TRUMP IMPEACHMENT REFRESHER
The inquiry centred on a call between Trump and Ukraine’s president in which Trump asks for a probe into the Bidens. Trump also wanted an inquiry into a conspiracy theory about the 2016 elections.
At the time of the call, Trump was withholding $391m in military aid from Ukraine, and conditioned a White House meeting on the probes, according to witnesses. Trump denies any wrongdoing.
Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump denies any wrongdoing, labelling the impeachment process a “sham” and “witch-hunt”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still has not named the House managers who will act as prosecutors.
She also must still transmit the articles of impeachment to the Republican-controlled Senate before a trial can take place. She has said she is waiting until there is a guarantee that a fair trial would be held.
Among the sticking points is whether witnesses will be called during the trial.
Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer in the Senate, have provided a list of four people to be called as witnesses. Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have signalled they want swift proceedings with no witnesses.
Although Trump is expected to be acquitted in a trial, several senators may prove crucial in how the trial gets underway. In addition to McConnell and Schumer, here are 10 senators to watch:
‘Open to witnesses’
Senator Susan Collins is known as a moderate Republican and could be a swing vote on a rules package for the trial. She said she is “open to witnesses”, but it was “premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented”.
Collins is up for re-election this year in Maine, where Hilary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election.
Collins has also criticised McConnell and other Trump allies, telling local media“it is inappropriate … for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us”.
Sen. Susan Collins surrounded by reporters as she rushes to a vote at the Capitol in Washington [File: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]
‘Disturbed’ by McConnell’s approach
Senator Lisa Murkowski is also considered to be a moderate Republican.
The Alaska senator made headlines last month when she said she was “disturbed” when McConnell said he was working in “total coordination” with the White House for the trial.
“To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defence, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process,” she told local media.
US Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks at a news conference [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]
She said she thought House Democrats should have gone to the court to compel witnesses who refused to testify to appear. But she said how the Senate deals “with witnesses remains to be seen”.
She has not indicated how she will vote on impeachment. She has voted against Republican leaders before, including the confirmation of Trump’s controversial Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump’s actions ‘inappropriate’ but impeachment a ‘mistake’
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is retiring next year. Ahead of the House vote in December, he called Trump’s actions “inappropriate”, but labelled the impeachment inquiry a “mistake”.
Senator Lamar Alexander on Capitol Hill [File: Brendan Smialowski/AFP]
“It’s inappropriate for the president to be talking with foreign governments about investigating his political opponents, but impeachment would be a mistake,” he said in a statement in October, according to The Associated Press news agency.
He has also said he wants the trial to be “fair”.
“We have a constitutional responsibility to have a fair trial and be impartial in our decision making and it would help if the two leaders could agree on what the procedure should be,” CNN quoted Alexander as saying in December.
‘I’d advise Republicans not participate in anything that doesn’t allow defence witnesses’
Senator Rand Paul has defended Trump on impeachment, but has also indicated that he may not support a rules package that does not include defence witnesses, including the whistle-blower whose complaint led to the impeachment inquiry.
“I’d advise Republicans not to participate in anything that doesn’t allow defence witnesses,” the Kentucky senator was quoted by the Hill news site as saying in November.
Rand Paul participates in a TV interview outside his office at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill [File: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP]
Paul has called for the name of the whistle-blower to be made public. He has also criticised Democrats for delaying sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“Take Nancy Pelosi (please). I don’t know if I can stop laughing long enough to air my grievances with Nancy. Her new plan is great – she is going to punish the president by NOT sending his impeachment to Senate? Next, maybe she’ll threaten to NOT send us anymore legislation?” he tweeted last month.
‘Completely open mind’
Senator Mitt Romney has been no stranger to criticising Trump. He slammed the president for calling on Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is also a 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner. Trump’s demand for a Ukrainian investigation of Biden by Ukraine is at the centre of the impeachment.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Capitol Hill [File: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]
Romney has also been tight-lipped on how he would vote in the trial. He promised to keep a “completely open mind” during the Senate trial.
“I am doing my very best to keep an open mind and I’m going to wait to make any comments on evidence until we see all evidence, all the facts are laid out,” he told CNBC in October.
‘Take a serious look’
Martha McSally is another vulnerable senator heading into the 2020 election season. She lost her Arizona Senate race in 2018, but was appointed to her current seat after her predecessor resigned. Arizona is shaping up to be a battleground state in the 2020 elections.
Senator Martha McSally during a Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing [File: Erin Scott/Reuters]
Her office said she has not been convinced that Trump should be removed from office after a recording surfaced of her suggesting to Republican activists that the president had not abused his power. She has since pledged to review the facts objectively and to work “closely with the White House” on the process for impeachment.
Americans “want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on”, she told local media.
Senator Cory Gardner has been more cautious than many of his Republican colleagues when talking about impeachment. He is seeking re-election in Colorado, a historically swing state where recent polling suggests Trump is losing support.
Senator Cory Gardner arrives for a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
A recent poll found that 54 percent of residents in his state support impeachment.
Gardner has criticised the impeachment process, calling it a “political circus”, according to local media. But he has been largely silent on whether he would support having witnesses.
‘Every trial is a pursuit of the truth. That’s all I want’
Senator Doug Jones faces re-election this year in the conservative state of Alabama.
Jones has described the charges against Trump as “serious” but said he is keeping an open mind when it comes to the Senate impeachment trial.
Sen. Doug Jones speaks at a Senate Banking Committee hearing [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Jones said he wants to hear from the four witnesses Democrats have said they want to call in the trial.
“If [Trump] chooses to maintain his blockade, however, the Senate needs only a simple bipartisan majority to issue subpoenas for witness testimony and relevant documents. A full, fair and complete trial demands nothing less,” Jones wrote.
“Every trial is a pursuit of the truth. That’s all I want. It’s all each of us should want,” he added.
‘Approach it with no bias’
Krysten Sinema, a freshman senator from Arizona, has emerged as one of the more moderate Democrats.
She won a Senate seat by a tight margin and has since voted with Republicans on several issues, including the confirmation of William Barr. She also voted against the Green New Deal.
Kyrsten Sinema speaks after being declared the winner in Arizona’s US Senate race [File: Rick Scuteri/AP Photo]
Sinema has remained largely tight-lipped about how she plans to vote on impeachment.
“If the Senate receives articles of impeachment, it is our duty to hold a trial and we will do that,” she told local media last month. “As a juror, it will be my constitutional duty to approach it with no bias and to listen to the arguments presented by both sides and make a decision.”
‘I am very much torn’
Senator Joe Manchin from the conservative state of West Virginia has voted with Trump more than any other Democratic senators in office.
Manchin was the only Democrat to vote in favour of confirming Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
He has supported the idea of having witnesses, but toldCNN in December he was “torn” on whether he would vote to convict Trump.
Sen. Joe Manchin during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]
“We have a divided country. On the other hand, we have equal branch of governments, responsibilities in the constitution. There are a lot of things at stake here,” he said.
“The future of our country. And the future of how we’re able to do our business depends on how we handle this,” he added. “I’m very much torn on it. I think it weighs on everybody.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS