In a column for the Daily Beast, longtime White House observer Margaret Carlson claimed she doesn’t think the Democrats need witnesses to make the case for the ouster of Donald Trump, but they might just get their wish if embattled Republicans facing re-election woes take advantage of the president’s professed desire to see witnesses take the stand.
“To fight back against White House lawyers’ main objection to the House’s articles of impeachment—that the officials in the room where the impeachable acts happened did not testify—Democrats have to plead for those witnesses to testify now. And that gives Donald Trump’s political defense a favorite talking point: If Democrats have such a strong case (which in fact they do), then why are they spending the first two days of the trial begging for more evidence?” she writes, before answering her own question with, “Easy. While Republicans insist that there’s no case without witnesses and that it’s too late to call them, they neglect to mention that it’s Republicans who demanded and got witnesses in Clinton’s impeachment, including the president himself. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who’s ripping into Democrats now for supposedly creating a ‘complete circus’ by demanding witnesses, was a House impeachment manager then.”
As Carlson notes, Democrats run the risk of looking “weak” by begging for witnesses, giving the impression that they don’ have a strong case for impeachment when they, in fact, do based upon House hearing testimony and documents already in hand. However, she adds, some Republicans who are facing a tough re-election may throw them a lifeline by agreeing to witnesses in order to appear fair-minded in the hopes it will save their political careers.
“There’s no reason that Americans—and senators—shouldn’t hear former National Security Adviser John Bolton describing the ‘drug deal’ he saw going down, however much listening to Bolton and others like acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might hurt the sensitive ears of Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the whimpering Republican caucus,” Carlson writes. “A vote for witnesses would give some senators a way to cut the baby in half, to show they’re not complete patsies for Trump but are loyal enough to the party to vote against conviction. This may be particularly appealing to those senators in purplish states up for re-election. Republican Senators live in fear of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced before the trial began that he planned to do everything the president wanted, including not having witnesses because it would be a ‘fishing expedition’.”
According to the columnist, McConnell’s 53-47 advantage in the Senate could be imperiled if Republican senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), Cory Gardner (CO), Joni Ernst (IA) or Martha McSally (AZ) flip to save their own hides.
“McConnell also has to worry about a few others like sometimes statesman Mitt Romney, retiring senators like Lamar Alexander, and institutionalists like Rob Portman,” Carlson adds. “If McConnell loses any four of them, he loses his ironclad grip on the length and depth of the trial.”
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