Dear Commons Community,
As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial comes to a showdown today, it is unlikely that there are the votes needed to call witnesses.
Republican senators argue that calling John Bolton or any other witnesses would be a waste of time — because their vote won’t change. That argument is an accidental admission of the essential truth of this trial: Republicans are prepared to acquit Trump no matter what.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter,” Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.) said last night in a statement. Alexander said the charges against the president – that he inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens – had been “proved” by the House managers, and that the president had acted improperly.
“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Alexander said, adding that the president’s actions were the kind that “undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”
“But,” he added, “the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he was “very, very skeptical” that there would be a witness who would change his mind “about how I ought to vote on the final question.”
“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement Wednesday.
“Unless there’s a witness that’s going to change the outcome, I can’t imagine why we’d want to stretch this out for weeks and months,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said earlier this week.
This is a far different stance than Graham and others took as recently as a few months ago, when they suggested that there was simply a lack of evidence to support the charges against the president.
“If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing,” Graham told Axios in October.
Trump and allies such as Graham have continuously tried to narrow the scope of the impeachment investigation and direct attention solely to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Although the call alone includes Trump bringing up groundless conspiracy theories and asking Zelensky to investigate a political rival, recent months have provided additional evidence and testimony that Trump directed a quid pro quo campaign to pressure Ukraine into launching a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Republicans have been eager to ignore and suppress that evidence, especially when it comes to Bolton. Trump’s lawyers in the impeachment trial have argued that Bolton’s book draft is inadmissible and the White House has warned him against publishing it.
Senators are expected to debate and vote on whether to call witnesses today, with Democrats needing four Republicans to side with them in order for it to pass. However, it is not clear that all of the Senate Democrats will vote in favor of calling witnesses.
If witnesses are allowed, it could extend the impeachment proceedings and start a fight over who should be required to testify.