WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans panned the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment as nothing new on Wednesday ― even though they’d voted a day earlier to reject any new witnesses or material from inclusion.
“So far we haven’t heard anything new from what he heard yesterday,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I hope this isn’t just going to be a series of repetitious arguments just to try to fill the time allotted.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) echoed the complaint, adding, “It’s not a very deep case, I don’t think.”
The House managers began to press their case against Trump a day prior, saying he was trying to “cheat” the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine’s government to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his possible Democratic opponent. They asked the Senate to subpoena additional documents and witnesses that were blocked from the House impeachment investigation, but Republicans refused to do so ― at least for now.
Asked about including additional witnesses in the Senate trial, Cornyn said that the House should have gone to court to press the Trump administration to turn over evidence before bringing a “half-baked case” to the Senate.
“There was such a rush to get it done,” Cornyn said. “They came here with an incomplete record.”
Democrats countered by arguing that pursuing witnesses who either refused or were blocked from testifying by the White House would have required months or potentially even years of legal action, with a resolution not likely until after the 2020 election.
Senate Democrats gave the House managers high marks and said that their arguments on Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine ― a case that involved extensive use of video ― would be helpful to the broader public who may not be watching every hour of the proceedings.
“They are repeating the main points over and over again, which I think is actually very helpful,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said. “I think it’s important to lay it all out in front of everyone.”
“I hope the whole country is listening, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats,” added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Indeed, much of the proceedings are aimed at influencing voters as much as they are meant to sway senators, who sit as jurors in the trial.
But Republicans said they were skeptical that voters would remember the trial by the time November’s presidential election is near.
“This won’t matter much. People are going to judge the president about what he’s done and what he can do,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
Under rules authored by Republicans, senators will get a chance to vote on whether to consider additional evidence, including witnesses, after opening arguments from the House managers and Trump’s defense team, and then a period of questions.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said he was “not optimistic” about getting even the four Republicans that Democrats would need in order to win a witness vote because of how Republicans unanimously opposed Democratic motions to subpoena testimony during a marathon session Tuesday. Only two GOP senators have said they are likely to support calling witnesses after opening arguments: Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah.
“It is hard to believe anyone who has any kind of impartiality could hear everything… and not say we need witnesses and documents,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said. “The wisdom of the Founding Fathers and the structure of impeachment forces them to sit and listen, and the case is amazingly compelling.”