GOP plans for full Senate trial.
Abuse of power. Bribery. Contempt of Congress. Obstruction of justice.
Those are the four potential articles of impeachment that House Judiciary Committee Democrats could draw up against President Trump as soon as next month, Fox News is told, after all scheduled public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up on a testy note Thursday.
At a meeting with top GOP senators and Trump administration officials at the White House on Thursday afternoon, Fox News is told there was a consensus that should Trump be impeached by the House, the GOP-controlled Senate should hold a trial rather than tabling the issue.
Reports have surfaced that Republicans were considering even holding a long trial to disrupt the 2020 presidential primaries. Several Democrats seeking to unseat Trump — including Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — are senators who would need to divert at least some of their campaigning time toward a potential trial.
“I think most everybody agreed there’s not 51 votes to dismiss it before the managers get to call their case,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News after huddling with other top Republican senators and White House officials. “The idea you would dismiss the trial before they presented the cases is a non-starter. You’re not going to get a motion to dismiss.”
It remained possible the House Intelligence Committee could schedule more hearings, although no additional hearings are expected during Thanksgiving week. Or, the committee could prepare a report on its findings for the House Judiciary Committee — which would have the option of holding its own hearings or simply drafting articles of impeachment outright.
Under a resolution passed by House Democrats on the Rules Committee this past October, Trump and the White House potentially would have more rights to defend themselves in Judiciary Committee hearings. For example, attorneys for the president could participate in such hearings. But, in a bid for leverage, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., would be allowed under the rules to deny “specific requests” by Trump representatives if the White House continued refusing to provide documents or witnesses sought by Democratic investigators.
A possible timetable for impeachment has been unclear. It’s generally thought the Judiciary Committee may hold a “markup” in which it writes articles of impeachment in mid-December. If that were to happen, it’s possible the full House could vote on articles of impeachment sometime close to Christmas. That would be a similar timeframe to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton: The House impeached Clinton just before Christmas in 1998. The Senate trial then began in January 1999.
However, the House theoretically could pass articles of impeachment, but delay a vote to send them to the Senate for consideration — perhaps to delay handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., control over the proceedings.
Graham, coming out of the White House discussion, added that “we didn’t talk about” how to mount a case to “defend the president.”
Instead, Graham said, the discussion centered around “how would the trial start — you know, they’ll make a request for witnesses, but that would have to be granted by the Senate, I guess that’s the way we did it before.”
Graham continued, “My preference was to try to follow the Clinton model as much as possible.”
Clinton was acquitted on both perjury and obstruction counts in February 1999, with each vote falling fall short of the two-thirds majority required for removal.
In the Senate, impeachment procedures would allow witnesses to be called by the president’s defense lawyers, GOP senators and a team of House Democrats who essentially would serve as prosecutors. The big catch: Republicans would need enough votes from the 53 GOP senators to muster a majority and prevent Democrats from blocking them.
Assuming Republican senators would stay united — not a guarantee — Trump’s defenders could try refocusing the inquiry by seeking testimony from people like Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden.