Trump's defenders are plotting to make his Senate trial a circus and turn it on its head
Republicans have already deployed their primary defense of Donald Trump through constant attacks on the impeachment process and by attacking Democrats. But simply throwing up a constant stream of objections and tarring Rep. Adam Schiff for simply chairing a committee, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for insisting on the role of Congress, isn’t sufficient. As The Washington Post reports, Republicans have already floated 26 different claims in defense of Donald Trump’s actions in Ukraine. Twenty-six.
Those defenses run the gamut from no quid pro quo, to no corrupt intent, to Lindsey Graham claiming that Trump isn’t competent enough to engage in a quid pro quo. And that’s not even all the excuses that include the word “quid.” At the outskirts, the excuses start with Trump’s claim of phone call perfection and go all the way to Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy going all-in on the CrowdStrike conspiracy to openly promote the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC in 2016.
In the next two weeks, as the House drafts articles of impeachment, brings them before the House Judiciary Committee for review, then moves them to the full House for a vote, Republicans will continue to tear at the process and attempt to undermine the seriousness of the charges. But it’s when things move to the Senate after the first of the year that Republicans can be expected to fully unload every act of a three-ring circus in an attempt to make the impeachment of Donald Trump a good thing for Republicans.
Republicans in the House have already made clear what that process would look like for them—they would drag Hunter Biden into the Senate in an attempt to flip the script and make this not an impeachment of Trump, but a fulfillment of his conspiracy theory claims. They would strip the whistleblower of anonymity and place him solidly in the glare of the spotlights, burying Trump’s actions beneath personal attacks. And they would pull Schiff into the hearing in an attempt to make conducting an impeachment inquiry itself an offense.
Most of all, Republicans are determined that, despite months of claiming that they were concerned that Trump’s impeachment be handled in the same way as previous impeachments, there will be no statement—either live or recorded—from Trump himself. Meanwhile, other witnesses will be expected to appear in person, as they were not in 1998, so that they can be properly punished for daring to speak up.
Republican senators have actually been meeting with White House counsels for weeks, working out a process that protects Trump and turns the impeachment trial into a trial of Democrats. On Wednesday, as the House Judiciary Committee was holding its first hearing, White House attorneys were again meeting with Republican senators to “strategize” on the hearings.
Both Trump and White House attorneys were giving “bring it on” signals via Twitter and interviews on Thursday morning. That could be because they’re happy with their strategy. Or it could have been a last-minute attempt to get Nancy Pelosi to delay. If the latter … it didn’t work.