Trump complains his impeachment defense has a lousy time slot

If there is one thing Donald Trump fears, it’s lousy ratings.

Since being elected president, in fact, Trump has tweeted about “ratings” exactly 100 times, according to the Trump Twitter Archive, the most recent coming Friday, on the eve of his defense team’s opening testimony in his impeachment trial.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave in to pressure from members of his own party to adjust the trial’s timetable to give House Democrats three days to make their case for removing Trump from office, pushing the opening arguments by the president’s lawyers to the weekend.

Photo: Patrick Semansk/AP

Trump’s lawyers will be allowed the same amount of time as the House impeachment team, 24 hours, to present their defense, but they may not use all of it.

Broadcast on cable networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, the impeachment trial’s opening session Tuesday drew 11 million viewers, according to Nielsen, while 8.9 million tuned in to watch opening arguments from the Democratic House managers on Wednesday. Ratings data for Thursday’s proceedings is still pending. Those figures do not include people who streamed the trial online.

Trump’s concern over ratings is, in some ways, justified. While the Senate jury is the audience that truly matters on the question of whether he will be removed from office, public opinion on Trump’s actions will affect his own reelection campaign and, potentially, control of the Senate.

Given the current 53-47 partisan split in the Senate, Democrats need four Republican senators to join them in voting to force the inclusion of new witness testimony and documents in the trial. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Wednesday found that 63 percent of the American people believe the Senate should call new witnesses during the trial. On the question of whether Trump should be removed, Americans were more divided, with 46 percent saying he should, 45 percent saying he shouldn’t.

While the Trump legal team’s strategy hasn’t been disclosed, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered a suggestion as to what they should say come Saturday. “Focus on substance more and process less,” Cruz said Thursday in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

While that advice would seem to contradict Trump’s own strategy of loudly complaining that his lawyers had been moved to the “Death Valley in T.V.,” many Republicans share the hope that the impeachment show will soon be canceled due to poor ratings.

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