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GOP is already thinking about how to turn a Senate impeachment trial to Trump's advantage

Jennifer Haberkorn and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans are beginning to strategize about how they might use an impeachment trial to reshape the narrative in the president's favor.

President Donald Trump's strongest allies in the Senate are considering ideas such as calling witnesses that might prove embarrassing to Democrats or trying to time the proceeding to interfere with the campaigning of 2020 candidates, particularly in the run-up to the first presidential contest in Iowa.

If impeachment moves from the Democratic-controlled House to the GOP-controlled Senate, the president's party will have more control over the process. Many see it as an opportunity to allow the president's lawyers to make a high-profile case to the public.

Some are speculating that they could call witnesses who could shift focus away from Trump's alleged misconduct, such as former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, whom Trump has falsely accused of corrupt dealings in Ukraine.

And the Senate might even have influence on the 2020 contest. Assuming articles of impeachment are passed in the House by the end of the year, a trial held in January would keep the six senators who are vying for the Democratic nomination tied up in Washington instead of out campaigning in Iowa. That could be a boon to other Democrats seeking the nomination, including Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

"Once it comes over here, it's in our lap," said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). "We talk about those things and kind of snicker about it, I suppose: the possibility of it playing out that way, where we're literally in the middle of voting (in the presidential race and) senators would be stranded here for six days a week."


All of the senators running for president plan to remain in Washington for any trial, according to the candidates and their campaigns.

Many of the candidates have skipped Senate votes in recent weeks as the presidential contest has picked up steam. But bypassing the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history -- particularly when many of the candidates were publicly calling for an impeachment inquiry before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- would be noticed and judged within the Beltway.

"I'll be there," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). "This is a constitutional responsibility. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America."

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said "of course" she is concerned that a trial would limit her chance to talk to Iowa voters, but that she would stay in Washington. "I will fulfill my responsibility. There's no question," she told reporters recently. "I take it very seriously."


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