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McConnell Doesn’t Have the Votes to Dismiss Impeachment Articles or Block Witnesses: Reports

Has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) promise of “total coordination” with the White House on President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial backfired? According to several Monday reports, not only is McConnell short of the 51 votes required to promptly dismiss the articles of impeachment, per Trump’s tweeted desire, he may also be forced to hear testimony from former Trump administration officials.

Despite the White House actively urging Senate Republicans to pass a resolution allowing for the swift dismissal of the charges against Trump, several sources confirmed to CNN’s senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju that McConnell lacks the votes necessary to pass such a measure.

“McConnell has made clear to his colleagues that he wants Trump to emerge victorious in the trial and is not willing to hold a vote that could fail,” that report said. “He’s also keenly aware of what a vote to dismiss would look like politically, according to Republican senators, and has shepherded his conference away from the idea for several weeks.”

Similar details were contained within a CBS News report:

One senior official said the White House’s impeachment team and counsel’s office do not expect a quick dismissal of the impeachment articles in the Senate, despite the president’s weekend tweet in which he said Republicans should vote to throw the articles out.

[…]

White House officials said the optics of a vote to dismiss would be tough for Republicans, but White House lawyers do expect the question of acquittal to come up immediately following opening arguments and periods for written questions submitted by senators.

Similarly frustrating to McConnell’s strategy, at least four Republican senators are poised to vote in favor of calling witnesses after the trial begins.

Senior White House officials told CBS News that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Cory Gardner of Colorado, are all expected to join Democrats in demanding witness testimony. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are reportedly viewed as “wild cards” that could vote either way.

Collins, we heard last Friday, has been working with a small group of Republican senators to ensure new testimony is permitted during the proceedings, saying her colleagues should be “completely open to calling witnesses.” Romney supports hearing from former Trump national security advisor John Bolton.

CNN legal analyst, attorney and impeachment expert Ross Garber warned, however, that Democrats may end up somewhat frustrated as well.

“Be careful what you wish for. If [Democrats] get their witnesses (Bolton/Mulvaney), [Republicans] will want reciprocity (Hunter Biden, the whistleblower, Schiff?, Joe Biden?),” Garber wrote. “If subpoenas issued to all, only one side can claim immunity and exec priv, and may have little to lose in stonewall.”

Others suggest agreeing to witnesses the GOP wants — Hunter Biden and Joe Biden included — would be a win-win for the Democrats if it means Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton will also testify.

An official date for the start of the Senate trial has not been announced, but Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Monday evening that he expected the proceedings to commence on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate after a weeks-long delay, which she says occurred due to fears that the fix was in.

[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.