WASHINGTON—House Democrats may vote on one or more articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as early as next week, but everything changes when the issue goes to the Senate.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have called the shots in the lower chamber, with Republicans relegated to guerilla cross-examinations and press gaggles.
On the other side of the Capitol building, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will control the trial, and it will be Democrats scrambling to be heard.
Senate rules require a trial, unlike the extremely contentious House hearings.
First, it will be extraordinarily difficult for House Democratic impeachment managers to present their case because hearsay evidence will not be admissible in the trial.
Much of the evidence marshalled by House Democrats was based on hearsay, perhaps most notably in the anonymous whistleblowers complaint at the heart of the case for impeachment.
Second, senators must attend but they will not be able to ask questions.
Third, Democrats will get little rest between the House vote and the trial because Senate rules require the proceeding to begin no later than 1 p.m. the day after the impeachment article(s) are received in the upper chamber and to continue six days a week until a final verdict is reached.
Finally, the trial will occur during the closing days of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.
Democratic campaign strategists interviewed by The Epoch Times acknowledged some of the approaching challenges, but mostly professed confidence about their sides prospects.
Conflict on admitting hearsay evidence will likely to be a big trial issue and previously it raised hackles among the Democratic strategists as well.
“Much of the evidence theyre calling hearsay isnt,” insisted Spencer Critchley, managing partner of the California-based Boots Road Group. “Its eyewitness testimony, as in the case of [Ambassador Gordon] Sondland, [Lt. Col. Alexander] Vindman, [Trump adviser] Tim Morrison, and others.
“And some of that is hearsay and is valid under the rules of evidence, for example, because its based on contemporaneous notes. [Republicans] resort to mis-directions like this instead of disputing the facts, because they cant dispute the facts.”
Similarly, Baltimore-based Defiance Strategies, LLC President Christian Hanley dismissed the hearsay evidence issue as “a smokescreen from the beginning. Reliable witnesses have offered first-hand testimony throughout this process, with GOP representatives screaming hearsay to try to distract from the damning facts.”
Brian Darling, a former counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Liberty Government Affairs, admitted “there are some exceptions to the rule, but Democrats will have a hard time proving anything without relying on hearsay.”
Darling added that “most of the witnesses in the House [intelligence committee] hearings presented hearsay and that will not be admissible, because Republicans, who control the Senate, will try to remove that evidence from the proceedings.”
Democrats will claim “obstruction of Congress by virtue of the Trump administration refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas,” Darling said, “but I dont think the American people would support removal of the President on those grounds.”
The trial will present a huge campaign problem for five Democratic senators seeking their partys 2020 presidential nomination, including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The trials damage to the senators campaigns was one of the few issues on which strategists on both sides of the aisle agreed.
Asked by The Epoch Times if, assuming the trials outcome is a near-certain Trump acquittal, the senators will seek a way to avoid the trial and keep campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, Hanley said “even if it were, it is the duty of all senators to attend, listen, and vote, regardless of whether they are running for president.”
Critchley agreed, saying “it is likely to be a problem, because being on the ground in key states is critically important, as Hillary [Clinton] learned to her—and our—cost. But I dont see how they could choose to skip an impeachment trial, both as a matter of constitutional duty and as a matter of politics.”