Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he has the votes to reject the Democrats’ request to guarantee witnesses and pass a rules package that could expedite the impeachment trial.
But he should not assume that is the end of it. Senate Republicans could still vote to allow specific witnesses after the evidence has been reviewed but before the final vote — and according to CBS News, “at least four Republicans, and likely more” are planning to do that, possibly fearing the optics of rejecting testimony on the president’s conduct before voting to acquit.
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are expected to be among this number — Collins in particular has claimed she is rallying votes with a “small group” of Republicans. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), a usually staunch pro-Trump vote who is facing one of the most difficult Senate elections in 2020, could feel pressure to do so as well.
The White House also reportedly is not sure they have the support of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an unpredictable paleoconservative who harshly criticized the president over the Iran standoff last week, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who is retiring.
The bottom line is that despite all of McConnell’s efforts to ensure the trial will be short and simple, administration officials now fear it will be anything but.