Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump

Here’s the bottom line: What will it take to get to 20?

That’s the number of Republican senators who would need to join with 47 Democrats to reach the 67 votes to convict and remove President Trump.

But first, what will it take to get to four?

{mosads}That’s the number of Republican senators who would need to join with the Democrats to get witnesses and documents introduced at Trump’s impeachment trial.

Four Republican votes is a low bar to avoid a sham trial. But Trump has defined membership in the GOP as a matter of loyalty to him above all.

At the moment, that means a Republican has to be blind to all evidence that Trump broke the law.

The Government Accountability Office confirmed that Trump did break the law when he used U.S. foreign aid to try to pressure Ukraine’s new president into announcing an investigation into a potential Trump political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Trump continues to say his call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect,” and claims that impeachment is a “hoax.”

So what will it take for Senate Republicans to have the scales fall from their eyes? What will it take for them to consider that the president deserves impeachment and removal?

Let’s begin with the voters.

Last week a majority of voters, 51 percent, said they approve of the House impeaching Trump, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. As of Saturday, the RealClearPolitics average of polls had 46.9 percent support for the Senate removing Trump from office.

Four Republican senators already seem concerned that they will be seen as allowing a sham trial for Trump: Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

A Morning Consult/Politico poll taken this month found that 57 percent of registered voters — 71 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans — say the GOP-controlled Senate should allow witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial.

Murkowski told an Alaska TV station last month she was “disturbed” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) pledge to coordinate the Senate impeachment trial with the president’s lawyers.

“For me to prejudge and say ‘There’s nothing there,’ or on the other hand, ‘He should be impeached yesterday,’ that’s wrong, in my view, that’s wrong,” she added.

Sixty-six percent of registered voters want to see former National Security Advisor John Bolton testify, according to a January poll by Quinnipiac University.

So, let’s count the four senators who are open to witnesses as perhaps also being open to Trump’s removal, if the testimony is damaging.

Then there are Republicans trying to win reelection in states where Trump is not popular.

Maine’s Collins fits into that category as does Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

In addition to those five Republicans, there are three GOP senators running in swing states where they have to worry about being labeled as Trump acolytes if an anti-Trump backlash stirs up a big turnout of Democrats in November.

Those three are Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

Now add three more Republican senators who are about to retire. They are less vulnerable to intimidation by Trump since they are leaving the political stage.

Alexander — whom I’ve already counted — leads this group, which also includes Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Pat Roberts (Kan.).

That makes 11 possible votes to convict, taking us more than halfway to the 20 GOP votes necessary to remove Trump.

Now there is another element to consider — the political grudge.

There are way more than nine GOP senators who have been insulted, berated, demeaned and threatened by Trump since he ran for president.

Here’s a good example: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the loudest advocate for a restrained U.S. foreign policy and a recent critic of Trump’s action against Iran.

{mossecondads}Trump once tweeted: “Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.”

Then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Trump famously suggested Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. He also insulted the senator’s wife and threatened to “spill the beans” about her.

By the way, there is no love lost between Trump and Murkowski.

After the Alaskan voted against the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill, Trump tweeted that she “really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad.”

I’m reminded of a Wall Street Journal piece from last year about Trump defenders who ended up being damaged by covering up for his wrongdoing — men such as National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and lawyer Michael Cohen.

“They pledged fealty to Mr. Trump and dedicated themselves to shielding him,” the Journal wrote. “For a while, they became wealthier and more powerful through their association with him. But Mr. Trump ultimately offered little back in protection or respect.” 

The 20 votes may be there.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags Cory Gardner Donald Trump Impeachment Joe Biden John Bolton Joni Ernst Lamar Alexander Lisa Murkowski Martha McSally Michael Cohen Mike Enzi Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Party of Trump Pat Roberts Rand Paul Republican Party Richard Burr Senate trial Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thom Tillis

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