The trial of the president begins this Tuesday, and analysts hope that he will be acquitted… although there is still ‘hope’ for those who want him to be found guilty and leave the White House.
WASHINGTON D.C. – The third political trial in history against a president begins today Tuesday 21 January 2020, in the U.S. Senate. Trump is accused of two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The first charge stems from allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for releasing more than $200 million in military aid. The second, to the president’s refusal to hand over documents or allow witnesses to participate in the investigation.
In order for Trump to be removed as president of the United States, two thirds of the Upper House, with a Republican majority, must find him guilty, that is, 67 of the 100 senators.
Is that a distant possibility? Yes. Impossible? Not so much if it’s the ‘perfect combination’ for Republican senators to ‘turn their backs’ on Trump.
What do Democrats need to get to the ‘magic number’?
The US Senate is currently made up of 45 Democratic, 53 Republican and 2 Independent legislators. If we assume that all Democrats and independents are in favor of Trump’s impeachment, they will need 20 Republican senators to convict the president.
To do that, it’s imperative…
A trial with witnesses
As part of this Tuesday’s activities, perhaps the first vote of the day will define an essential component of the process. “The senators will have to vote on what kind of trial they want: an express trial or one where witnesses are called,” explains Fernando Rodriguez, a journalist specializing in international issues.
According to Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s ‘allies’ in the Senate, the president prefers the first option, which would allow him to give his speech to the nation on February 4 with the matter completed. And how is that decided? Unlike the vote that will decide Trump’s removal from office, the inclusion of witnesses in the trial only needs the support of a simple majority, that is, 51 senators.
Which Republican legislators could be the first to ‘break ranks’?
Rodriguez says Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah might prefer a trial with witnesses. “These are senators who have often not been in favor of Trump’s decisions and have voted against them,” he adds.
Supporting this possibility is the fact that Murkowski’s and Romney’s Senate seats are not in play in next November’s election. They could be joined by Graham himself from South Carolina, who has stated that he would not oppose calling witnesses, although his vote “has already been decided”.
If the Democrats can get witnesses called, Trump’s former national security adviser will probably be the biggest headache for the president’s team of lawyers. Bolton was fired last September by Trump, who said he disagreed with many of his then-counsel’s proposals.
“He may have the evidence necessary to prove that Trump was indeed the one leading the (pressure on Ukraine) operation,” Rodriguez said. “Bolton is leaving the White House in a bad way and those circumstances make him a problematic witness,” he adds.
The Democrats also call Duffey and Mulvaney
Bolton is not alone in having information that could incriminate Trump: Testimony from Michael Duffey, a White House Budget Office official, and John Michael Mulvaney, acting Chief of Staff, could also provide strong evidence of Trump’s guilt.
In Duffey’s case, explains Fernando Rodriguez, the senators could question him about whether Trump conditioned the delivery of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the Biden family.
On the other hand, Mulvaney could clarify under whose orders it was decided not to file all the communications that Trump initiated with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian president. “Mulvaney may have information about how all communications between Trump and Ukraine were handled,” Rodriguez said.
The ‘smoking gun’
What the group of seven Democratic prosecutors, led by Adam Schiff, would look for in the witness testimony is “truly compelling, shocking evidence” that Trump is guilty of the charges he faces. Only information of this caliber could cause a ‘rampage’ among Republican senators and lead to several of them pleading guilty to Trump.
History proves this hypothesis: when President Richard Nixon was under investigation in 1974 for the Watergate case, the Republican Party closed ranks around him.
However, Rodriguez remembers that it was the conversation recorded on a tape, the famous ‘smoking gun’, that sank Nixon because it proved that he sought to pressure the FBI to close the investigation into the case.“That revelation changed absolutely everything because then the senators of his party no longer had any justification to continue protecting him” the journalist said.
Nixon chose to resign rather than be brought to trial after his party’s legislators informed him of the withdrawal of his support.
Trump loses the support of the senators… and also the voters(?)
If this situation occurs, the possibility that 20 Republican legislators in the Upper House will decide to remove Trump grows. “The senators could say, ‘We risk that our Republican base will not agree with us, but this hypothetical test is very problematic and we have no choice but to take away the support of the president,” Rodriguez said.
Although support within the Republican base for Trump is high (his popularity is close to 87 percent, according to the most recent YouGov poll), strong incriminating evidence from a trial witness could cause Republican voters to ‘turn their backs’ on the president as well.
So who could be the first Republicans to side with the Democrats on the final vote?
Senators who announced their retirement
This group would not have to worry about the reaction of the Republican electorate, where only 8 percent support the idea of removing Trump from the US presidency, according to YouGov.
So Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Mike Enzi of Wyoming would have no problem voting for the removal of their president. Moreover, as the FiveThirtyEight site points out, none of them have any particular loyalty to Trump.
Senate seats to be voted
The post of President of the United States is not the only one to be voted on November 3. The occupants of 35 seats in the Senate will be re-elected or elected, and 23 of them are Republicans.
Increased pressure among that party to defend its majority in the upper house could force, for example, Cory Gardner of Colorado to vote in favor of Trump’s removal from office. This legislator, like Susan Collins, has been quite critical of the president.
Other senators in this group include John Cornyn of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Unlike Gardner or Collins, this group is not anti-Trump, so they might be expected to support the idea of absolving the president – or not, since they represent entities considered ‘undecided’ about their vote this year.
That situation could lead those senators to evaluate whether their ‘endorsement’ of Trump to remain in the presidency jeopardizes his stay in the Upper House.
What other Republican senators are going to the November ballot?
- Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue – Georgia
- Mitch McConnell – Kentucky
- Cindy Hyde-Smith – Mississippi
- Steve Daines – Montana
- Dan Sullivan – Alaska
- Tom Cotton – Arkansas
- Jim Risch – Idaho
- Bill Cassidy – Louisiana
- Ben Sasse – Nebraska
- Jim Inhofe – Oklahoma
- Lindsey Graham – South Carolina
- Mike Rounds – South Dakota
- Shelley Capito – West Virginia
This has just begun.
The Yucatan Times