As the House impeachment inquiry spins away in secret but hardly in quiet, Donald Trump and his allies are starting to notice a silence that’s been out in the open. They apparently expected Lindsey Graham to use his perch as Senate Judiciary chair to push back against the House effort, but up to now Graham has kept his committee out of the process. Graham has now called a presser for later today, and Axios’ Jonathan Swan wonders whether Graham has had enough of the House, or the White House has had enough of Graham’s silence:
This @LindseyGrahamSC press conference comes as influential figures in the Trump base, including @DonaldJTrumpJr, pile pressure on Graham for what they say is his lack of push back, as Senate Judiciary chair, against House Dem impeachment drive. https://t.co/xBAsNzN4v4
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) October 24, 2019
This reached a crescendo pitch earlier this week when Trump complained on Twitter about a lack of “fight” from Senate Republicans. After yesterday’s clown show in the SCIF, however, Graham has decided to take more concrete action. He told Sean Hannity last night that he and Mitch McConnell plan to introduce a resolution in the Senate condemning the House’s handling of impeachment:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is planning to introduce a resolution condemning the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process and argued that any articles should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial.
“This resolution puts the Senate on record condemning the House. … Here’s the point of the resolution: Any impeachment vote based on this process, to me, is illegitimate, is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial,” Graham told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. …
Graham added on Tuesday night that Trump should get “the same rights that any American has if you’re giving a parking ticket to confront the witnesses against you: can’t be based on hearsay.”
“We cannot allow future presidents and this president to be impeached based on an inquiry in the House that’s never been voted upon, that does not allow the president to confront the witnesses against him, to call witnesses on his behalf, and cross-examine people who are accusing him of misdeeds,” he added.
The resolution will not mean much, of course, but at least it will give Senate Republicans a chance to signal to their Democrat colleagues just how much credibility they see in the House process. Graham also told Hannity that the Senate GOP has discussed simply dismissing any articles of impeachment that arise from this process, which The Hill reports this morning as well:
President Trump’s biggest allies in the Senate are looking to quickly quash articles of impeachment that the Democratic-controlled House might pass in the coming months.
The possible GOP strategy would swiftly dismiss impeachment following an extensive House inquiry that is investigating whether Trump tried to leverage aid to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. …
Republicans, who believe it is likely the House will impeach Trump, are weighing what is best for their party: a rapid dismissal of impeachment or a vote to acquit Trump after a trial. Sixty-seven votes are needed to convict a president.
That, and the SCIF clown show that took place yesterday, has some House Democrats worried enough to start thinking about moving into an open inquiry sooner than planned. The Washington Post reports that a flat-out Senate rejection would look bad under any circumstances, but especially after House Republicans have signaled that they will play hardball against the leaks coming from Schiff’s team:
House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private impeachment inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November and are already grappling with how best to present the complex Ukraine saga to the American people.
Over the past three weeks, a parade of current and former Trump administration officials have testified behind closed doors, providing House investigators with a compelling narrative of President Trump’s campaign to extract political favors from Ukrainian officials. But on Wednesday, after conservative lawmakers stormed the hearing room and delayed the proceedings for five hours, some Democrats were feeling pressure to advance public hearings in hopes of avoiding further disruptions. …
Some Democrats are concerned that repeated protests by Republicans, similar to Wednesday’s disruption, could make it impossible for them to question witnesses and could completely stop the process.
The threat of dismissal is real, and has been at least hinted at by McConnell himself. It could take place in one of two forms — either an explicit motion to dismiss, or by a motion for an immediate verdict. If House Democrats don’t bother to make a strong public case but instead largely rely on “secret” depositions for the article(s) of impeachment, then Senate Republicans would likely opt for the former to emphasize the illegitimacy of the House process. They would only need a simple majority to dismiss, and given the clown-show process that Schiff has been running (although within the rules), it would make it the easiest politically.
If House Democrats do hold public hearings and testimony, a dismissal might be tough, but it might also undermine their case. There have already been counter-leaks suggesting that the supposedly damning testimony is only hearsay and supposition for a premise that isn’t even technically a crime at all. If this comes down to rumors and analysis rather than fact witnesses, the entire enterprise will bomb harder than the Muellermas in late July. In that case, Senate Republicans might well opt for the immediate verdict, or even a short trial to rebut the public case made in the House and to humiliate Schiff and Nancy Pelosi over it.
Graham’s presser will take place at 3 pm ET today, presumably to announce the substance of the resolution. Will Graham start opening his own probe into the machinations that produced the House clown show? That’s what the White House really wants, but Graham will be very reluctant to start that kind of interchamber food fight by having a Senate committee essentially investigating the House.
Update: Via Allahpundit, Graham’s already precluding that possibility on those very grounds:
Graham said Intel committee has oversight of Ukraine/whistleblower stuff. He said he will eventually hold hearings on IG report on origin of Russia probe. “My committee is going to focus on the Horowitz report. We’ll build out upon that.”
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) October 24, 2019
It’s a smart move, although it won’t make the White House too happy.