The charm offensive Democrats launched to woo Republican Senate moderates after the House impeachment vote in December is failing.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has been quietly racking up major wins in the battle House Democrats are waging to secure witness testimony and documents before they send over their two articles of impeachment. This aggressive and unprecedented tactic does not seem to be playing well in the Senate, where House lawmakers have absolutely no power to dictate any rules.
McConnell has convinced President Donald Trump to back his push for a speedy resolution to the impeachment affair in light of heightened tensions with Iran and ongoing military engagement with Iranian-backed forces in Iraq.
Trump had been demanding testimonies from Joe Biden, former vice president and frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination, and his son Hunter in order to expose their influence peddling in Ukraine.
Democratic House lawmakers impeached Trump just before Christmas last year using claims in an anonymous whistleblower’s report that he improperly influenced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25th phone call to investigate the Bidens.
They aroused suspicion with the White House and Justice Department because Hunter Biden had served on the board of energy company Burisma in Ukraine for a reported $83,000 a month, even though he had no relevant experience in the industry. Joe Biden used his leverage as point man for the Obama administration in Kiev to force Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the company for corruption.
Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York has been pushing for more Ukraine-related documents and testimony from key Trump administration officials: Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff; Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior adviser to Mulvaney; John Bolton, former national security adviser and Michael Duffey, the associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget.
Duffey wrote to the acting Pentagon comptroller on November 30, characterizing the delayed security aid at the center of their impeachment pursuit as a “clear direction from POTUS to hold.”
McConnell has rallied the support of the rag tag moderates in his party for a Senate trial that follows precedent set during the 1999 impeachment trial of former president Bill Clinton, even though some of them are facing tough battles for re-election.
Bolton indicated he would testify if subpoenaed, but moderates in the GOP-controlled Senate like Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah are standing with McConnell, who has refused to agree on any witnesses until later in the trial.
Collins said Monday, “I believe that the Senate should follow the precedent that was established in the trial of President Clinton,” while Murkowski insisted, “We’ve got to get to the first place first.” Romney tacitly stated “assuming that articles of impeachment reach the Senate, I’d like to hear what he has to say.”
Republicans control the Senate with a slim but mostly unified 53-seat majority while Democrats hold 45 seats,and are bolstered by two independent senators who vote with them.
Schumer had hoped to win the support of at least four Republicans to pass a resolution before the trial that would force McConnell to accede to his demands.
With any luck McConnell will go nuclear and back Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal to change the Senate rules to enable the chamber to dismiss Trump’s impeachment if the House fails to deliver them within 25 days of its impeachment vote.
These developments have delivered a major blow to the overreaching House Democrats and Schumer. They were convinced they could sow seeds of division among Senate Republicans to bulldoze over McConnell. Their game plan to extend the run of their impeachment circus until the 2020 election is now dead.