President Donald Trump continues to try to court Senate Republicans as a House impeachment effort is advancing on a fast track – as the White House games out how to best make it through the spectacle of a Senate trial.
A group of senior Republican lawmakers huddled with White House counsel Pat Cippolone Thursday to try to game out strategy, as national security official Fiona Hill delivered more damaging testimony in a House impeachment inquiry.
Senators attending a White House meeting told the administration there aren’t currently the sufficient 51 votes for an immediate motion to dismiss whatever impeachment articles the House may send over, Politico reported.
House Republicans have repeatedly blasted House Intelligence chair Rep. Adam Schiff for not allowing for due process, which would complicate any effort to dispense with a trial in the GOP-run Senate.
The White House met with a group of GOP senators to game out strategy for an impeachment trial Thursday
‘The President has made no decisions on trial strategy, but has engaged his senior team with senate Republicans to solicit their thoughts and feedback on various strategies and tactics,’ White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland told DailyMail.com, without venturing into specifics.
A White House official told Axios Trump doesn’t want impeachment to drag out – after Republicans senators suggested it could go on for as long as six weeks, which could torment GOP presidential candidates.
‘He’d rather get it over and done with,’ said the official.
One option reported by the Washington Post was to not even put forward a defense, although other Trump allies have called for calling witnesses including Hunter Biden to try to make their best case.
Attending were key advisors including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who Hill implicated in her testimony and who had his lawyer issue a statement pushing back. Also there was counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner (who was identified in testimony as present at a dinner with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in June.
Trump met with rival Mitt Romney, who like every senator would get to vote in the trial
House Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff, wrapped up a week of public impeachment hearings Thursday
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is up for reelection
Trump has blasted the impeachment probe as a hoax, but now is huddling with lawmakers about a Senate trial
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who has signed letters denying Democratic document requests, huddled with GOP senators Thursday
Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – who also met with Zelensky amid a hold on U.S. military aid to Ukraine – Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas were there.
Earlier Thursday, Trump met with rival Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah Thursday, along with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has kept some distance from the president as she pursues her own reelection.
The senators joined a lunch with Trump while the House Intelligence Committee was holding its final day of scheduled impeachment hearings.
Trump ridiculed Romney after he said he was deeply troubled by what he saw about the president’s push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Trump has repatedly tried to brand Romney, who was defeated in his 2012 run against Barack Obama, as a loser.
‘The Democrats are lucky that they don’t have any Mitt Romney types,’ Trump tweeted. ‘They may be lousy politicians, with really bad policies (Open Borders, Sanctuary Cities etc.), but they stick together!’ Trump tweeted last month.
Also attending were former Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, James Lankford of Oklahoma, John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, the Hill reported.
Observers in both parties have said it will be a heavy lift for Democrats to muster the two-thirds vote to convict the president, no matter the articles the House reports.
Trump would become the third U.S. president to go through an impeachment trial.
One Senate GOP aide says participants Thursday expressed more interest in voting as soon as they have 51 votes to acquit Trump than in setting a specific timetable.
That aide and a White House official say a trial lasting two weeks was discussed. The White House official says they discussed three options: no trial, a short one and a long one.
They say no final decisions were made.
The Democratic-run House seems likely to vote to impeach Trump in coming weeks. A Senate trial on whether to remove him from office would likely follow.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.
‘I don’t want them to believe there’s an ability to dismiss the case before it’s heard,’ Graham told the Washington Post. ‘I think most everybody agreed, there’s not 51 votes to dismiss it before the managers get to call the case.’
Mulavney’s private lawyer issued after Fiona Hill implicated him in a scheme to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, after Mulvaney himself testified but then withdrew statements linking military aid to 2016.
‘Fiona Hill’s testimony is riddled with speculation and guesses about any role that Mr. Mulvaney played with anything related to Ukraine,’ said Mulvaney lawyer Bob Driscoll.
‘She bases much of her testimony about him on things allegedly heard from unnamed staffers, guards in the West Wing, and “many people,” according to the statement, reported by Axios. ‘The fact is that Ms. Hill has never met Mr. Mulvaney other than in passing, and has never discussed anything with him regarding Ukraine. We have no idea why Ms. Hill believes Mr. Mulvaney was so heavily involved, especially in light of Ambassador Sondland’s contrary testimony that he only spoke very infrequently to Mr. Mulvaney and had zero substantive conversations with him about Ukraine,’ according to the statement.
‘This inquiry continues to be a sham. No court in this country would give any weight to testimony about Mr. Mulvaney as speculative as Ms. Hill’s. Neither should Congress or the public.’
Democrats wanted to bring Mulvaney in to testify to the inquiry but the White House refused.