President Donald Trump’s legal team is continuing to push for the Senate to outright dismiss the House impeachment articles levied against him and forgo a trial altogether that would likely result in an acquittal, despite top GOP senators’ rejection of the idea.
“[Dismissal] demonstrates and allows someone to make a decision right at the threshold that this is so insubstantial we shouldn’t spend more time on it,” senior Trump administration officials told reporters on a conference call Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It doesn’t meet the standard, and we should just get rid of it. That would be an appropriate thing to do, in this case.”
The sentiment by the president’s legal team that there will at some point be an opportunity to dismiss the articles after the trial officially commences on Thursday has been shot down several times in recent days by GOP Senate leaders, as well as rank-and-file Republicans.
“There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday. “Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, also rejected the idea of a dismissal, saying the “person who would benefit the most from everybody being heard is the president.”
“He hasn’t had a chance to make his case. He’ll have that chance in the Senate,” Blunt elaborated. “We can’t just have a one-sided process that suddenly ends.”
Even one of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), characterized a trial dismissal as “a bad idea.”
“I don’t think you have the votes for it,” he told reporters. “I think it’s personally a bad idea. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Moderate Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), also do not support dismissing the articles without a trial.
All of the senators’ rebuttals to the White House legal strategy came after a weekly GOP Senate lunch on Tuesday, which White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland attended. He told reporters before the meeting that the White House was “very confident” it would have an opportunity for “a motion to dismiss.”
In their call with reporters Wednesday, the senior administration officials said they expect the speediest presidential impeachment trial in history, lasting just a few weeks and with no witnesses. The trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton lasted nearly three months and more than one month, respectively.
“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going beyond two weeks. We think that this case is overwhelming for the president, and the Senate is not going to have any need to be taking that amount of time on this,” the officials said. “We don’t think that there’s going to be any need for witnesses in this trial.”
The question over whether witnesses should be summoned to testify has been a contentious point of debate between Republicans and Democrats, and it was the reason House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) withheld the articles for nearly a month as Senate leaders negotiated terms for the trial. With McConnell emerging victorious over the stalemate, the Senate will most likely pass trial rules that mirror those in the Clinton trial, which allowed for the consideration of witnesses only after arguments were presented by House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team.
The senior officials issued a warning for Democrats: “If we go on to a longer process with witnesses or something, the president will have a right to have witnesses as well.”
Indeed, Senate Republicans have issued a similar cautionary message to their Democratic colleagues that, if they prove successful in forcing a vote to subpoena their desired witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, they too will move to call their own witnesses. That could include Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats would only need four Republicans to side with them.
“Both sides would want to call witnesses that they want to hear from,” McConnell said. “When we get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called.”
He declined to say whether one of those people would be Hunter Biden, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has vowed that the former vice president’s son would be among them.