How Mitch McConnell pulled off a near-impossible impeachment feat

2) The trial would nonetheless be going when President Donald Trump got here to Capitol Hill to ship his State of the Union tackle two weeks in a while February four.

How? One man: Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell.

From starting to (what appears to be like just like the) finish, the Kentucky Republican has rigorously — and quietly — executed a method designed to maintain his convention in line on key votes.

It started with McConnell’s energy play earlier this month, saying that he had 51 votes to maneuver ahead with the beginning of the Senate impeachment trial with no guarantees made on whether or not or not witnesses could be referred to as or additional paperwork could be sought. McConnell’s opening gambit successfully knee-capped Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been holding on to the 2 articles of impeachment handed by the Home late final yr in hopes of extracting concessions from McConnell.

All through the intervening two-ish weeks, McConnell has had a decidedly low public profile — normally solely talking within the Senate chamber to announce when there could be a break in both the opening statements or the question-and-answer interval.

That lack of a public presence was, in fact, by design. The easiest way to consider McConnell is sort of a duck — he seems to be gliding slowly and with out seeming effort on the floor, all of the whereas paddling furiously beneath the floor.

And boy did McConnell ever paddle this week. On Tuesday, McConnell bluntly instructed his colleagues in a closed-door session that Republicans didn’t but have the votes wanted to dam witnesses being referred to as. However he additionally put a method in place: emphasize the truth that tons and plenty of witnesses had been referred to as within the Home impeachment proceedings and make very clear to on-the-fence senators that Democrats would by no means be glad with just one witness — even when that witness was former nationwide safety adviser John Bolton. They might ask for extra witnesses post-Bolton and the trial might go on for weeks and even months. And that might harm any and all susceptible Republicans on the poll this November.The fruits of McConnell’s labor started to be seen Wednesday afternoon when Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, probably the most endangered Republican up for reelection this yr, got here out in opposition to witnesses.”I don’t consider we have to hear from an 18th witness,” Gardner mentioned in a press release, including that he had “reached this choice after rigorously weighing the Home managers and protection arguments and carefully reviewing the proof from the Home, which included properly over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”

Gardner’s assertion was seen as a transparent signal that probably the most susceptible Republicans — Arizona’s Martha McSally, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis — had been satisfied vote for witnesses was opening a Pandora’s field that might make it more and more tough to place the impeachment trial behind them and switch to creating their very own case to voters.

With the susceptible 2020ers all in line — with the notable exception of Maine’s Susan Collins, who introduced Thursday she would vote for witnesses — all of it got here right down to Alexander, a retiring senator and longtime institution determine who had voiced a willingness to think about the thought of calling witnesses.

Impeachment trial to end but its aftershocks will rock AmericaHowever, once more, McConnell made the distinction. McConnell, a grasp of relationships, is extraordinarily near Alexander. The 2 males have recognized one another, in truth, since 1969 after they had been each younger staffers within the nation’s capitol. As The New York Occasions famous in a 2017 profile of their friendship, McConnell referred to as Alexander “one among my closest confidantes and an excellent good friend” in his 2016 memoir “The Lengthy Sport.” In September, when Alexander broke the Tennessee document for days of service as both governor or senator (9,024!), McConnell took to the Senate flooring to reward his good friend with these phrases: “As we have typically heard him say about the USA Senate, ‘It is exhausting to get right here. It is exhausting to remain right here. And when you’re right here, you would possibly as properly attempt to accomplish one thing.’ He absolutely has adopted his personal recommendation.”

Now, Alexander’s closeness to McConell is, in fact, not the one motive that Alexander will vote in opposition to witnesses. As he mentioned in his assertion, he believes Trump’s conduct in regard to Ukraine was “inappropriate” however not impeachable. Nevertheless it’s unimaginable to conclude that Alexander’s relationship with McConnell — and McConnell’s acknowledged opposition to witnesses and want for the shortest doable trial — had no affect on his choice.

Clearly, it is by no means over till it is over. And the opportunity of a 50-50 tie — with Chief Justice John Roberts stepping in to resolve the witness query — nonetheless exists. (It’s extremely, very exhausting for me to think about Roberts, who, for years, has voiced considerations concerning the Supreme Courtroom being seen as political, stepping in to resolve the matter.)

However the probably situation by far is that the witness vote fails and Trump is acquitted lengthy earlier than Tremendous Bowl Sunday dawns. Which was unthinkable 10 days in the past and is a testomony to McConnell’s expertise as a persuader and vote-counting virtuoso.

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