Pressure on centrist Republicans builds as Pelosi continues impeachment delay

After House Democrats hurriedly passed two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, though ostensibly to gain procedural leverage — decided to sit on those articles instead of forwarding them to the Senate for a trial.

One particular benefit of the delay for Democrats, whether purposeful or not, is that that it allows time for more pressure to build on a handful of centrist establishment Republicans who could possibly betray the president and their party to join their colleagues on the left — at least in part — during the eventual Senate trial, the Washington Examiner reported.

Collins, Murkowski, and Romney in focus

The three most likely targets of a liberal pressure campaign to upend things in a Senate trial are Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT), though there are others who could conceivably succumb to such a strategy as well.

Those three senators amount to nowhere near the number of Republicans that would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office — a two-thirds majority — so, at least at this point, Trump’s acquittal at the hands of a Republican-controlled Senate still seems to be the most likely outcome.

However, those three senators, and perhaps one or two more, could prove sufficient for Democrats to reach the slim majority necessary to change the rules of the trial or call new witnesses for testimony — which could introduce more evidence and potentially sway more Republicans to abandon Trump, or so the theory goes.

Subtle signals

Most likely at the heart of the potential pressure campaign against Collins, Murkowski, and Romney are comments made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shortly after the articles were first passed, in which he made it clear that he would work in “total coordination” with the White House when it came to conducting an impeachment trial.

In an interview with Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU before Christmas, Murkowski revealed that she had been “disturbed” by McConnell’s comments and that she was uncomfortable with Senate Republicans “being hand in glove with the defense.”

Even prior to that, according to The Washington Post, both Collins and Romney had subtly signaled that they may not remain in lock-step with McConnell when it comes to trial rules and possible witnesses.

“Every senator has to decide on his or her own how to approach it,” Collins said on McConnell’s vow to work closely with the White House in a trial. “That would not be the approach that I’ve taken.”

As for Romney and the proposition of calling additional witnesses in the Senate, he remained a bit more cryptic, saying: “It’s not that I don’t have any point of view; it’s just that I’m not willing to share that point of view till I’ve had the chance to talk to others and get their perspectives.”

Delay breeding uncertainty

As noted, those three potential crossovers are far short of the roughly 20 Republicans who would need to abandon the president in order to achieve a conviction and removal in the Senate. Still, they could conceivably help Democrats force an adjustment of the trial rules or demand more testimony, potentially prolonging the anti-Trump impeachment charade.

There is little doubt that this trio of moderate Republicans — and likely a few more left unnamed — are facing substantial pressure behind the scenes to break with their party against President Trump. The longer Pelosi delays in transmitting the articles to the Senate, the more time there is for such tactics to prove successful.

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