Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in on Thursday to preside over the Senate trial of President Donald Trump as required by the Constitution. But what matters most is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in control of the proceedings.
It’s the sign of the times that on the morning the Senate was to formally take up the matter of Trump’s impeachment that Twitter was all abuzz about an interaction between a cable news reporter and a Republican senator seeking a full term this year.
“Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?” asked CNN’s Manu Raju. Republican Martha McSally of Arizona shot back, “You’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you . . . You’re a liberal hack, buddy.”
Both parties to the exchange almost certainly gained from it—Raju was celebrated by other journalists as a conquering hero in an era of Trump-era vitriol against the press; McSally could well open the MAGA fundraising floodgates amid a difficult campaign. But more importantly, it shows the political incentives for Republicans haven’t changed: stand by your president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of delaying the articles of impeachment predictably failed to influence the rules of the Senate trial. Her leverage over McConnell is nonexistent. But the headlines have been kind to the Democrats, as they hoped. The trial now kicks off as more details about the Rudy Giuliani clown show are trickling out into the public and the Government Accountability Office has issued a legal opinion that Trump’s Ukraine aid delay violated federal law.
Lev Parnas can still be easily dismissed as a Michael Cohen/Roger Stone fabulist and the GAO’s verdict isn’t exactly as compelling as a Supreme Court decision (and it is not as if the actions of previous administrations haven’t been ruled unconstitutional, even by the courts without impeachment ensuing). Nevertheless, public interest in the Trump-Ukraine debacle was starting to fizzle and the possibility exists that new revelations will rekindle it.