As of Monday, it’s clear that any hope Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer might have had that they could convince four or five Republican senators to join their cause is rapidly evaporating. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has all the votes he needs to dismiss Schumer’s demands that additional witnesses be called at the start of President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
Though Republicans like Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have made murmuring noises about breaking from McConnell’s leash in recent days, none of them appear willing to buck the majority leader when it comes to his view of additional witnesses.
On Monday, Collins and Murkowski said they were comfortable following the precedent set by Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998, where the subject of new witnesses was not addressed until weeks after the trial began. Both said that the same process should be followed with the Trump trial, and that opening arguments from both sides would clarify whether or not additional witness testimony was necessary.
“I think it’s difficult to decide in isolation before we have heard the opening statements, particularly since the president’s attorney chose not to put a case on in the House and Republicans were not allowed to call witnesses in committee,” Collins said.
Murkowski was on the same page when she spoke to reporters. “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that,” she said.
Of course, all of this remains strictly academic at this point since…Pelosi hasn’t actually sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Furthermore, she is completely silent on when – or even if – she might do so. What she’s waiting for is anyone’s guess. Last month, the urgency behind the impeachment of Donald Trump was such that Democrats couldn’t even wait for important separation-of-powers court cases to be resolved. Suddenly, Democrats have all the time in the world to stretch this out to infinity.
Fact is, if Democrats really wanted to hear from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, they could have waited for a court to rule on the viability of Trump’s assertion of executive privilege. They could have done the same with Charles Kupperman. They could have subpoenaed John Bolton and gotten a ruling there as well. They could have waited for these so-called “bombshell” documents to come out about the Ukraine timing and decision-making. They didn’t. They rushed forward, and now they want to conduct the trial at their leisure.
What they haven’t yet realized, apparently, is that they no longer call the shots. And eventually, Senate Republicans are going to tire of the games.