As the House moves inexorably toward the impeachment of Donald Trump, it’s becoming pretty important that the Senate makes firm plans for an impeachment trial, which, based on the current trajectory of events, would need to begin in early-to-mid January. As multiple sources have been reporting all week, Mitch McConnell and his senior associates are convinced that a short trial with no witnesses, followed by the preordained quasi-party-line vote for acquittal, is the smart way to proceed. So are a lot of Trump advisers in the White House. But the problem is that Trump himself has gotten excited about the idea of a show trial in which all his tormenters — the Bidens, Schiff, Pelosi, the Whistle-blower, maybe Christopher Steele, no telling where the line to the guillotine would end — would be dragged into the spotlight and trashed and humiliated. And the perpetual adolescents in the House Republican Caucus, who have now drunk so much Kool-Aid that they actually seem to believe the preposterous conspiracy theories they promoted during the impeachment inquiry, are egging him on.
McConnell has been here before, in countless moments when the president and his bully-boys are inclined to blow things up because it suits their thuggish temperaments. And he knows that the stories about him being in conflict with the White House on the length and scope of the impeachment trial are dangerous. So, as The Hill reports, he is hastening to minimize the discord and basically flatter Trump into submission, figuring he’ll agree to do it McConnell’s way if he’s told it’s his idea:
“Everything I do during this I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” McConnell told Fox News on Thursday night.
McConnell added that he’ll be in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.”
On the key issue of whether to call witnesses after House impeachment managers and the president’s attorneys make their initial presentations to the Senate, Mitch makes it clear which way he thinks it should go, even as he tugs the forelock:
Pressed about the potential for witnesses during a Senate, McConnell demurred, saying he would coordinate with Trump’s lawyers.
“The president’s counsel may or may not decide they want to have witnesses. The case is so darn weak coming over from the House,” McConnell continued.
So weak that witnesses aren’t really necessary, hint, hint.
McConnell’s show of deference to the White House isn’t purely a matter of playing the toady to a president with a bottomless appetite for flattery. Impeachment trials are structured to be a contest between House impeachment managers and the president’s representatives, with the Senate playing judge and jury. So any Senate leader would give some serious consideration to any president’s wishes on calling witnesses, particularly since it’s not 100 percent clear this can be settled in a preliminary rules package enacted before the trial. But more fundamentally, McConnell knows that the only way to put out the MAGA fire building for an insane-a-thon in the Senate is to get Washington’s chief pyromaniac on his side. What harm is a little groveling if it keeps the lid on the craziness? Being a megalomaniac wrangler is all just part of service in Trump’s army.