As im­peach­ment moves to Se­nate, get ready for sur­prises

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - ••• By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal correspond­ent for The Washington Ex­am­iner.

With a House im­peach­ment vote a fore­gone con­clu­sion, the bat­tle to re­move Pres­i­dent Trump from of­fice has moved to the Se­nate. Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer grabbed con­trol of the de­bate Mon­day with de­mands for what he called “fair­ness” in the pres­i­dent’s trial.

Schumer wants the Se­nate to al­low tes­ti­mony from four wit­nesses the House did not in­ter­view: former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton; act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney; key Mul­vaney aide Robert Blair; and Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get of­fi­cial Michael Duf­fey. House Demo­cratic im­peach­ers wanted the men to tes­tify, but af­ter the White House, claim­ing priv­i­lege, re­fused, House lead­ers chose not to try to force them to ap­pear. Go­ing to court to com­pel their tes­ti­mony, Democrats said, would take too much time.

Now Schumer wants the wit­nesses sim­ply to for­get about priv­i­lege ques­tions and tes­tify in the Se­nate trial.

“How, on such a weighty mat­ter, could we avoid hear­ing this, could we go for­ward with­out hear­ing it?” Schumer asked at a news con­fer­ence Mon­day. “I haven’t seen a sin­gle good ar­gu­ment about why these wit­nesses shouldn’t tes­tify -- un­less the pres­i­dent has some­thing to hide and his sup­port­ers want that in­for­ma­tion hid­den.”

Repub­li­cans will re­spond that the Se­nate is not the place for fact-find­ing -- that is, for sen­a­tors to be­come in­ves­ti­ga­tors and do what the House de­clined to do.

Some will also note that the House chose not to seek the ap­point­ment of an out­side in­ves­ti­ga­tor -- a spe­cial coun­sel -- to es­tab­lish what hap­pened in the Trump-ukraine mat­ter, and the Se­nate is ill-equipped to play that role.

Many will also ar­gue that the facts of the case do not align with the Demo­cratic ac­cu­sa­tion of bribery, and more tes­ti­mony will not change that. Oth­ers will ar­gue that they don’t be­lieve what the pres­i­dent did rises to the level of an im­peach- able of­fense. In other words, they will come up with a num­ber of good ar­gu­ments -- per­haps not good ar­gu­ments to Charles Schumer, but good ar­gu­ments to Repub­li­cans -- not to have any more wit­nesses.

Schumer is not try­ing to con­vince all 53 Se­nate Repub­li­cans to sup­port his pro­posal. He just needs four. There are 47 Democrats in the Se­nate. If Schumer can per­suade four GOP sen­a­tors to join Democrats, they’ll have a ma­jor­ity of 51 and can force the call­ing of new wit­nesses. (Of course, Schumer is count­ing on Democrats vot­ing as a bloc against the pres­i­dent, which is prob­a­bly a good bet.)

If Schumer gets what he wants, it seems hard to be­lieve that will be the end of it. The re­quest for more wit­nesses ap­pears de­signed to lead not to clo­sure, but to re-open­ing the case against Trump in this way: If Democrats can in­tro­duce new tes­ti­mony in the trial, they can say the new tes­ti­mony has raised new ques­tions that will re­quire new in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And new in­ves­ti­ga­tion will re­quire more new wit­nesses, which will surely lead to more new ques­tions, which ... Call it the Brett Ka­vanaugh model of im­peach­ment. Dur­ing the Supreme Court jus­tice’s con­fir­ma­tion process, a hear­ing had al­ready been held and Ka­vanaugh ap­peared on the way to join­ing the court. Then, up popped a new al­le­ga­tion -- the Chris­tine Blasey-ford story -- and Democrats de­manded the case be re-opened, wit­nesses be in­ter­viewed, ev­i­dence be gath­ered, time be taken for more in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Repub­li­cans ac­ceded to those de­mands, and the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion ca­reened off course for a while be­fore GOP law­mak­ers fi­nally got it back on track.

It is not be­yond imag­i­na­tion that a Se­nate im­peach­ment trial, were it con­trolled by Schumer and his Demo­cratic col­leagues, might take a sim­i­larly un­fore­seen course. Be­yond new wit­nesses, there are plenty of ways that could hap­pen. For ex­am­ple: On Mon­day, lawyers for the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee told a fed­eral court it is es­sen­tial that grand-jury ma­te­ri­als from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Trump-rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion be given to House in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Why? Be­cause it might help the im­peach­ment ef­fort. “If the House ap­proves ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment,” the lawyers ar­gued, “rel­e­vant grand-jury ma­te­rial that the com­mit­tee ob­tains in this lit­i­ga­tion could be used dur­ing the sub­se­quent Se­nate pro­ceed­ings.”

If the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­ceives the in­for­ma­tion, there is lit­tle doubt its lead­ers will work with Se­nate Democrats to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that there is new ev­i­dence so com­pelling that it ab­so­lutely must be in­cluded in the im­peach­ment trial. And if Repub­li­cans dis­agree -- what are they try­ing to hide?

In­deed, Schumer and his col­leagues have pre­pared the way to char­ac­ter­ize any move to limit the trial’s scope as an ef­fort to hide wrong­do­ing from the Amer­i­can peo­ple. “To en­gage in a trial with­out the facts com­ing out is to en­gage in a cover-up,” he said Mon­day.

The bot­tom line is, Repub­li­cans should not be­lieve for one minute that the cam­paign to re­move the pres­i­dent will rely only on the case Democrats have built in the House. Schumer and other party lead­ers will scram­ble for new in­for­ma­tion to throw at the pres­i­dent, and at Repub­li­cans, un­til it is over. The GOP, and the White House, need to be ready.

BY­RON YORK

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