This week, President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial has been proceeding, with days of House Democrats publicly outlining their case charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) and others, Senate Republicans have been clamoring against hearing from any witnesses during the trial, whose presence would allow the case against the president to grow that much more clearly. This Thursday, on day two of the main bulk of the opening arguments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) fiercely denounced his Republican colleagues for resorting to desperate extremes to get around the issue of witnesses.
He insisted that they’re just focusing on “so-called outrages” and “shiny objects” that are “irrelevant to a fair trial,” and he added to reporters:
‘I think the case for witnesses and documents is so self-evident that many of my Republican colleagues are desperate to talk about anything else, they are so eager to change the conversation. They try to turn you, the press and the American people away to look at something else that has nothing to do with a trial.’
In the opening days of the trial, Republican arguments have centered on increasingly outlandish rabbit trails about the process. Including the president’s own defense team, they’ve brazenly lied and claimed that Republicans were kept out of the House proceedings — they were at all the hearings and got their chances to ask questions — and they have refused to acknowledge the potential material relevance of the witnesses that Democrats are after. That list includes Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, current White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others, all of whom have firsthand perspectives on the president’s plot to pressure Ukraine into investigating his opponents.
On Thursday, Schumer said that he didn’t know if enough Republican Senators would defect from the majority in order to ensure the presence of witnesses, but he said that he was working on the issue.
‘Am I certain that we’ll get those four Republicans? Absolutely not. Am I certain that we won’t absolutely get those four Republicans? Absolutely not. I have hope… that we might get the witnesses and documents by the end of the day.’
He noted that impeachment case managers had presented their evidence “in precise and devastating detail,” but he still does not know if it was enough — although he did acknowledge that:
‘It may have planted the first seed in their minds that yes, the president did something very wrong here.’
Watch his news conference:
His suggestion is reminiscent of the question from MSNBC contributor Matthew Miller, who asked where the “split is between GOP Senators who know Trump did something impeachable and will vote to acquit anyway and those in fantasyland who can’t even admit to themselves he did anything wrong.”
I truly wonder what the split is between GOP Senators who know Trump did something impeachable and will vote to acquit anyway and those in fantasyland who can't even admit to themselves he did anything wrong.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) January 22, 2020
At present, the question of whether or not to hear from witnesses is slated to be considered around next week, after opening arguments conclude and Senators submit their initial questions. Those opening arguments have already been tense; U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who’s moderating the proceedings, stepped in with an admonishment for both sides to tone down their rhetoric earlier this week.