When the prospect of a Senate impeachment trial first came under serious discussion, its subject and object, President Trump, was strongly in favor of an immediate motion to dismiss articles of impeachment, short-circuiting any actual trial.
Senate Republicans gently insisted they had a constitutional function to discharge, and would need to go through some formalities even though acquittal of Trump was certain.
Eventually in November, White House representatives and Senate Republican leaders agreed more-or-less to a compromise: a short trial (two weeks was the most common timeline discussed) with few if any witnesses that would respect the solemn trappings of an impeachment proceeding without dragging things out or risking Republican unity. But then, as the House hearings proceeded and impeachment grew nigh, Trump reportedly changed his mind and began warming to the idea of a longer Senate trial that would not only allow a full defense of his conduct in the Ukraine case but would enable his attorneys and Republican senators to drag in Joe and Hunter Biden and his House Democratic enemies and turn the whole process in the opposite direction. This idea appears to have congealed in Trump’s mind while watching the House Judiciary Committee hearings on his trip back from Europe last week, according to CNN:
On the flight home, with the TVs tuned to the hearing, the President praised the Republican questioning of the constitutional scholars who testified on Wednesday and coordinated the White House’s forceful response to one of the witnesses invoking his 13-year-old son’s name ….
“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning … “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
Now horrified Senate Republicans are having to push back on the possibility that their dignified plans for acquitting Trump will be displaced by some sort of crude and extended show trial for the MAGA folk. According to the Washington Examiner, senior Senate Republicans are having none of it:
Senate Republicans do not expect to call witnesses President Trump might want to hear from most in an impeachment trial, conceding there are not the votes to summon key figures such as Hunter Biden and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint sparked the process.
Senate impeachment rules require a majority vote to call witnesses, and with just two out of 53 votes to spare, there is no “appetite” among Republicans to pursue testimony from people that Democrats blocked Republicans from subpoenaing during the House investigation. Indeed, Republicans might forgo calling witnesses altogether, saying minds are made up on Trump’s guilt or innocence and that testimony at trial on the Senate floor would draw out the proceedings unnecessarily.
“Here’s what I want to avoid: this thing going on longer than it needs to,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the Washington Examiner. “I want to end this.”