It’s Monday afternoon as I pen this. The rules under which the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump will be conducted are to be established and opening arguments are slated to begin tomorrow; (yesterday as you read this). The fact that the rules of a Senate impeachment trial are slated to be established on Day 2 of the trial is an oddity to say the least. In fact as of this writing the House Managers (think: prosecutors) are scheduled to deliver their opening remarks Tuesday sans any idea what rules (think: constraints) they will be operating under. Add to that the fact that four members of the jury are running for president and you can see that we have a lot to explore.
If Republican Senate Majority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell is to be believed, (and in this case I tend to believe him), he has the votes to pass his rules package. The problem is he may be the only one who knows what they are. In any event I expect some challenges and fireworks on the way to passage.
One of the rumors is that each side will be allowed a total of twenty-four hours for opening statements; (the same rule as in the Clinton impeachment). However, unlike the Clinton trial the Senate would be in session twelve hours a day beginning at 1pm each afternoon. That means the sessions couldn’t end until 1am during which time the 100 senator/jurors are to remain in their seats without talking. Most of the senators have a few laps around the track on me. Can you see then silently sitting in their seats for twelve hours a day, six days a week and staying awake? I can’t.
Now let’s take a look at the calendar. The Iowa Caucus is Monday, February 3rd and the State of the Union is Tuesday, February 4th. Keep those dates in mind.
Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are all running for the Democratic nomination. (Yes, even though you probably forgot about him, Bennet is still in the race.) Iowa is a press the flesh state and if they are in Washington they can’t simultaneously be in Iowa. Sanders had announced plans where he would fly out of DC, do any event in Iowa, take a quick return flight to Washington and be in the Senate the next afternoon for “jury duty”. With an eight hour day and the time difference that would be one heck of a challenge; with a twelve hour “work day” it is impossible.
Could McConnell (probably via Trump) feel he is putting the squeeze on the four Senators in question? While Trump has neither convictions nor sense of duty the four in question do and I don’t think this will intimidate them into doing something self-serving.
Bennet has no chance of winning the nomination (although I can see scenarios where he could be an attractive running mate for the eventual nominee) so he really doesn’t matter. Sanders and Warren are both well-known and sitting on a pile of cash so they can do other things like TV and flying high profile surrogates into Iowa. Not as good a being there in person, but not all that bad for a Plan B.
Amy Klobuchar is the one most hurt. She is trailing the other viable candidates, really needs a strong finish in Iowa since she comes from the neighboring state of Minnesota and is gaining momentum at this moment. She doesn’t have nearly the money that Sanders and Warren have and therefore is at a disadvantage competing in the TV and surrogates games.
Unless Trump is convinced he has sufficiently hurt Joe Biden in Ukrainegate he is playing right into Biden’s hands. If this gambit really does hurt the senators it is Biden who looks to benefit the most from it in Iowa. If this scenario plays out and Biden scores a narrow win in Iowa it will be due to the Trump/McConnell maneuver.
The other time game to watch is whether McConnell can get the trial wrapped up without Trump’s removal before the evening of the State of the Union. You have to know that Trump wants that nationally televised speech to be an opportunity for him to claim complete and total exoneration by the Senate (even though that portrayal would be inaccurate assuming the verdict goes his way.)
I expect anything but a smooth road and boring trial. Those are a few somewhat behind the scenes factors for you to keep in mind as you follow the trial. Or at least what portions Mitch and the boys allow to be telecast; that’s another battle to watch for.
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