Right now Mitch McConnell is doing an almost comical job of pretending he has the votes to run the Senate impeachment trial in whatever way he pleases. Based on public statements from certain Republican Senators, and the fact that McConnell’s motion to dismiss the charges has already failed, it’s clear that McConnell is not in charge of what’s going to happen in this trial, the Senate GOP holdouts are.
That handful of Republican Senators – the ones who are afraid that a sham impeachment trial will prompt voters to punish them when they’re up for reelection – are the ones who will decide everything about the trial. They’ll decide which witnesses, if any, are called. They’ll decide what the trial schedule will look like. McConnell keeps floating his fantasies about the trial as if they were a foregone conclusion, knowing the media will keep parroting it. But the reality is that McConnell has zero control over what happens next. Instead it’s those holdout GOP Senators who in control, and they’re looking for a sign when it comes to which way they should lean.
That’s why today’s new CNN polling represents particularly bad news for Donald Trump, and bad timing for him. It shows that 51% of Americans want Trump to be removed from office by the Senate. It also shows that 69% of Americans want witnesses to be called during the impeachment trial. This poll is in line with numerous other polls conducted during the House impeachment hearings. It shows that Americans are just as in favor of Trump’s removal, and just as opposed to a sham trial, as they were a month or two ago.
These new numbers are rather loudly telling the holdout Senate Republicans that their best chance at retaining their own seats is to call witnesses during the impeachment trial, and to think strongly about removing Trump altogether. Even if they don’t have the stomach to remove him, they know they can split the difference by calling witnesses like John Bolton and Lev Parnas and letting the chips fall where they may. We don’t know what will happen with this trial, but McConnell has zero say over it. It’s entirely in the hands of a few GOP Senators who are worried about their own continued viability with voters.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report