Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is throwing in the towel in his attempts to immediately dismiss the articles of impeachment for Donald Trump that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is planning on forwarding this week to the Senate for trial.
It’s not for a lack of trying.
McConnell admitted in a press conference today that the horrendous optics of exonerating the president without an iota of debate and testimony from direct witnesses to Trump’s actions — including that of his former National Security Advisor John Bolton who announced last week that he would be willing to testify if subpoenaed — has spooked enough Republican Senators potentially vulnerable in their reelection bids that he simply doesn’t have the votes to ram such a partisan measure through successfully, much to his apparent chagrin.
“There is little to no sentiment in the Republican caucus for the motion to dismiss,” McConnell told the assembled reporters.
The GOP Majority Leader also announced that the impeachment trial was most likely to begin on the Senate floor as soon as next Tuesday.
In the meantime, McConnell said that he would take the administrative steps necessary to prepare for the trial.
.@Senatemajldr on impeachment timeline: "preliminary steps here this week which could well include the Chief Justice coming over and swearing in members of the Senate and some other kind of housekeeping measures…which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday." pic.twitter.com/KBJHUHncpL
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 14, 2020
McConnell seems prepared for the eventuality that witnesses will be called to testify in the proceedings but still deferred a final decision until the trial is underway.
The Majority Leader warned Democrats that they won’t be the only ones seeking testimony during the impeachment trial, hinting that Republicans may try to subpoena former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter to try to prove that Trump was legitimately trying to expose corruption in Ukraine and that the former Soviet republic was responsible for the 2016 election meddling rather than the president’s Kremlin pals, as every U.S. intelligence agency has determined.
McConnell on witness question:
"We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial…when you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that Democrats want to call would be called."
— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) January 14, 2020
While the setback for Republican leadership hoping for a rapid exoneration of the president with little collateral damage to his reelection prospects — or their own — is sure to be disappointing to the president and his defenders, the reality is that both the witness testimony and the public reaction to it must be overwhelmingly devastating to Trump and the other Administration players involved to overcome the 2/3rds majority required to vote for the president’s removal from office.
Democrats are counting on the fact that additional testimony will be able to tip the balance in their favor, if not to point of removing him from office immediately, then at least to damage Trump and his political acolytes sufficiently to ensure that his reelection will be a struggle that he will be unable to overcome after the embarrassment of the impeachment trial’s revelations.
Let’s hope that their political calculus is more accurate than McConnell’s. So far it has proven to be much closer to the mark than the Majority Leader has been able to reach.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.