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Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges

Senate Republicans are telling President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE’s defense team to prepare for a full Senate trial, stating that any motion for an early dismissal of impeachment charges likely won’t have the votes to pass.

The warnings are a tacit acknowledgement that it would be politically risky to simply discard articles of impeachment — even though all Senate Republicans may ultimately opt to acquit the president.

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Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Pressure builds as UK approves COVID-19 vaccine Biden brushes off criticism of budget nominee Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership and a member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, on Wednesday said a vote to immediately dismiss articles of impeachment and avoid a trial won’t work.

“There’s some people talking about trying to stop the bill, dismiss charges basically as soon as they get over here. I think that’s not going to happen. That would require 51 votes,” Cornyn told reporters Wednesday. “I think it would be hard to find 51 votes to cut the case off before the evidence is presented.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Lawmakers release compromise defense bill in defiance of Trump veto threat | Senate voting next week on blocking UAE arms sale | Report faults lack of training, 'chronic fatigue' in military plane crashes Senate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return MORE (Ky.), a staunch Trump ally, is one Republican senator said to be thinking about advancing a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment even though it is likely to fall well short of the 51 votes needed to pass. A spokesman for Paul on Wednesday declined to comment.

McConnell told GOP colleagues during a lunch meeting last month that any motion to dismiss would be reserved for the impeachment manager and the president’s defense team.

During former President Clinton’s 1999 Senate trial, late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) offered a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment, but it failed by a vote of 44-56. Every single Democrat except for then-Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.) voted for the motion to dismiss.

Senate Republicans, even though they control 53 seats, don’t think there would be enough unity within their conference to dismiss charges against Trump before the prosecutors and defense have a chance to lay out their arguments and senators have a chance to ask questions and deliberate.

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Meadows meets with Senate GOP to discuss end-of-year priorities MORE (R-Ind.) said he wants a sense of closure that would come from a full trial that results in an up-or-down vote on whether to convict or acquit the president on the charges. 

“I think that if it does come over to the Senate that we should afford due process to the whole journey, where that hasn’t been done coming to this point,” he said, noting that his GOP colleagues want to provide a counterpoint to what they see as the partisan House proceedings.

Braun said passing a motion to immediately dismiss articles of impeachment “would be, probably, the wrong thing to do” because it would not “clear the slate” of allegations against the president.

“My opinion would be that we’ve come this far and it probably ought to be heard,” he said.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordEthics experts ask Senate to investigate Graham's probe of mail-in voting The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-Okla.) said, “I think we should go through with the process.”

Cornyn stated that “the better course would be to let each side have their say and then have the Senate vote and see if they can meet the two-thirds threshold” to convict the president on impeachment articles.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) later told reporters that he has no plans to avoid a trial.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we have to take up the matter. The rules of impeachment are very clear we’ll have to have a trial,” said McConnell, who was similarly critical of the motion to dismiss Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.

“My own view is that we should give people an opportunity to put the case on. The House will have presenters. The president will no doubt be represented by lawyers as well,” he added.

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Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump doubles down on Section 230 repeal after GOP pushback Congress faces late-year logjam Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (S.D.) said “people want to fulfill their constitutional responsibility ... We would have to do what the Constitution calls for the Senate to do and that is to hear the arguments, to listen, to take it seriously.”

“My guess would be that our members are going to want, I think, [to] at least move forward,” he added. “The consensus in our conference is at least that we need to proceed and take seriously the responsibility we have under the Constitution.”

Republican senators made their comments Wednesday as two senior State Department officials, William Taylor and George Kent, two men with detailed knowledge of U.S.-Ukraine policy, delivered several hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

McConnell told reporters that he did not watch the open impeachment hearing Wednesday, but other Republicans, such as Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (Maine), are keeping abreast of the developments in the House to prepare for a trial.

“I’m definitely reading materials. I’ve started reviewing the transcripts. My staff is doing summaries of some of the witnesses. I’ve asked them to compile each day the major moments in the hearings in the House,” Collins said.

Wednesday was a pivotal day in the House impeachment process, as it marked the first open hearing after weeks of closed-door investigations that Republicans in both chambers had criticized for lacking due process.

Taylor, the top American diplomat to Ukraine, testified that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told his staff in July that Trump cared more about spurring an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE than he cared about Ukraine.

Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, testified that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiMichigan voter fraud hearing goes viral for alleged flatulence, unruly witness Trump hits Barr over voter fraud remarks: 'He hasn't looked' Trump pardon scandal would doom his 2024 campaign MORE’s effort to “gin up politically motivated investigations” had infected U.S.-Ukraine policy. Kent also described his awareness of a “campaign to smear” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump then recalled.

Democrats hope the public hearing will build public support for impeachment by laying out detailed testimony before a national television audience about what steps Trump took to damage Biden, a front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary.

“It’s possible that we can go through this entire public hearing process and nothing will move. It’s also possible that things will change,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the political stakes of the House hearings.