Although President Donald Trump has yet to be officially impeached via a full House vote that is scheduled for this coming week, the shape of the assumed ensuing Senate impeachment trial is already developing — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already rigging the process in favor of Republicans. He’s trying to, at least — columnists for The Washington Post pointed out recently how McConnell’s admission that he’s coordinating strategy with the Trump team could actually give Democrats leverage to use in pressuring for an at least somewhat more fair impeachment trial.
The fairness of that trial has always been in question thanks to the Republican majority, but as The Post‘s Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman point out, McConnell needs an actual majority to stick with him in order to enact his plans of colluding with the White House. Considering past contentious votes in which a handful of moderate Republicans have broken with the party line, it’s not inconceivable for McConnell to lose his majority control while working through the impeachment trial.
Sargent and Waldman write:
‘If Democrats play their procedural cards right, they can pressure Republicans to allow for a much fairer and more open trial that could actually produce new revelations — and if they refuse, extract a political price for it… McConnell told the world he wants to rig the process to produce maximal benefit for Trump. But McConnell might not actually be able to do this, if he doesn’t have 51 GOP votes for it — which could be the case, if vulnerable GOP senators don’t want to go along with it. And that allows Democrats… to try to force those vulnerable GOP senators to take a stand on whether they, too, want a fair and open process.’
At present, the Cook Political Report rates seats as “toss-ups” that are currently held by three Republicans seeking re-election next year in the states of Arizona, Colorado, and Maine. They also rate North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis’s seat as “leaning” Republican, which is the last stop before toss-up status. In contrast, only two Democrat-held 2020 seats are toss-ups or just “leaning” there way — there’s one of each.
Although procedures, including even the right to call witnesses and produce evidence, have to be approved by a Senate majority, the fairness that Democrats might demand during the impeachment trial could include the production of already subpoenaed documents and appearances by also already subpoenaed witnesses. Although there have been very notable breaks with the president’s demand for complete non-compliance, his administration has essentially locked close to everything down that relates to the Ukraine quid pro scandal driving the impeachment proceedings. They’ve denied numerous subpoenas for both documents and witnesses.
And a fight over that could definitely be coming soon. Prominent Trump ally and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who’s poised to have a major role in dealing with the impeachment trial, already told reporters recently that he thinks that the Senate shouldn’t even call any additional witnesses beyond those who’ve spoken to the House. McConnell himself has also been reported to be favoring a quick trial — and considering the evidence that piles up whenever Democrats take a look, that speed constitutes yet another favor to Trump for Democrats to battle.