This evening Mitch McConnell announced his plans for how Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will go. It involves twelve hour… eh, nevermind. It’s not even worth spelling out. McConnell can announce whatever he wants, but when it comes to this trial, it’s already become abundantly clear that he’s not the one driving this train.
Last week Mitch McConnell announced that he was supporting a measure to dismiss the impeachment charges without even holding a trial. Then over the weekend, even Team Trump quietly admitted that a magic dismissal wasn’t going to happen. Last fall, McConnell announced that regardless of what the House did, he was going to have the Senate trial wrapped up before Christmas. How’d that work out for him? In fact, at various points McConnell has announced that the trial would be comprehensive and run six days a week, and that the trial would last less than week.
It couldn’t be much more clear that Mitch McConnell has been throwing things at the wall in order to get the media to run with whatever latest fantasy scenario he decides to float. It’s actually a clever tactic, as it takes the media’s attention, and thus the public’s attention, away from who’s really running this trial. It isn’t McConnell, it isn’t the Democrats, and it isn’t Trump either.
When a majority-rules body like the Senate has only a slight majority, the power falls into the hands of the handful of majority members who are least-aligned with the majority. Mitch McConnell clearly has the votes to acquit Donald Trump, but he does not have the votes to conduct the trial however he pleases. That becomes more clear by the day. A handful of Senate Republicans have become openly nervous about how a sham trial might harm their own personal reelection prospects, and because McConnell doesn’t have a majority without them, they’re the ones who will dictate the terms of how the trial goes – not McConnell.
In other words, you can (and very much should) ignore everything that Mitch McConnell is saying about the Senate impeachment trial. Every few days he throws something new at the wall, in the hope of getting it to stick with his members, all while insisting he has the votes even when he doesn’t. The fact that McConnell keeps contradicting himself is proof that he’s not in control of anything that’s happening with the trial. We don’t know how this will go, but if you want to figure it out, start by ignoring McConnell.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report