Senator Susan Collins of Maine promised to decide whether or not she will seek reelection before the Winter Solstice. On Wednesday, she announced her decision. She will seek another six-year term. The timing was probably fortuitous because it coincides with the impeachment of Donald Trump. Knowing that Collins will be an important juror in the ensuing trial, supporters of Trump will want to shower her with support in an effort to keep her in line on procedural votes. If she and three other Republican senators insist on witnesses, for example, Mitch McConnell will lose control of the process. Collins is probably less likely to make trouble for Trump than she would have been if she’d made the decision to retire. After all, she still has to win the Republican Party’s nomination.
One of the witnesses Susan Collins could demand is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but that would really displease McConnell.
When Mitch McConnell pitches Mike Pompeo on running for the Senate in 2020, a periodic occurrence, the majority leader does not fail to mention that the chamber is a great steppingstone should the secretary of state harbor higher aspirations.
Fearing former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could win the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts and put an otherwise red seat in jeopardy, McConnell and other party insiders are desperate for Pompeo to run.
It would not serve McConnell’s interests to have Pompeo muddied up during an impeachment trial, nor would it serve the interests of the Republican caucus in the Senate which seeks to maintain their majority.
Bringing pressure on the Senate will likely not be fruitful for these reasons. Since President Trump’s poll numbers are on the rise and support for removing him from office is in decline, the potential downside removes any political reason for the Republicans to relent on witnesses.
McConnell has been clear about where he stands: “I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
As the House of Representatives debates the impeachment of Donald Trump on Wednesday, the Republicans have been repeating “the process has been rigged from the start” like a mantra. It’s a ridiculous suggestion meant to distract from the seriousness of the charges against the president. But it would certainly apply to the coming Senate trial.