Republicans are reportedly scrambling to come up with a strategy to defend Trump after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unexpected bold move when she announced Wednesday night that she would not send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until the upper chamber’s Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, agrees to a fair trial.
The announcement sent shockwaves of fear and confusion across Trumpland. It was an unexpected power play, upending what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants had hoped to turn into a dull, perfunctory affair in order to spare their vulnerable swing-state Republican incumbents as much damage as possible. They know that holding a real trial with witnesses could be disastrous, and they have been fighting both the Democratic leadership and the White House on that point.
Democrats argue that questioning more witnesses to the events over which the president has been impeached is necessary to fully try their case. And they have the American people behind them.
A poll released Tuesday by ABC News and The Washington Post found that about 7 in 10 Americans think the administration officials should be able to testify. In an example of bipartisan agreement, 79% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans and 72% of independents agree that Trump should allow them to appear in a Senate trial in the likely event that the House votes to impeach him.
Even the vast majority of Republicans want to see these witnesses. Those vulnerable senators are going to have to explain why they don’t think they are necessary. Republicans are clearly worried about all this.
Trump has called for a full trial because he believes that what he did was perfect and wants “total exoneration” on TV. Some have speculated before that McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee, may have been massaging him with the promise of a big show investigation after the trial is over, where they’ll call Rudy Giuliani and Hunter Biden and the CrowdStrike guy and anyone else he wants to air out his Ukraine conspiracy theory for the whole world to see.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see Giuliani in the witness stand.
McConnell and his allies thought they had the president all settled down and ready to accept a quick and dirty trial, and now Pelosi has derailed their strategy.
It’s unlikely Pelosi will hold on to the articles of impeachment very long. But while she does, McConnell will be on pins and needles and Trump is likely to lose patience and start demanding to be exonerated. And who knows what other Ukrainian and Russian shoes are going to drop in the meantime?
It appears 2020 is going to start off with a bang.