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Thomas Gallatin / Jan. 29, 2020

Impeachment Trial Day 7: 'Trust the American People'

It's now looking more likely than not that the Senate will vote to call witnesses.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s defense team finished up its last day of arguments against impeachment by urging senators to “trust the American people” to decide the fate of the president. “You know what the right answer is in your heart,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone stated. “The election is only months away. The American people are entitled to choose their president. It is time for this to end, here and now.” It was a stark and powerful contrast to Rep. Adam Schiff’s elitist assertion that the American people cannot be trusted to vote the right way.

It was a good move and a powerful way to sum up what this impeachment trial has really been all about: Democrats impeaching the vote of the American people. However, it doesn’t look like Trump will get an acquittal vote without witnesses being called.

While Trump’s defense team appealed to the Senate to end the Democrats’ partisan trial with a quick vote to acquit, it’s looking more likely that at the very least John Bolton will be called as a witness. In a Tuesday evening meeting with Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he didn’t have the votes needed to block witnesses or document requests. It’s a recognition that at least four Republican senators want to hear from Bolton, and a further admission that not calling witnesses will play into Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s twisted narrative that Republicans aren’t interested in the truth, just in covering for Trump.

If calling witnesses is a forgone conclusion, what options does the GOP have to prevent the Democrats from drawing this charade out ad nauseam? First, simply vote to call Bolton and only Bolton. Democrats would immediately wail for adding Mick Mulvaney, but McConnell might have the votes to turn that demand aside.

Otherwise, McConnell could also put forward a list of witnesses that Republicans have long been calling for, including the Bidens and the whistleblower, as part of a take-it-or-leave-it package deal. That would effectively put the pressure back on the Democrats to argue against certain witnesses. Of course, if Schumer and company agreed to this deal, then McConnell would need Trump to agree to not invoke executive privilege, as that would only complicate matters for Republicans, delaying the process and playing into the Democrats’ “cover-up” narrative.

The key for McConnell and Republicans is to prevent Democrats from dictating or dragging out this process. The probability that Bolton will present any new or damning information is low, no matter how the Democrats and their media spin machine may claim, and it might even play in Trump’s favor. Wrangling over witnesses will play out over the next couple of days, with key votes later in the week.

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