Much of the focus in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has been centered on the lack of impartiality by each side.
The critics, whichever their political affiliation, are correct.
When the Democratic-controlled House began hearings last month on whether to impeach the president, the majority had already determined that it would vote to do so. The Democrats mostly brought forward witnesses who would say that the president tried to coerce a foreign nation, Ukraine, to help him out politically by conditioning desperately needed military aid and a meeting at the White House on its cooperation, and that the misconduct was grave enough to warrant Trump’s removal from office.
When the Republican-controlled Senate convened to decide whether to convict, many GOP senators announced, even while swearing an oath of impartiality, that they had already made up their mind to acquit the president.
With conviction requiring a two-thirds vote, there is not a chance, regardless of how long the trial lasts, that the president will lose when the Senate finally goes through the formality of voting on the two articles of impeachment.
The only mystery is whether a handful of GOP senators, before Trump’s acquittal is officially registered, will peel off from the majority and agree to the Democrats’ request to call witnesses, starting with John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. It is getting tougher for Republican senators to not acquiesce, with roughly 70 percent of Americans polled, including nearly half of Republican voters, saying they are all for hearing new testimony.
The pressure to have Bolton testify has increased over the past few days with reports that in a forthcoming book, the former member of the White House inner circle writes that the president, contrary to Trump’s repeated denials, told Bolton that he wanted to withhold security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into Democratic political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.
Although Bolton refused to testify before the House, he has since said he will appear before the Senate if subpoenaed.
Assuming acquittal of Trump is certain, what would be the point of putting Bolton on the witness stand? Answer: To firmly establish what exactly happened.
The Democrats have made a case — though admittedly a one-sided one — that the president abused his office and compromised the nation’s national security in the process. Bolton’s testimony could conceivably erase any doubt.
That still is unlikely to get Republicans to vote for a conviction, as they are worried what the fallout might be in their own elections if they were complicit in removing a president who remains immensely popular with the GOP’s ultra-conservative base.
But the voters, who will probably be the ultimate decider of Trump’s fate, could benefit from additional testimony in arriving at their own conclusion. The Senate can provide this clarity by calling Bolton and other key witnesses. The Senate will be derelict in its fact-finding duty if it does not do so.