Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working with the White House to prepare for the likely Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, coalescing around the idea that allowing Democrats to lay out their evidence may be the best course of action to protect the President.
During a Thursday meeting with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a group of Republican senators including Mike Lee of Utah, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas, spoke about how a Senate trial should be conducted if the House votes to impeach Trump.
Lawmakers discussed that Republicans should allow Democrats to make their case with a timeline of two weeks being thrown out as a potential estimate for how long that process could take. However, an aide warned that the two-week timeline was not firm by any stretch and aides and members have been clear that no one is certain how long the process could take.
“It’s not on a stone tablet,” the source told CNN.
Graham said Cipollone “was in a listening mode” during the meeting, and Cruz said, “We talked about where things stand and where things are headed.”
Only after Democrats presented a case, would Republicans potentially move to dismiss, although Republicans were still debating their strategy.
During the meeting Thursday there were also discussions about how to deal with the whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment probe. Republican lawmakers argued that the White House should not fixate on the individual, nor push for the individual to be called to testify.
Still, the wild card remains Trump who aides, and members know will ultimately decide his own defense.
One GOP lawmaker told CNN that right now conversations are happening to temper the expectations of the President as to what is possible. The case being made is that a full trial provides the President with the ability to clear his name and, the lawmaker notes, cutting off the process early could make it look like he has something to hide.
By Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly, CNN