(WASHINGTON) — The top White House official dealing with Congress insisted on Tuesday that President Donald Trump have the option of asking for a vote to dismiss the impeachment case against him at his Senate trial, but GOP leaders rejected a quick vote on the idea.
“The president’s rights will be protected, including the right to a motion to dismiss,” White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland said, telling reporters that much consultation had occurred between the administration and lawmakers.
“I think all the rights of the president should be afforded in an impeachment trial much as all of the rights that should be afforded to an innocent man during his day in court should be protected, and we are confident that they will be here as the Senate goes through the process of establishing the rules of the road for the upcoming impeachment trial,” Ueland said.
Shortly afterward, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce “there is little or no sentiment in the Republican Conference for a motion to dismiss.”
“Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments, ” McConnell said, in rejecting the idea, at least at the start of a trial. “And we’ve laid out in this resolution an opportunity for everybody to sit there — remember senators can’t say anything, so they’ll have to sit there and listen — to listen carefully to the arguments by both the prosecution and the defense, to follow that up with written questions, submitted through the chief justice. And that means listening to the case, not dismissing it,” he said.
With the transfer of the articles of impeachment from the House now expected mid-week, arguments would likely begin Tuesday of next week, McConnell said.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Senate’s No. 4 GOP leader, told reporters that the president deserves to have his case heard and Americans deserve to hear it.
That position runs counter to President Trump’s push for dismissal that he argued for Sunday in a tweet.
“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
Ueland, who was on Capitol Hill to attend the Senate’s weekly GOP policy lunch, later clarified that the president and his team are confident that Senate Republicans will not slam the door on Trump’s being able to ask for a vote to dismiss the case. He said while the White House doesn’t expect any mention of a motion to dismiss in the organizing resolution that McConnell and the GOP will use to kick off the trial, Trump, through his lawyers, wants the right – at some point in the trial – to potentially call for a vote to dismiss.
At the same time, several other Republican senators said they will not vote to outright dismiss the charges against President Trump.
“I would vote against a motion to dismiss. We have a responsibility to hear the case, a constitutional responsibility and a motion to dismiss is not consistent with that. I think one, we should hear the arguments,” GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander told ABC News Tuesday. “Two, we should ask our questions which will take some time. And then, we should decide to have a vote on whether we need additional evidence whether it’s witnesses or documents,” Alexander said Tuesday.
“I think it’s a strong signal to the American people that we’re not going to just dismiss the case, we’re going to hear the case. Just because the House has been a circus, doesn’t mean the Senate ought to be,” he added.
Alexander also said he’s staying open-minded when it comes to witnesses.
“I want to make sure I have a chance to vote on whether we need additional witnesses or additional documents, and I’ll decide whether we do after I hear the case and ask my questions,” he said.
His sentiments echo comments from GOP Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski – that while they want a guaranteed vote on witnesses at some point in the trial, they don’t know yet if witnesses are even necessary.
GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told ABC News that while he thinks the House’s case is “weak” and “ridiculous,” he wants to let the trial play out for both sides. He also told us that he expects the trial will be “tedious.”
Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said that while Trump has gone back and forth on the idea of a dismissal, he believes Trump wants a full trial so that he can claim victory when he is likely acquitted.
“Well, it’s a difficult topic for him. I’m sure he’d like a quick dismissal, but I go along with what he said from the beginning that he wants a trial – it’s gonna kinda vindicate himself,” Braun said.
He added: “I’m in the camp that we get into a trial. Both sides make their cases, deal with the question of witnesses,” Braun said. “So I’m for a verdict and not a dismissal.”
The president’s top ally on Capitol Hill, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, traveled with him on Monday to the college football national championship game and said the two discussed impeachment.
Graham described the president as “frustrated. He doesn’t think he did anything wrong …” Graham said.
In terms of a motion to dismiss, Graham said, “I think a motion to dismiss early on is not going to be possible. Later on? Maybe.”
“I just think that’s not practical. You’re not gonna get get the Senate to not hear from the House.“
In terms of the length of the trial, Graham said he thinks it will be over by the State of the Union, which is set for Feb. 4.
Graham, describing his conversation with Trump, said he told him:”Hopefully, it’ll be over by the time of the State of the Union, you’ll have it behind you, you’ll come out of this thing politically stronger. I hate that you had to go through it, but I feel very confident you’ll be acquitted in the end.”
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