If Donald Trump seems even more jittery than usual lately, it could because it’s dawning on him that the support among Republican Senators for conducting a sham impeachment trial without the testimony of fact witnesses to the accusations against the president is not as universal as he had believed it would be.
With CBS News now reporting that senior White House officials believe that as many as four GOP Senators — and possibly even more — will vote to call witnesses in the trial as has occurred at both previous presidential impeachment proceedings, the president is likely feeling more nervous than before his misadventures with Iran turned sentiment even further against him, even among some members of his own party.
Among the Republicans predicted to vote against Mitch McConnell’s plan for the immediate dismissal of the articles of impeachment being forwarded from the House of Representatives are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Two other Senators are also considered possible defectors from the unbroken line of defense that Trump had hoped for — Rand Paul (R-KY), who railed against the administration’s failure to consult Congress before approving the assassination of an Iranian general, and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), considered a strict “institutionalist” who may insist on following precedent by the Trump team.
As recently as last week, Senator Collins, considered vulnerable in her reelection bid after her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, told the media that she was working with a “fairly small group” of her colleagues to ensure that the appropriate testimony would be considered, saying that they “should be completely open to calling witnesses.”
Senator Murkowski has gone on the record as supporting conducting the trial under the same conditions that were in effect for the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and has openly said that she was disturbed by Majority Leader McConnell’s statements that he will coordinate with the White House to defeat the attempts to remove Trump from office.
For his part, Senator Romney seems particularly interested in seeing what former National Security Advisor John Bolton might have to say after Bolton agreed to testify if subpoenaed. Senators Garner and Alexander have each advocated that any trial be fair and impartial and Senator Paul has advocated for calling witnesses, although he would most like to see the whistleblower who exposed Trump’s extortionate plan to get Ukranian help in his reelection campaign testify.
With four being the minimum number of GOP defections necessary to ensure that witnesses are called in Trump’s trial, the White House is making contingency plans to invoke executive privilege to prevent Bolton from testifying according to CBS News, although the constitutionality of such blocking in an impeachment proceeding is questionable.
Still, the fact that “one senior official said the White House’s impeachment team and counsel’s office do not expect a quick dismissal of the impeachment articles in the Senate,” as CBS News is reporting, indicates that the attempts by Trump and his legislative cronies to halt the incoming wave are possibly doomed to failure by politically vulnerable Republican Senators who don’t want to see their chances at reelection — and their legacies as public servants — marred by an association with such an obvious cover-up with charges dismissed without a proper examination of the facts.
Even if the Senate votes to allow witnesses, their testimony will need to contain enormous bombshells of incriminating evidence against the president to overcome the barrier that a two-thirds majority vote to remove Trump from office would require.
That such evidence exists is likely. Whether the Senate jurors — and more importantly the public — ever gets to see and hear it is the ultimate question.
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Original reporting by Ben Tracy and Kathryn Watson at CBS News.