What Options Do Democrats Have Now To Bust Up Republican Efforts To Sweep Trump’s Impeachment Trial Under The Rug?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D) CA, still holding firm

And did anyone really think enough Republican Senators would stand up and move to make it more substantial?

Especially at this point in time with Trump taking a victory lap over his “win” in Iran. But that also might be why, if Democrats cede the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to proceed with his “no trial trial” concept in total cahoots with the White House, this might not be a bad time to do it. Because even the skimpiest of Senate trials will take at least a couple of weeks. And even keeping things as boring and uneventful as possible will not prevent renewed focus from the public on the many misdeeds Trump’s engaging in as part of running his Presidency.

Then why is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still hanging on to those articles of impeachment with all her considerable might? She answered that question late this week, saying now there’s buzz in Republican circles of not even doing a trial at all; just voting to dismiss the charges against Trump and being done with it then and there. So actually doing even less than they’re already threatening to do now.

Says Pelosi:

‘Dismiss’ equals ‘coverup’. ‘Dismiss’ equals admission that you’re afraid of the facts, the truth, the witnesses, and the documentation.”

Here’s a link to a longer clip of Pelosi’s comments, or you can click on the photo at the top of this piece

We don’t know if that’s going to change the minds of a number of Democrats—especially in the Senate—who in the past several days suggested Pelosi’s waited long enough and she should send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate now or soon, even without getting the concessions from McConnell she’s been seeking. (And it’s hard for us to call them concessions because it’s really just that witnesses are allowed to be called at a trial.)

Pretty much any sane person walking around would’ve seen Republicans would prevail at least on this part of it from the get-go. In order to compel the Senate to do anything other than what Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants, Democrats would’ve needed not just one or two, but a small handful of Republicans to vote against him. (He who says he’ll conduct the trial however the White House wants him to.) And the people batting about the theory that McConnell might be bluffing (hey, he might still be bluffing!), were never more than a tiny bit hopeful, and always a bit daffy.

And let’s get one point that’s causing some confusion out of the way: McConnell saying he’s going to proceed without an agreement with Democrats doesn’t mean he can go ahead and start the Senate trial lickety-split, of his own volition. Pelosi still has to send over a bill before he can begin.

McConnell’s hiding behind the argument that there was no agreement on witnesses before President Clinton’s impeachment trial in the Senate. But that’s an extraordinarily convoluted argument, since part of the reason for that was many witnesses had already given depositions to investigators, and Senators had access to those depositions. And several eventually did get called by the Senate.

But Trump has blocked similar-level people from talking to anyone, so no one’s heard anything from them. Trump’s said that’s because he wants them to testify before the Republican controlled Senate because they’d get a fairer shake there than in the Democrat-controlled House. But he doesn’t really mean that. How are we so sure? Because if he did, none of this would be at issue.

And McConnell saying Senators can decide on witnesses later, is a ruse to keep things as quick and dirty as possible, as he himself has admitted when outlining his vision for the trial:

Furthermore, we read in Politico that Trump’s favorite boosters in the House—you know, all the maniacs who screamed and yelled and accused Democrats of being hysterical while exhibiting behavior of their own that could only be described as hysterical during the impeachment hearings in the House—won’t participate in the Senate trial, even though they could. Another signal what McConnell envisions accomplishing in the Senate trial is much more along the lines of concealing things rather than calling any attention to anything.

So what options do Democrats have left? Not many, but they never had many. And there are still a few:

  1. Maintain their resolve, as the Speaker is doing. Even though it’s an extremely remote possibility, maybe after a while 3 or 4 or 5 Republicans who are lined up behind McConnell right now will change their minds, just to break the inertia. Or at least–as Pelosi says she’s doing now–fend off the possibility of Republican Senators just turning around and dismissing all the charges against the President with nothing more procedurally. There’s a risk for Democrats though to sit for a long, long time if that starts being perceived as them being nothing but petulant, which is the picture Trump’s continually trying to paint. At the same time, this will continue to drive Trump crazy since he won’t sit still until he can say he was “fully vindicated” by the Senate. (Which won’t be true, but whatever).
  2. Let the Senate trial begin, assuming Democrats get assurances that the “both sides presenting their arguments” part of the trial will actually take place, and hope they can get 3 or 4 or 5 Republicans to peel off after the first phase and vote then to call witnesses. (For instance, maybe someone like Senator Mitt Romney (R) UT, feels he has a better shot explaining to the public why he’s doing it at this point than beforehand.) This would’ve been an almost definite losing bet until former National Security Advisor John Bolton said earlier this week he’d be willing to testify if called by the Senate. Which brings us to…
  3. Play the John Bolton card. Trump’s former National Security Advisor said this week he’ll testify, but only before the Senate, not the House. In fact, the bulk of his statement announcing his making himself available to the Senate, is legalese about why it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to testify before the House.

Crooked.com’s Brian Beutler has an interesting idea: why doesn’t the House just subpoena Bolton anyway? Especially since Bolton’s probably invariably weakening his legal argument for not testifying before the House by saying he would testify before the Senate. So Beutler sees this as a potential win-win-win for Democrats because he says it could play out only one of three possible ways:

One by which Bolton, having already agreed to testify to the Senate, seeks permission from a court to testify to the House, prolonging Trump’s agony for at least several weeks; another by which he testifies to the House directly; and a third by which Senate Republicans relent and agree to bring their coverup to an end.”

Of course there’s a far simpler (although maybe less practical) way to do this: get a few Republican Senators to agree ahead of time that it’s worth hearing from Bolton when they get to that point in the trial. As we said, Mitt Romney has said he’s interested in doing that, even though he’s unwilling to vote for it being an up-front condition. But maybe some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate can convince him and a few other Republicans it’s the prudent thing to do. Then they don’t have to run the risk of looking like they’re taking orders from Nancy Pelosi in front of their constituencies. That’s what West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is proposing, and he’s about as Republican as you can get for a Democrat. But those Democrats would have to get some pretty firm commitments.

As we warned earlier this week, we’re not so sure Bolton’s the guy with the “special sauce” that’ll bring Trump down. But it is probably the gamble at this point with the best odds of paying off. And more importantly, getting at the truth.