Sen­a­tors in­sist on trial for Trump

GOP LEAD­ERS RE­BUFF HIM ON DIS­MISSAL Pres­i­dent’s al­lies see vin­di­ca­tion in ac­quit­tal

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SE­UNG MIN KIM, MIKE DEBO­NIS AND ELISE VIEBECK

Top Se­nate Re­pub­li­cans on Mon­day re­jected Pres­i­dent Trump’s call for out­right dis­missal of the im­peach­ment charges against him, but con­tin­ued to grap­ple with the shape of the Se­nate trial that could begin as soon as this week.

Most Se­nate Re­pub­li­cans are ea­ger to stage a trial that ends with Trump’s ac­quit­tal and vin­di­ca­tion on charges that he abused the power of his of­fice in his deal­ings with Ukraine and ob­structed a sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the House. But over the week­end, Trump urged the Se­nate sim­ply to dis­miss the charges against him — with­out hear­ing ar­gu­ments from House pros­e­cu­tors or his own le­gal team.

On Mon­day, se­nior Re­pub­li­cans said im­me­di­ate dis­missal could not win ap­proval in the cham­ber, where Re­pub­li­cans hold a 53-seat ma­jor­ity. And even some staunch Trump al­lies ar­gued that the pres­i­dent’s legacy would ben­e­fit from a ro­bust trial.

“I don’t think there’s any in­ter­est on our side of dis­miss­ing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO.), the fourth-rank­ing GOP se­na­tor. “Cer­tainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a mo­tion to dis­miss.”

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell (R-KY.) has said that he wants the trial — only the third im­peach­ment of a pres­i­dent in U.S. his­tory — to fol­low the for­mat used 21 years ago in the trial of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. In that case, the Se­nate ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion that would have al­lowed the Se­nate to vote to dis­miss the charges.

But se­nior Re­pub­li­cans sig­naled Mon­day that they are not in­clined to in­clude such a pro­vi­sion in the res­o­lu­tion that will kick off Trump’s trial, per­haps as soon as Thurs­day.

“I think the only rea­son it would be in there is if there’s just some ar­gu­ment for con­sis­tency,” Blunt said.

An­other GOP se­na­tor, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss leg­is­la­tion that is not yet pub­lic, also said the in­clu­sion of a pro­vi­sion to dis­miss is un­likely.

Re­pub­li­cans were ma­neu­ver­ing be­hind the scenes about the vex­ing is­sue of wit­nesses as former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton said last week that he would be will­ing to tes­tify if he re­ceives a Se­nate sub­poena.

Still, Trump, in a post Sun­day that he also retweeted on Mon­day, made clear that he was still press­ing for the Se­nate to dis­miss the charges.

“Many be­lieve that by the Se­nate giv­ing cre­dence to a trial based on the no ev­i­dence, no crime, read the tran­scripts, ‘no pres­sure’ Im­peach­ment Hoax, rather than an out­right dis­missal, it gives the par­ti­san Demo­crat Witch Hunt cred­i­bil­ity that it oth­er­wise does not have. I agree!” he wrote.

White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Gr­isham said dur­ing a Fox News in­ter­view that while Trump is seek­ing a dis­missal “be­cause he did noth­ing wrong,” if he faces a Se­nate trial, “he does want it to be fair, which is all he de­serves.”

Mean­while, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to can­didly dis­cuss strat­egy, said the White House wants the dis­missal op­tion “avail­able to the pres­i­dent” and not nec­es­sar­ily tucked into the or­ga­niz­ing res­o­lu­tion. The of­fi­cial also noted that a mo­tion to dis­miss could come later in the trial, once the sen­a­tors have had am­ple time to di­gest open­ing ar­gu­ments and ask ques­tions.

Any se­na­tor can move to dis­miss the charges, as long as it is done in writ­ing.

Trump has been ea­ger to use the Se­nate trial on the cam­paign trail as ev­i­dence that he has done noth­ing wrong and that his im­peach­ment by the House was a po­lit­i­cal “witch hunt” by Democrats.

The House voted Dec. 18 to im­peach Trump, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) has held the two ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment as she sought con­ces­sions from Mccon­nell on wit­nesses. He re­fused to budge and Pelosi re­lented last week, sig­nal­ing that the House would vote this week to ap­prove a slate of im­peach­ment man­agers who will de­liver the ar­ti­cles to the Se­nate and pros­e­cute the case against Trump.

Se­nate Re­pub­li­cans, most of whom are pre­pared not to con­vict Trump on the two charges, be­lieve a vote to ac­quit will pro­vide a more em­phatic state­ment to re­but the abuse-of-power and ob­struc­tion-of- Congress charges he faces over his de­mands that Ukraine launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions that would ben­e­fit him po­lit­i­cally.

For that rea­son, Mccon­nell has long pre­ferred a vote to ac­quit Trump, rather than a vote to dis­miss that has a higher like­li­hood of fail­ure on the Se­nate floor — a view echoed Mon­day by his clos­est al­lies and rank-and-file sen­a­tors.

Sev­eral closely watched Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors said Mon­day that they would re­ject im­me­di­ate dis­missal of the charges against Trump, in­clud­ing Sens. Lamar Alexan­der (Tenn.), Mitt Rom­ney (Utah) and Su­san Collins (Maine).

“My un­der­stand­ing is most Re­pub­li­cans wanted to have a full trial and then have a vote on ac­quit­tal or a con­vic­tion, which is at a 67-vote thresh­old,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-tex.).

Chat­ter about dis­miss­ing the charges be­gan to ramp up last week af­ter Sen. Josh Haw­ley (R-MO.) in­tro­duced a mea­sure to al­ter Se­nate rules to al­low for dis­miss­ing ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, but only if the House had failed to trans­mit them to the Se­nate within 25 cal­en­dar days.

Mccon­nell an­nounced last week that he had the votes to pro­ceed with Trump’s im­peach­ment trial with­out sup­port from Democrats and within the pa­ram­e­ters that he sought: hours of open­ing state­ments for the House man­agers and Trump’s de­fense team, as well as a pe­riod for ques­tion­ing from sen­a­tors. No Re­pub­li­cans sig­naled dis­sent from that strat­egy last week.

As Se­nate GOP lead­ers work to fi­nal­ize the res­o­lu­tion that would es­tab­lish Trump’s trial, they also be­gan con­tend­ing with a grow­ing cho­rus of Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors who could be in­flu­en­tial swing votes on pro­ce­dural mat­ters on the ques­tion of wit­nesses.

One of them, Collins, said last week that she has spo­ken with a small cir­cle of Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors to en­sure that the process for Trump hews as closely to the struc­ture that Clin­ton was granted dur­ing his trial.

On Mon­day, Collins ex­plained that her ne­go­ti­a­tions are not about “spe­cific wit­nesses” get­ting called but are merely an at­tempt to make sure that no se­na­tor could short-cir­cuit the trial with­out first let­ting all 100 sen­a­tors vote on whether to call ad­di­tional wit­nesses.

Other like-minded sen­a­tors on Mon­day echoed Collins’s view.

“I am work­ing to make sure that we will have a process so that we can take a vote on whether or not we need ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion,” which could in­clude wit­nesses, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-alaska).

Rom­ney said Mon­day that he plans to vote against early mo­tions by Democrats for wit­nesses be­fore open­ing ar­gu­ments but that later in the trial, “I pre­sume I’ ll be vot­ing in fa­vor of hear­ing from John Bolton per­haps among oth­ers. That could change de­pend­ing on what hap­pens in the en­su­ing days and dur­ing those ar­gu­ments, but I’m not go­ing to be vot­ing for wit­nesses prior to the open­ing ar­gu­ments.”

Se­nior Re­pub­li­cans stressed Mon­day that such a vote would prob­a­bly oc­cur, with Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) telling re­porters: “I don’t think there’s any ques­tion that there’ll prob­a­bly be that vote at some point in the process.”

“I think we should hear the case. We have a con­sti­tu­tional duty to do that,” Alexan­der said. “That means to me, num­ber one, hear the ar­gu­ments. Num­ber two, to ask our ques­tions. Num­ber three, to be guar­an­teed the right to vote on whether we need ad­di­tional ev­i­dence fol­low­ing hear­ing the case. Ev­i­dence could be wit­nesses, it could be doc­u­ments.”

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