Impeachment headed for crucible of Senate

Now what?

By a margin of just over 30 votes, the US House impeached President Trump last night.

For those hoping to hold the Republican president accountable for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, that was the easy part.

The case now moves to the Senate, where Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have substantial sway over whether the charges are taken seriously.

The accusations strike at the integrity of Trump. During the House impeachment inquiry this fall, several government officials testified about a pressure campaign mounted by Trump’s inner circle to force the president of Ukraine to publicly launch a criminal investigation entangling Joe Biden, and to raise questions about whether Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. Both of those would be to Trump’s political advantage.

Meanwhile, for several years, Ukraine has been fending off an invasion by Russian troops. As he allegedly pushed for compliance with his wishes, Trump withheld congressionally approved military assistance – relenting to the latter only after a whistleblower alerted others in government. Trump also allegedly held off on inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to a White House visit until Zelensky delivered on the political investigations, which he has not.

That Trump asked for those investigations is not in dispute. Neither is the fact that he withheld the aid and has not extended a White House invitation. Nor is the timeline showing the aid was released only after the whistleblower raised an alarm about the situation.

But the witnesses who have testified so far had only a limited view into Trump’s personal activity. The higher level officials – such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney – have not testified because they defied congressional subpoenas on orders from the White House.

What would those top Trump administration officials say if they were to testify before the Senate? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants the Senate to call Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton to appear for a trial, but it’s hard to imagine he has anything better than a good guess about what they would say.

While Democrats want to hear from the president’s allies – taking it as a matter of faith that, despite their political fealty, they might corroborate the accusations against Trump – McConnell is leaning towards a Senate trial without any real witnesses.

“If we go down the witness path, we’re going to want the whistleblower. We’re going to want Hunter Biden. You can see here that this would be kind of a mutual assured destruction,” McConnell told Fox News. Instead, McConnell wants a trial without witnesses, where pro-impeachment members of the House present their arguments, the president’s lawyers have a chance to rebut, followed by a “period of written questions,” and then a vote.

The outcome of a Senate trial would determine whether Trump is removed from office, which would hand the reins of power to Vice President Mike Pence, but it is unlikely the Senate will do so. Not only is McConnell in charge of the chamber and determined to protect the president, but two thirds of the Senate would need to vote for removal to actually kick Trump out of office, and a majority of the senators are Republicans. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also wants some certainty about how the Senate plans to conduct itself. In a surprise move after the Wednesday night vote, the Democratic speaker would not commit to sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, saying she wants to see what happens in the other chamber first. 

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker’s long-stalled Housing Choice bill may finally be moving in the Legislature, where the housing committee is polling its members on the bill, a step that suggests the bill may get moved ahead and ready for full votes of the House and Senate early next year. (Boston Globe

Attorney General Maura Healey asks the Department of Public Utilities to crack down on competitive electricity sellers. (CommonWealth)

After California legalized endorsement deals for college athletes, the idea is gaining some traction in Massachusetts, and Northeastern University athletics director Jeff Konya said he wants uniform laws across the country to “allow the student-athletes to be able to monetize their own name, image and likeness.” (WGBH)

Senate President Karen Spilka is arranging meetings with Department of Correction officials on the potential closing of MCI-Framingham. (MetroWest Daily News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Roxbury’s Dudley Square seems headed for a name change to Nubian Square. What’s driving the change? (CommonWealth)

The Methuen city council is questioning incoming Methuen Mayor Neil Perry’s ability to hire Jana DiNatale as chief of staff because of her recent service on the School Committee. (Eagle-Tribune

East Bridgewater Police Chief Scott Allen is among those supporting a bill that would allow officers and emergency responders to leave Narcan during home visits. (The Enterprise) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won’t forward the articles of impeachment against 

President Trump to the Senate until the chamber settles on the rules and process for a trial there (Politico) David Shribman says Trump will not be at all chastened by the historic rebuke and will instead try to use the impeachment saga as a reelection asset. (Boston Globe

Matthew Segal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says impeachment is largely about voting rights. (CommonWealth)

ELECTIONS

The Democrats debate tonight, and the Globe asks whether Elizabeth Warren will go on the offensive to try to regain some mojo. 

Keith Lambert, a Trump-supporting retailer, has opened pop-up stores in Easton, Peabody, Hanover, Bellingham, and Wilmington, selling pro-Trump T-shirts and other swag, but in an odd twist, the store also sells Bernie Sanders bumper stickers. (Lowell Sun)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A plan for a marijuana dispensary in the Luke’s Liquor Plaza by the owners of the package store was voted down by the Brewster Zoning Board of Appeals. (Cape Cod Times) 

EDUCATION

Harvard University picks developer Tishman Speyer and architect Jeanne Gang for the first phase of its Allston neighborhood creation. (CommonWealth)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial says it’s time for UMass Amherst to rethink its football strategy. The editorial follows an In Depth piece on the football program’s problems on and off the field in CommonWealth.

A Westport High School coach who allegedly made racially insensitive remarks toward a player has been placed on paid administrative leave. (Herald News) 

A winter concert at Norton Middle School was canceled after school staff found bullets in lockers, according to police. (Taunton Gazette) 

Funding for anti-hate crime education is facing an uphill battle, with a bill from state Sen. Michael Moore pending before the Joint Committee on Education. (DigBoston) 

Teachers in Andover rallied outside South Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon to protest alleged hostile conditions there, but no one is saying exactly what the conditions are. (Eagle-Tribune

ARTS/CULTURE

A Hanover woman is making art from materials found on the ocean floor for the Quincy Winter Market, which opens Saturday. (Patriot Ledger) 

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

An offshore wind tax credit doesn’t make the cut in a federal spending bill, reportedly because the Trump administration asked for its removal. (State House News)

The state’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department bans hunting contests for coyotes, bobcats, and other animals. (MassLive)