Top Republican senators vowed to protect President Donald Trump from any impeachment charges the Democratic-led House of Representatives may approve.
Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be required to put the articles of impeachment to a vote should the House approve them, removing the president would require a two-thirds majority vote. Top Senate Republicans told The Hill that the party would work the rules to ensure the “briefest of trials.”
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told The Hill that any House attempt to impeach Trump “would be disposed of very quickly.”
“If it’s based on the Mueller report, or anything like that, it would be quickly disposed of,” he vowed.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of McConnell’s leadership team who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, agreed that “nothing” would come of impeachment articles in the Senate.
“It would be defeated. That’s why all they want to do is talk about it,” he said. “They know what the outcome would be.”
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, another member of the Judiciary Committee, said that any impeachment trial would receive the absolute minimum amount of floor time required by the chamber’s rules.
“Why on earth would we give a platform to something that I judge as a purely political exercise?” Tillis told The Hill. “We have to perform our constitutional duty, but if people think that we’re going to try and create a theater that could give you the perception that this is a matter that rises to the level of Watergate, that’s nonsense.”
Though Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over any Senate trial and Democratic prosecutors can present evidence, McConnell could use the Senate rules to invoke his party’s majority to overrule Roberts’ rulings and stifle Democratic arguments.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the Republican who oversaw the impeachment trial against President Bill Clinton, agreed that the majority leader can do “pretty much” anything he wants if he has a majority vote.
Democrats would need to convince four Republicans to overrule McConnell but Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said he is not optimistic about those prospects.
“There are 47 Democrats. On a good day, even when the president is at his most outrageous level, only three Republican senators will publicly say so,” Durbin told The Hill.
It’s unclear if Democrats in the House even have the votes to impeach Trump. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that the party should impeach Trump as a matter of justice.
"This is not about the 2020 election, it’s about doing what's right now for our country," Tlaib said.
Earlier, Rep. Justin Amash, also of Michigan, became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment after reading special counsel Robert Mueller’s full redacted report.
“Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” Amash wrote.
But even as Democratic leaders privately join the calls to impeach the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed back.
“We’re not at that place,” Pelosi said at a news conference last week. “He wants to be impeached, so he can be exonerated by the Senate,” she argued at a closed-door meeting with Democrats.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., rejected the argument that the Senate’s Republican majority should have any effect on how the House should handle the obstruction of justice findings in the Mueller report.
“We need to do our job & vote on impeachment,” she tweeted. “Remember, Clinton was also impeached — that failed in [the Senate] too. Our institutions didn’t suffer then, but they have been damaged greatly today [with] unwillingness to impeach … Failure to impeach now is neglect of due process.”