Senate Majority Leader McConnell has released the motion, which will be voted on tomorrow, that delineates the rules for the Senate’s impeachment trial.
Also, as expected, there will be a debate of up to four hours on the question of "whether it shall be in order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses and documents." The Senate will then vote on whether to subpoena any witnesses.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 20, 2020
Resolution allows for a vote “at a later time on the question of whether or not (evidence) may be admitted as part” of trial, per GOP aide, who noted it’s different than Clinton trial, which admitted evidence automatically. GOP argues bc Trump was “denied due process” in House
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 20, 2020
– Tomorrow: Debate on amendment(s) and vote on McConnell resolution
– Wednesday: Dem arguments
– Thursday: Dem arguments
– Friday: Trump team arguments
– Sat: Trump team, or senator questions
– Monday: Senator questions
– Tuesday: possible senator questions, vote on witnesses
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 21, 2020
So here’s the bottom line:
- The evidence, records, and documents sent over by the House will not automatically be made part of the Senate’s trial proceedings. It may, at such time as Senator McConnell brings up a subsequent motion to allow it and that motion passes with 51 votes. And this will be done on an individual basis for each piece of evidence, not en masse for the whole of it, which is a break from how the Senate handled President Clinton’s impeachment.
- The Democratic impeachment managers from the House will have 24 hours to make their case, divided into two days. Each day will start at 1 PM EST and will conclude no later than 1 AM EST the next morning. Then the President’s defense team will have the same arrangement.
- According to Senator Halwey (warning: auto play video at that link!), Senator McConnell has built a kill switch into the rules package allowing him to move to summary dismissal whenever he feels he has the 51 votes to do so.
- There will be no vote on witness or additional evidence until after the Democratic House managers and the President’s defense finish presenting their cases.
- Senator McConnell controls the audio and video in the Senate chamber. He has already pissed off C-Span by informing them that he will control their cameras and feed during the trial, not C-Span, as part of his news media control rules that he has implemented for the Senate trial. Americans will see as much or as little as Senator McConnell wants them to see and only what he wants them to see.
Yes, I know Senator Schumer is putting up a fight. And he’s doing a good job, he almost looks like he’s caffeinated! More seriously, Senator Schumer is fighting the good fight, but he doesn’t have the terrain, nor does he have the ammunition to win. The simple reality of the Senate is that Senator McConnell as the Majority Leader controls the Senate. Especially if he has the votes. And for everything involving the Senate’s impeachment trial he only needs 51 votes and, according to all the reporting, he has the 51 votes he needs to at least get started the way he wants. And as soon as he has the 51 votes to acquit, he’ll entertain that motion from the President’s defense and hold that vote. Until he has those 51 votes, he’ll allow things to continue, even if that is through a crooked and corrupt process.
Senator McConnell knows, because he has been doing it successfully since January 2009, that the majority of Americans do not care about process, if they even understand it. And that the vast majority of Americans aren’t political junkies either. So if he just does what he’s going to do, give his regular more in sadness than in anger remarks, and is boring, then the news media will move along to whichever shiny object catches their attention. This is how he stymied President Obama for eight years. This is how he brought the Republicans back into the majority in the Senate. This is how he stole a Supreme Court seat. This is how he stole over 150 Federal judgeships. And this is how he was able to place Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. As I wrote back in June 2018 when people were hoping that Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins might break with him:
Senate Majority Leader McConnell really isn’t a politician or like any politician who has ever served as Senate Majority or Minority Leader. Rather than view him as a politician, it is more appropriate to understand Senator McConnell as an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one. He recognizes no legitimacy but his own. When out of power he’ll do whatever is necessary using asymmetric, irregular, and/or unconventional means to achieve power. And once he achieves power he will do whatever he can to achieve his objectives to consolidate his gains as quickly as possible using any means necessary as he believes his actions are self justifying – that his achievement of power justifies his by any means necessary strategy. This is, by the way, the basic argument of the premier Italian fascist (national-syndicalist) theorist Sergio Panunzio, who delineated the fascist theories for the use of political violence and low intensity warfare in the 1920s. As a result, there is no law, rule, tradition, norm, ethic, promise, and/or deal he won’t violate or renege on. This also makes him an unreliable interlocutor and makes it impossible to negotiate with him in good faith as he doesn’t believe in good faith negotiations.
Since Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins, let alone anyone else, cannot negotiate with Senator McConnell in good faith, because Senator McConnell doesn’t do anything in good faith, if they want to get anything done, then they need to rely on their leverage as senators in a very slim Senate majority caucus to force their initiatives through. This means threatening to and/or actually caucusing with the Democrats. The last thing that Senator McConnell wants is to lose control of the Senate. Whether now because of the defections of a pair of his retiring members using it as leverage to achieve their own objectives or in the mid terms because enough voters want a check on the President to override the partisan Republican advantage in this senatorial election cycle. It is why he’s ground everything in the chamber other than handling nominations, specifically judicial nominations, to a halt. It is why he doesn’t want to do the legally required annual budgetary resolution so he can avoid having his members take tough votes before the midterms. And it is why he’s cancelled most of the August recess under the pretense that it is the only way he can move judicial nominees because of what he alleges is Democratic obstruction. Nominations that only exist because he prevented President Obama from seating almost any judicial nominees during his final two years in office. The Democratic minority has no tools to stop these nominations, regardless of what Senator McConnell says because Senator McConnell in conjunction with Senator Grassley has gotten rid of the blue slip rule and refuses to recognize Democratic senators holds on nominees. Senator McConnell’s cancellation of the August recess is really just a thinly veiled attempt to keep incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection off the campaign trail. Every Senate rule, tradition, norm, ethic, and even law (Congressional Budget Act) has been bent or stretched to breaking or just outright ignored by Senator McConnell in his quest to consolidate his power and achieve his revanchist and reactionary objectives. As an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one, Senator McConnell only understands and recognizes the application of leverage and force. Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins have the ability to apply significant leverage and force. The question is whether or not they have the will to do so. The sad reality is the answer is almost certainly not.
If you are counting on Senators Romney, Murkowski, Alexander, and/or Collins to do what Senators Corker and Flake did not in 2018, please email me about the great bridge I have to sell you on a lovely beachfront in Florida. The Senate runs according to McConnell’s rules and Senator McConnell’s only rule is doing whatever he can get away with to maintain power to achieve his objectives. That’s it. Expecting anything else to happen is self delusion.