President Donald Trump was officially impeached by the House of Representatives this month, on the grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But we won’t know what will come of those votes until after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate — and the Congresswoman seems to be holding on to them for the time being. And now it seems that the more Trump rails against Pelosi and what he claims is a “scam impeachment,” and the more other Republicans rush to support him, the more the cracks are beginning to show.
Key to that defense right now is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on December 19 told Fox News, “Everything I do during this [process], I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”
The Senate doesn’t determine whether or not the president is impeached — the House has already done that, and it’s up to the Senate to decide whether or not the President will be removed from office, or acquitted of the charges against him, which they do during a trial where Senators act as jury. (Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted in their impeachment trials, the former because the vote fell just short of the two-thirds supermajority necessary for removal.) So for McConnell to say that he’s working with the White House suggests that the upcoming trial might be skewed — after all, how fair is a trial when one or more members of the jury is openly taking cues from the defendant’s team?
Those comments have now sounded alarm bells for at least one Republican senator: Lisa Murkowski (AK), who told local NBC affiliate KTUU, “In fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed.”
Murkowski is known as a moderate Republican, and was the only Republican to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice in 2018. She’s also sticking to what she believes is a fundamental need to be impartial throughout the trial, which she says “means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.”
“I heard what leader McConnell had said — I happened to think that that has further confused the process,” she added.
That isn’t to say that we know how Murkowski will vote when it’s time for the Senate to cast their votes and potentially end Trump’s presidency. “For me to prejudge and say there’s nothing there or on the other hand, he should be impeached yesterday, that’s wrong, in my view, that’s wrong,” she said. She also said she disagrees with how House Democrats, led by Pelosi, pushed impeachment through.
“Speaker Pelosi was very clear, very direct that her goal was to get this done before Christmas,” she added, noting that she would have preferred the House force John Bolton, former national security adviser, and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify; both ignored the House’s subpoena and did not testify after the White House directed them not to. (That directive to Mulvaney specifically was cited in the articles of impeachment, adding further ground to Democrats’ claims that Trump acted improperly.) “How we [the Senate] will deal with witnesses,” Murkowski said, “remains to be seen.”
The Republican party currently holds a majority presence in the Senate, with 53 seats to Democrats’ 47. There are plenty of ways the Senate’s vote could go, but the most straightforward would still require every Democrat, and 20 more Republicans, to vote in favor of removal.