GOP works ‘aggressive Plan B’ amid mixed signals on whether McConnell has votes to block witnesses

Screengrab MSNBC

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was looking to make quick work of the Democratic Party’s impeachment of President Trump and with defense lawyers ending arguments in the Senate trial Tuesday, the goal of a quick trial appeared to be on track.

At least, it was until The Wall Street Journal reported that McConnell does not have the votes to avoid calling additional witnesses, which would drag proceedings out for weeks and take the trial in unpredictable directions — it would also give Democrats and their media allies more time to work their magic in digging up new dirt.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the WSJ reported that there was a meeting of GOP senators late Tuesday and McConnell said the vote total wasn’t where it needed to be on blocking witnesses or documents.

“He had a card with ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘maybes’ marked on it, apparently a whip count, but he didn’t show it to senators,” the newspaper said.

Fox Business also reported that McConnell “told people in a private meeting Tuesday that the GOP did not have the votes to block impeachment witnesses.”

But there was mixed signals on whether he has the votes or not, as Politico and NBC reported that McConnell did have the numbers.

Several Republicans in the meeting expressed confidence afterward that they had the needed votes, to include Sn. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I feel good. I feel good that we’re in a good spot, in terms of ending the trial sooner rather than later,” Graham said, according to The Hill.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said the GOP will have at least 50 votes — Democrats need four defections to prevail on calling witnesses.

“We’ve been 100 percent united in this process to this point and it would be my hope that we can remain that way,” Cramer said. “It’s either going to be 53, 52 or 51, some number that starts with five would be my guess would be the vote to not have witnesses.”

The issue of whether to call additional witnesses took on added steam with a timely New York Times piece out Sunday night that cited the manuscript of former national security adviser Bolton’s unpublished book to report that the president linked a hold on Ukrainian aid to an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

The Times reported that the president told Bolton in August he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until the country helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens — Trump denies the charge.

The liberal media responded to the unverified allegation as if their hair was on fire, and Democrats demanded that Bolton be called to testify before the Senate.

And it would appear that the campaign has impacted the usual suspects — moderate Republicans.

Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have already said they will vote to consider motions to subpoena additional witnesses and documents, and there are reportedly a few others who remain open to the idea.

The Hill reported that Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was one of those on the fence.

The step in the trial entails senators asking questions for an allotted 16 hours, and the senator said he would make a decision after that. 

“I think the path forward is we got two days of questions and answers,” Alexander told reporters. “That will take Wednesday and Thursday, and as far as I’m concerned after I finish hearing the answers to the questions and consider the record — I’ve now heard the arguments of both sides — then I’ll make a decision about whether we need more evidence.”

Another suspect, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has been noncommittal on whether to call for witnesses or not, but said in a tweet on Monday she “was curious as to what John Bolton might have to say.”

Here’s more from The Hill on what to expect in the coming days:

Under the organizing resolution passed by all 53 GOP senators last week, the Senate is set to vote Friday on “whether it shall be in order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents.”

If the measure wins fewer than 50 votes, it will fail and the Senate will move to vote “yes” or “no” on the two articles of impeachment passed by the House. […]

In the case of a 50-50 tie, there’s a possibility that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts could step in and rule in favor of witnesses.

 

Graham predicted a bipartisan acquittal of President Trump and Politico is reporting that several Democratic senators are “wrestling with whether to vote to convict Donald Trump.”

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., were named as being undecided on whether to vote to remove the president from office.

There was also a surprising report that Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., may be leaning towards acquitting Trump — at least, until the liberal mob heard about it.

After Trump’s defense team finished arguments on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Feinstein “became the first Democrat to suggest that she could vote to acquit him, despite serious concerns about his character.”

“Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,” Feinstein said. “That was my view and it still is my view.”

To the surprise of few, the report prompted the senator to claim that the newspaper “misunderstood” what she said.

Senate Republicans are also looking at an “aggressive Plan B,” according to Fox News.

One option is to amend any resolution calling for a particular witness to also include a package of witnesses — the idea being to add individuals who are all but certain to prompt Democrats to not support the measure.

Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, would be at the top of that list, along with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., whose relationship with the whistleblower would be of great interest.

Another option is for the White House to assert executive privilege to block certain witnesses, beginning with Bolton, citing national security concerns.

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Tom Tillison

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