Translation: GOP senators don’t need to hear from witnesses called by Democrats, because they know that they’re going to acquit Trump no matter what emerges.
It’s important to note here that we still haven’t heard from numerous key players who almost certainly have direct knowledge of Trump’s most corrupt acts — because the White House has blocked that from happening.
Among those witnesses are people who directly interacted with Trump over his freezing of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland admitted to using that money to leverage Ukraine into announcing the sham investigation of Biden that Trump wanted, at what he fully understood as Trump’s direction.
Obviously, if those witnesses confirmed in some way that Trump personally and explicitly discussed the military aid extortion plot with them, it would be even more devastating than what has already been established.
It’s true that we don’t know what those witnesses would say. But the rub is that Republicans don’t want to find out. And their reasoning has been laid bare for all to see: They are determined to acquit Trump no matter how incredibly damning such testimony might be, so they may as well spare themselves the political hardship that such testimony might inflict on them.
Of course, there’s also the outside risk that such testimony might make it impossible for a handful of GOP senators to vote to acquit Trump. Such a break must also be averted at all costs.
About those 51 senators
In that context, it’s telling that McConnell does not yet have 51 votes in hand for this plan. This shows it may be difficult for a few GOP senators to associate themselves with a trial that’s rigged to acquit Trump while avoiding hearing anything new about his corruption.
As this analysis by Perry Bacon Jr. shows, senators such as Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski want to maintain the appearance of principled independence from Trump. Meanwhile, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally and Joni Ernst will feel pressure to appear to take evidence seriously to survive reelection.
And a Democratic aide points out to me that, if McConnell doesn’t have 51 votes for procedural gimmickry allowing Trump to skate, that will allow Democrats to try to assemble a majority in the Senate for sounder procedures.
“It’s very hard for any senator to vote against seeking the truth," the aide tells me.
At bottom, though, all this reveals how fraudulent Trump’s posture on the trial really is. Trump’s aides insist he wants to mount a full defense of himself in the Senate while prosecuting the case against Biden. But Trump emphatically does not want this to result in testimony from all the witnesses Trump has blocked.
So it would not be surprising if Trump accedes to McConnell’s wishes. Because what Trump really wants is a trial that allows him to keep smearing Biden while simultaneously keeping the coverup of his true designs in full swing.
Which is to say, he just wants the Senate trial to pick up where his whole corrupt scheme left off.