Democrats were never likely to get enough votes to convict President Trump in the impeachment trial, but Republicans said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party made a number of unforced errors that made it that much easier to shut the trial down.
From Mrs. Pelosi’s move to hang onto the articles of impeachment for weeks, attempting to dictate to senators how they should run the trial, to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to embarrass Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Democrats found ways to answer even those in the GOP who’d been inclined to call witnesses and hold a more fulsome trial on Mr. Trump’s behavior.
Ms. Warren’s move may have been the biggest mistake. Sen. Ted Cruz said that’s what convinced two holdout Republicans to oppose witnesses, giving the GOP 51 votes to shut down the trial and move to a final vote later this week.
“Elizabeth Warren helped defeat the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Mr. Cruz said late Friday on the new episode of his podcast “The Verdict.” “That stunt helped deliver the votes of Lisa and Lamar.”
Lisa is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, and Lamar is Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.
With them firmly in the GOP corner, the Senate voted 51-49 on Friday to set rules for the rest of the impeachment trial that don’t allow for any more witnesses or motions.
A final vote is set for Wednesday at 4 p.m., where Mr. Trump is certain to be acquitted, since the Senate won’t come close to mustering the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction on impeachment.
Democrats complained that a trial without witnesses would not be legitimate, and said any subsequent acquittal would always have an asterisk.
“To not allow a witness, a document, no witnesses, no documents, in an impeachment trial is a perfidy. It’s a grand tragedy,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Democrats’ floor leader.
Republicans countered that Democrats bungled the impeachment in the House, denying Mr. Trump fair rights and delivering two articles that were fatally flawed.
One White House official said Mrs. Pelosi’s move to hold onto the articles for weeks, saying she wanted to try to dictate the terms of the Senate’s trial, helped build GOP unity against the impeachment effort.
“Senators despise the House. The idea that she and her stooges were going to dictate Senate process framed this whole thing and made it much, much easier to work,” the official said.
Republicans said the number of Democratic bungles multiplied during the last two weeks of presentations and questions and answers.
One of those missteps was when Rep. Adam Schiff, the chief impeachment prosecutor, said the White House was threatening Republicans to line up behind Mr. Trump or else their head would be “on a pike.”
Republican senators say no such threats had been made — and for Mr. Schiff to suggest it irked key GOP lawmakers.
Then there was Ms. Warren’s attempt to drag Chief Justice Roberts down.
“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?” Ms. Warren wrote in her question, which the chief justice read.
Mr. Schiff, who fielded the question, said he wouldn’t question the chief justice’s role, but agreed with Ms. Warren the trial was not fair.
Democrats in the final days of last week made several other efforts to try to rope the chief justice into the political fray, including offering a proposal to have the Senate outsource key decisions over witnesses and evidence to him.
Ms. Murkowski, in her statement Friday explaining why she opposed witnesses after seeming to be supportive of the concept earlier in the week, said it had “become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the chief justice.
“I will not stand for nor support that effort,” she said. “We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.”
Mr. Cruz said Ms. Warren’s question spurred that decision.
He also said when a left-wing group put out an ad Friday with Chief Justice Roberts wearing a superimposed Trump campaign MAGA hat that “ticked off” Republicans, and cemented the decision not to call witnesses.
Mr. Schiff, speaking to CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on Sunday, said he didn’t think there was anything Democrats could have done differently.
“We proved out case,” he said.
The handful of Republicans sympathetic to the Democrats’ complaints about the president didn’t go that far, though several of them last week said Mr. Trump did cross lines.
One of those was Mr. Alexander, who called Mr. Trump’s demand for Ukraine to investigate a political opponent “inappropriate.” But he said the answer was to let voters decide, not remove the president by Senate conviction.
“Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense,” he said.
Mr. Alexander was the 50th vote against witnesses and Ms. Murkowski was the crucial 51st.
In the case of a 50-50 tie, the chief justice would have been under pressure to cast a tie-breaking vote. With Ms. Murkowski in board, the GOP was able to avoid that and preserve the chief justice’s independence.
Chief Justice Roberts made clear he would have declined to cast a vote anyway.
Mr. Schumer pointed out that a previous Chief Justice had cast tie-breaking votes in 1868 in the trial of President Andrew Johnson.
Chief Justice Roberts countered that he didn’t see those isolated incidents as enough precedent for him to insert himself into the highly charged political proceedings of another branch of government in 2020.
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