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2020-01-16 10:46:561 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Roy Blunt (Image source: Public domain)
We may not be headed the direction many people assume we are with the Senate impeachment trial. While the Senate GOP is siding with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to not allow witnesses before the opening arguments, they do not want to quickly dismiss the trial as requested by Donald Trump. But how the trial will operate other than that is still unknown, despite the trial being just days away, after the House formally handed over the two articles of impeachment to the Senate.
It's not difficult to see that most Senate Republicans want to see the trial end in an acquittal, as it will help their party, no matter what they think of Trump. He banked on that over the weekend when he requested a quick dismissal of the charges against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Senior Republican senators, however, don't believe a dismissal would be approved in the Senate, despite the GOP holding a majority of 53 seats. Even Trump allies believe a full trial with acquittal would be good for his legacy.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) first brought the possibility of dismissing the articles of impeachment. This was via a measure he introduced to alter the rules after the House didn't turn over the articles initially. The charges could have been dismissed if the Senate still didn't have the articles after 25 days.
With the House indicating it would be turning over the articles soon, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said, "I don't think there's any interest on our side of dismissing. Certainly, there aren't 51 votes for a motion to dismiss."
McConnell wants the trial to follow the same format used in former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999. The Senate approved a resolution in that case that would have allowed them to vote to dismiss the charges.
But 21 years later, senators feel a little differently with regard to Trump. They don't want to include such a provision in his trial. "I think the only reason it would be in there is if there's just some argument for consistency," said Blunt
It's still unknown how witnesses will be handled. While Senate Republicans agreed they didn't want to include witnesses before opening arguments, there's still question of whether they will allow witnesses at all, especially after former national security adviser John Bolton indicated he's willing to testify if subpoenaed.
Yet, that didn't stop Trump from pushing for dismissal. "Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, 'no pressure' impeachment hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat witch hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!" he posted to Twitter.
A senior official with the administration said the White House wants the option of dismissal "available to the president" and not necessarily as part of the organizing resolution. This could even come later in the trial after senators have had time to consider opening arguments. As long as it is done in writing, any senator can move to dismiss.
Despite all this, most Senate Republicans are prepared to acquit the president and believe a vote to acquit would provide a certain statement with regard to the charges he is faced with.
Several Republican senators, including Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Susan Collins (R-ME), have said they will reject an immediate dismissal.
"My understanding is most Republicans wanted to have a full trial and then have a vote on acquittal or a conviction, which is at a 67-vote threshold," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Collins said last week that she's talked with a small circle of GOP senators to ensure that the trial sticks to the same format as Clinton's as much as possible. This week she said she's not negotiating about "specific witnesses" but just that no senator could dismiss the trial without first letting all 100 senators vote on additional witnesses.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) weighed in to say, "I am working to make sure that we will have a process so that we can take a vote on whether or not we need additional information."
While he is rejecting the notion of allowing witnesses before opening arguments, Romney indicated that later in the trial, "I presume I'll be voting in favor of hearing from John Bolton, perhaps among others. That could change depending on what happens in the ensuing days and during those arguments."
"I think we should hear the case. We have a constitutional duty to do that," said Alexander. "That means to me, number one, hear the arguments. Number two, to ask our questions. Number three, to be guaranteed the right to vote on whether we need additional evidence following hearing the case. Evidence could be witnesses, it could be documents."
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