Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to acquit President Donald Trump in the Senate if he’s impeached in the House, not just dismiss the charges against him, two senators told CNN on Wednesday.
Republicans want to have a vote on acquittal — to clear the President of the charges against him — not simply rely on a 51-vote threshold procedural motion to dismiss the hotly disputed case.
The Constitution mandates 67 votes are required to convict the President and remove him from office, a barrier widely considered too high to be reached in this case.
One vote McConnell can’t rely on is that of Vice President Mike Pence, who has “no role in impeachment,” according to a GOP leadership aide, despite being president of the Senate with the mandate to break ties.
One of the senators, speaking anonymously, said McConnell would not call a vote on a motion to proceed to the impeachment articles unless he knew he had the 51 votes needed to end the trial, which would then set up a final vote on the articles themselves. On that final vote, 67 votes would be needed to convict Trump and remove him from office.
Speaking to CNN on the record, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) argued that it “would make more sense” to vote on impeachment articles than on a motion to dismiss. Cornyn noted the second option would mean the Senate would “decide this on a 51-vote threshold, with the potential tie and all the recriminations that would flow from that.”
McConnell appeared to signal what options he is weighing, if the Senate takes up an impeachment trial.
“It could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial or it could decide — and again, 51 members could make that decision — that they’ve heard enough and believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment,” he told reporters. “Those are the options. No decisions have been made yet.”
The development comes as the House Judiciary Committee continued debating two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — on Thursday morning. The panel will likely approve the articles in a partisan vote, setting up a full vote in the House next week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) launched a formal impeachment inquiry in late September in response to a partisan CIA analyst’s whistleblower complaint in which he alleged President Trump pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for U.S. military aid. Both President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have denied any pressure was applied and the White House released a transcript of their July 25 telephone call as evidence that no wrongdoing occurred.
Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, confirmed this week that the European country never felt U.S. military aid was tied to any investigations.
“We never had that feeling,” Yermak told TIME magazine. “We had a clear understanding that the aid has been frozen. We honestly said, ‘Okay, that’s bad, what’s going on here.’ We were told that they would figure it out. And after a certain amount of time the aid was unfrozen. We did not have the feeling that this aid was connected to any one specific issue.”