The Senate seems certain to keep President Donald Trump in office thanks to the overwhelming GOP support expected in his impeachment trial. But how that trial will proceed — and when it will begin — remains to be seen.
Democrats are pushing for the Senate to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents, pointing to reports that they say have raised new questions about Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
Once the House transmits the articles of impeachment, decisions about how to conduct the trial will require 51 votes. With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, Democrats cannot force subpoenas on their own.
For now, Republicans are holding the line behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s position that they should start the trial and hear arguments from House prosecutors and Trump’s defense team before deciding what to do.
But small cracks in GOP unity have appeared, with two Republican senators criticizing McConnell’s pledge of “total coordination” with the White House during the impeachment trial.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was “disturbed” by the GOP leader’s comments, adding that there should be distance between the White House and the Senate on how the trial is conducted. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, called the pledge by McConnell, R-Ky., inappropriate and said she is open to seeking testimony.
Democrats could find their own unity tested if and when the Senate reaches a final vote on the two House-approved impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
It would take 67 votes to convict Trump on either charge and remove him from office, a high bar unlikely to be reached. It’s also far from certain that all 47 Democrats will find Trump guilty.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said he’s undecided on how he might vote and suggested he sees merits in the arguments both for and against conviction.