One of the first things McConnell felt compelled to say when taking to the floor of the Senate this week was:
Here’s a clip of him talking about that (click on the photo to watch):
In other words: the House of Representatives ain’t going to tell the Senate how to conduct its business. That seems fair: we wouldn’t want people coming into our house and telling us how to do our business either.
And that gives us some hope—faint hope, but hope—that we might get some witnesses. Even though Republicans have held completely firm against that so far.
A lot of what’s made it easy for fence-sitting Republicans to side with their more blindly Trump-boosting party mates thus far, is that they can hide behind the argument that they don’t take their marching orders from Nancy Pelosi. On-the-fence Senate Republicans like Mitt Romney (UT), and Susan Collins (ME), have echoed McConnell’s point: they want to make their own decisions, as Senators, after hearing arguments for themselves. Not just doing what the Democrat-controlled House says they should do.
McConnell, all along, has said a time to call witnesses may come later, after arguments are made. (Although it wouldn’t be that much later, since he’s condensed the whole trial process to just a couple of days—he gave a little on that, but not really, so whatever). A process lead House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff has accurately characterized as “ass-backwards”. But so what? It’s McConnell’s chamber, he gets to set out the rules.
On the other hand, McConnell has also said he’s going to proceed with Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate in consultation with, and completely in sync with the White House. And the White House’s stand (except for the occasional statement from Trump that he’d like his people to testify, which he doesn’t really mean: it’s just his way of asserting they have nothing to hide without them actually having to follow up with them actually having to do it) has been set in stone from the beginning: no witnesses, no documents. Said Trump, lingering in Switzerland at an economic conference:
So which Mitch McConnell are we going to get when the time comes? That’s probably not a hard question to answer.
The good news is that may not matter. If a small handful of Republican Senators decide it’s worth getting to the truth, or they’re willing to run the political risk of defying Trump, or they judge that not hewing to Trump may no longer be a kiss of death, they may be good with voting to hear from witnesses. Though McConnell did put in a few hurdles to that: an extra, preliminary vote, and then a rule that if that’s approved and witnesses happen, those witnesses will be first deposed, behind closed doors, before they might appear at the Senate trial. But let’s put that aside for a second.
Then, those few Republican Senators who may decide not to hew to Trump on everything, will be coming from a small but significantly different political place. They’ll be doing it in accordance with McConnell’s plan, not Pelosi’s demands. And accusations of being in the pocket of Nancy Pelosi could be more damaging in a campaign against them right now than not obsequiously obeying Trump. At that point in the trial though, they’d be much more free of those accusations.
And that’s what give us some faint hope that they might do the right thing.
Watch House Impeachment Manager Hakeem Jeffries–in a statement directed at the President’s lawyers–lays out the case against Trump as crystal clear as we’ve ever heard it done (click on the photo to see it):
George Conway (Kellyanne’s anti-Trump husband) compares the Democratic managers to The New York Yankees; Trump’s lawyers to the Bad News Bears. Spoiler: although a feel good movie, the Bad News Bears did not end up winning. Only a moral victory. Is that even possible here?