What Now?! – January 20, 2020

Playbook: “After months of President Trump opting to sit out of the House’s impeachment proceedings, his defense strategy became quite clear in his team’s first official response to the Senate: attack, attack, attack. The six-page response, which will be followed up by a trial brief Monday, hit on not only the process but also argued the entire impeachment effort was engineered by his political opponents.”

“It was a stark contrast to the Democrats’ 111-page brief that detailed their case against the president, including new evidence that has come out in the last few weeks.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would leave room for President Trump’s lawyers to move immediately to dismiss the impeachment charges if they so choose, according to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley,” Axios reports.

“Yes, but: Republican Senate leaders, including McConnell and Roy Blunt, the senior senator from Missouri, have already said members aren’t interested in a vote to dismiss. And it seems unlikely that Trump’s team would push for what would almost certainly be a losing vote — a move that could be seen as a sign of weakness at the outset of the trial.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told CNN it would be “fine” if Senate Republicans requested Hunter Biden as a witness in the impeachment trial against President Trump in exchange for House Democrats’ requested witnesses.

Said Brown: “I think you bring in — We take the position that we want to hear from the witnesses. I don’t know what Hunter Biden has to do with the phone call the President made.”

He added: “The point is we need witnesses, we need to know who they are with the right to call witnesses, additional witnesses later. But I don’t understand how you come to the American public, make the case that this is a real trial, if there are no witnesses and there is no new evidence.”

Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump’s legal defense team for the impeachment trial, told CNN that he will be arguing in the Senate that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress do not amount to impeachable offenses, even if proven.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said President Trump hopes to have the Senate impeachment trial “behind him” before he delivers the State of the Union address next month, CNN reports.

Associated Press: “No cellphones. No talking. No escape. That’s the reality during the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, which will begin each day with a proclamation: ‘All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment.’ After that, 100 senators will sit at their desks for hours on end to hear from House prosecutors, Trump’s defense team and possibly a series of witnesses.”

With just two days left to go before the Senate impeachment trial kicks off, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) isn’t optimistic about his initial plan for a pre-Senate trial dismissal.

During an interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Graham appeared to shoot down his own idea that the GOP-led Senate could immediately vote to dismiss the impeachment case without hearing any arguments due to lack of votes.

“Yeah, that’s dead for practical purposes,” Graham said. “There are a lot of senators who I think will wind up acquitting the President that believe that we need to hear the house’s case, the President’s case, answer to the House’s case and ask questions and then that’s when the witness requests will be. So the idea of dismissing the case early on is not going to happen. We don’t have the votes for that.”

Wall Street Journal: “The unity is the byproduct not only of a White House charm offensive this fall and widespread Republican concerns about the fairness of the impeachment process, but more broadly the president’s personal powers of persuasion and his raw political power over the party, fueled by an intensely loyal base of GOP voters. As has been the case since Mr. Trump ascended to the GOP throne, Republicans who dared step out of line faced his Twitter outrage, meeting the wrath of the president’s base.”

“The stark tribalism has led those who want long-term futures in the party to get in line behind the president and those who have had enough to retire quietly without risking a noisy and disruptive exit. Twenty-six House Republicans have announced they are leaving the House since the 2018 midterm elections, when the party’s moderate wing took major casualties as Democrats won the majority. Not one of those retirees, including several moderates, voted against the party line on impeachment.”

Jeff Greenfield: “What happens when a party nominates a candidate who triumphs because of familiarity, or because ‘it’s her turn,’ or because he’s steadily ascended the party ranks despite no defining passion or cause? The track record of these “default” nominees, at least in modern political history, is bleak.”

“Hillary Clinton is the latest and, for the Democrats, still most painful example. The combination of her experience, her family ties and the sense that (in the words of a proposed campaign slogan) it was ‘her turn’ drove every potentially serious rival out of the 2016 race. Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong primary challenge was a foreshadowing of her vulnerabilities, even if the signal was mostly dismissed until about 9 p.m. on election night in November.”

“Four years before Hillary Clinton was defeated, the Republicans trotted out the reliable, central-casting Mitt Romney to lose to President Barack Obama, a campaign that seemed to rhyme with the time the Dems unenthusiastically fell in line for John Kerry against President George W. Bush in 2004. Keep going back, and you see candidates like these over and over, marching under flags of pale pastel, all going down to defeat in November: Al Gore, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, Gerald Ford, Hubert Humphrey and even Richard Nixon, in his first run, in 1960.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the AP she’s comfortable waiting to decide if more information is needed as part of the Senate’s impeachment trial until after hearing arguments from House managers and attorneys for President Trump and questions from members.

Murkowski said she wants to make sure there’s a process that allows senators to “really hear the case” and ask questions “before we make that determination as to, what more do we need. I don’t know what more we need until I’ve been given the base case.”

“If one thing was clear about the resignation of Russia’s prime minister on Wednesday, it was that a step had been taken toward President Vladimir Putin remaining in power after his term ends in 2024,” Politico reports.

“The proposed constitutional changes would weaken the presidency while giving greater power and independence to the parliament and state council, both of which have been seen even before now as possible landing spots for Putin. He could head a revamped state council comprised of regional governors, most of whom were appointed by Putin. Or else the Kremlin-loyal parties in parliament, which is chaired by a former Putin aide, could name him prime minister.”

Reuters: “Mikhail Mishustin, President Vladimir Putin’s surprise choice to become Russia’s prime minister, is a tax chief with almost no political profile who analysts say could be a “technocratic placeholder.”

CNBC: What’s Putin up to?

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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