As Democrats begin a new round of Congressional hearings concerning the policies and decisions of President Donald Trump vis-à-vis foreign policy on Ukraine, the President’s own legal counsel has announced that members of the White House will not participate in new hearings before the House Judiciary Committee in December.
To a large extent, the White House’s move to avoid participation in this month’s impeachment hearings was undoubtedly expected by members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle. After witnesses were called to testify before Congress last month, Republicans appeared determined to fight back against any questions of wrongdoing on the President’s part. The President likely sees this form of pushback as a necessary defense against the possibility of an impeachment trial in the Senate this winter.
Indeed, the fiercely-partisan bickering that has erupted within Congress in the wake of November’s hearings is likely to define the case for impeachment for the foreseeable future. Already, the President’s allies in Congress are making the argument that Trump’s actions on foreign policy with regard to Ukraine did not rise to the level of a crime, and House Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan have been conspicuous in their attacks on Democrats pushing for a full-scale impeachment trial.
According to CNN, the trial could occur by as early as next January, but it seems unlikely that Republican Party stalwarts like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham will allow a full-scale verdict against the President to occur.
And with Republicans refusing to budge on the issue, it will be up to Members of Congress like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi to cement their case against President Trump before the Senate begins its own proceedings. That could be just one reason why this month’s hearings will be scheduled for broadcast on national television: If the public turns against the President in the wake of revelations provided by credible witnesses, the thinking goes, Republicans may feel pressure to vote for an impeachment in the Senate at a later date.
At this stage in the proceedings, that kind of outcome appears unlikely: Polls indicate that last month’s Congressional hearings did little to change the viewpoints of either Democrats or Republicans at a national level, and as long as the Republican playbook calls for Trump allies in both Congress and the Senate to push for a resounding rejection of an impeachment verdict against the President, Democrats will face a very steep uphill battle indeed.