- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Democrats pivoted to making impeachment an election issue Tuesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared a vote to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, where President Trump is all but guaranteed an acquittal.

The House is set to vote Wednesday on a resolution to transmit the two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate, ending a nearly four-week delay during which Mrs. Pelosi attempted to dictate rules for the trial.

The upper chamber is expected to begin the trial Tuesday with a standard set of rules preferred by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.


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Democrats hope to put pressure on Senate Republicans, particularly those from swing states facing reelection in November, to back demands for additional witness testimony at the trial.

The prevailing wisdom on Capitol Hill, however, is that impeachment as an election issue will backfire on Mrs. Pelosi, whose Democrats won the majority in 2018 taking by picking up seats in Trump strongholds.



“Impeachment has turned into a nightmare for the folks who have been pushing it,” said Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, who unseated a Democrat in 2018. “Nothing has gotten better for Pelosi.”

Battleground polling last month in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin showed a boost in support for the president as impeachment proceedings heated up in the House. And there’s been a slight decline in public support for the Senate to convict and remove Mr. Trump from office, according to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Mr. McConnell blasted Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, for demanding a decision on witnesses in pretrial negotiations.

Mr. McConnell pointed to what he called a “revealing admission” from Mr. Schumer that the debate over witness testimony was a play to pick up seats in November.

“The Senate Democratic leader recently said that as long as he can try to use the trial process to hurt some Republicans’ reelection chances, ‘It’s a win-win.’ That’s what this is all about,” he said. “The Democratic leader just laid it right out there, in case anybody had any doubt.”

“Forget about the fate of the presidency. Forget about the Constitution. As long as the process helps Democrats’ political fortunes, our colleague calls it a ‘win-win,’” Mr. McConnell added.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Schumer acknowledged two-thirds of the Senate likely won’t vote to convict and remove the president.

“Pursuing witnesses and documents makes us better off, no matter the outcome. It’s a win-win,” Mr. Schumer said, according to the New York Times.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, bristled when reporters asked him if his party was turning impeachment into a plank of its 2020 campaign platform.

“No, this was not a campaign tactic,” he snapped. “Asking for fairness is not a campaign tactic.”

Senate Democrats need at least four Republicans to vote with them to get the 51 votes needed to call a witness. They are eyeing four witnesses close to the president, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado are two moderate Republicans up for re-election who said they are willing to consider calling witnesses.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are two more Republicans who haven’t closed the door to hearing from more witnesses. Neither is up for reelection this year.

House Democratic leaders insisted their side is winning the impeachment debate.

“We’ll see what happens in the Senate, but I think there’s been substantial movement. That’s a good thing,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. “We still need to hear from individuals like Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, as well as Cory Gardner, of course, amongst several others — Lamar Alexander. There any number of individuals, who hopefully decency will prevail.”

Mr. Alexander of Tennessee is retiring. Ms. Ernst of Iowa and Ms. McSally of Arizona are up for re-election.

Recent polling suggests an overwhelming number of Americans would like to hear from Mr. Bolton during the trial. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed 66 percent of respondents were eager to hear from the former national security adviser.

Mr. McConnell has said he has enough votes to agree to the same rules and procedures that were used for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. During that trial, the House impeachment managers presented their arguments and the president’s legal team responded.

Senators then were able to ask written questions to both sides before the issue of calling more witnesses was debated.

An administration official said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will lead the president’s defense team. Mr. Cipollone will be assisted by personal Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice. White House deputy counsels Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin are expected to assist Mr. Cipollone in the trial.

Mr. Trump reportedly also has expressed an interest in Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz participating in his defense. Mr. Dershowitz did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

The House Democrats’ impeachment managers are expected to be named Wednesday.

Rank-and-file Democrats were careful not to get ahead of Mrs. Pelosi’s announcement of who and how many managers will be selected. However, two lawmakers at the top of the list of likely managers are House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York.

The House impeached Mr. Trump in a party-line vote Dec. 18, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The two articles of impeachment stem from a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president in which Mr. Trump requested a probe of a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Mrs. Pelosi held on to the articles for about a month, demanding the Republican-controlled chamber hold a fair trial and echoing Mr. Schumer’s calls for more witnesses.

The nearly four-week impasse did not yield the Democrats any assurances on whether or not Mr. McConnell’s chamber will hear more testimony.

Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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