Skip To Content
BuzzFeed News Home Reporting To You

Impeachment Today Podcast: It's Mitch McConnell's Show Now

In today's episode: The trial is still on hold, and the conflict with Iran has taken center stage β€” for now.

Posted on January 6, 2020, at 11:47 p.m. ET

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

It's Monday, January 6th, 104 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Monday, January 6th, 2020. 104 days since the House began its impeachment inquiry, and this is Impeachment Today. Good morning, I'm HB, reporter and editor at Buzzfeed News. Welcome to the first Monday of 2020. Not the specific flavor of terrible we were expecting, but terrible nonetheless. Okay, today we're talking to Buzzfeed News D.C. Editor, SM about Mitch McConnell, aka the stonewall of the Senate, and how his specific brand of Mitch-craft is shaping the next phase of impeachment. But, before we get to all that, let's catch up on what happened over the weekend.

The impeachment trial is still on hold, as speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to transmit the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. That's pushed up against the big news from last week, which saw the President assassinate a top Iranian general in a drone strike. That decision was made without Congress being notified beforehand, and it's made the Middle East, which is never exactly a calm region, super fucking jumpy. It also managed a bump impeachment from the front page, which some Democrats suspect, was one of the White House's goals in launching the drone strike. Here's CNN's Jake Tapper, asking presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren, about that theory.

Jake Tapper:

Senator, are you suggesting that President Trump pulled the trigger and had Qasem Soleimani killed as a distraction from impeachment?

Senator Warren:

Look, I think people are reasonably asking about the timing, and why it is that the administration seems to have all kinds of different answers.

Hayes Brown:

As several people have pointed out, the first article of impeachment against President Trump, is a charge of abuse of power related to foreign policy. In that case, it was the President pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit his reelection and using a White House visit, and millions in military aid as leverage. So, I personally am not sure about there being a link between the impeachment issue and this attack, but who even knows at this point? This all means that a new clash over the President's powers could be coming to Congress, but that does not mean that impeachment is forgotten. Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair, Mark Warner, was asked whether Congress should focus on Iran or impeachment. This is what he said on Meet the Press.

Mark Warner:

I think Congress has to do both of our constitutional responsibilities. One, protect the American people and be a coequal branch of government with the administration to make sure that we keep Americans safe. Secondly, we also have to take on the responsibility of what's going to come over at some point from the House, and that's to conduct a full and fair trial.

HB:

Pelosi reportedly hasn't made up her mind on when to send over the articles, but, it could come as soon as this week. Either way, foreign policy is not expected to play a part in her decision. Senate Republicans though, are starting to get a bit antsy already. We mentioned last week that one Republican wants to change the Senate's impeachment rules to dismiss the trial altogether, for a lack of prosecution. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham, also wants to try and change the rules to, hurry things up a little.

Lindsey Graham:

My number one goal is not let the Speaker of the House become the majority leader of the Senate. Senator McConnell has done a great job as a majority leader. I'll be confirming judges this week, but if we don't get the articles this week, then we need to take matters in our own hands and change the rules, deem them to be delivered to the Senate so we can start the trial, invite the House over to participate if they would like. If they don't come, dismiss the case and get on with governing the country.

HB:

Neither of them are likely to succeed. Changing the Senate's impeachment rules takes 67 votes, and those of you paying attention, will notice that's both the same number of votes it takes to remove the President in a trial, and a number that Republicans cannot reach on their own. That said, there's still no movement from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, on the question of calling new witnesses to testify at the eventual trial. McConnell and most Republicans want a quick trial with opening statements, evidence, closing statements, boom, vote. But the White House blocked several key witnesses from testifying to the House, leaving the Senate as the last chance to hear from them and for them to provide new details in the case.

Speaking of new details, a federal judge ruled on Friday, that an associate of Trump lawyer turned world's worst detective, Rudy Giuliani, can hand over materials to Congress as part of the impeachment process. Lev Parnas is currently indicted for alleged campaign finance violations, but has proved pretty willing to cooperate with Congress. Friday's ruling allows his lawyers to hand over the contents of Parnas' iPhone and other documents to Congress for review. Given his role in bringing Ukrainian officials, who were eager to pass on dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden, together with not only Giuliani, but the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, there could be something really interesting in that phone, or Parnas is just trying to save his own bacon by throwing Rudy under the bus and doesn't have much that matters.

Because guys, this is 2020 there are no middle points only extremes. Okay friends, it's time for today's reading from our Nixometer.

On our scale, zero normal day, normal white house, 10 Richard Nixon resigns, takes off in Marine One. This morning we're at a 7.7. Congress is slowly trickling back into Washington. With them comes a chance that we may have some new movement to tell y'all about. Because while Trump keeps on doing his Trump thing, impeachment is hanging over every move he makes. For once, both the President and I, are on the same page as we can only watch and wait to see what Congress decides.

All right, after the break, we talk to Sarah Mimms about Mitch McConnell, AKA the Senate undertaker, AKA the Kentucky bill killer, AKA DJ Mitch master funk. Stick around.

All right, time for This Fucking Guy. It's where we zoom in on a person, place, or thing that's shaping the impeachment. Today, it's Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and Trump's biggest ally in his upcoming trial. Today, we have Buzzfeed News DC editor, Sarah Mimms, talk about that Mitch. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us.

Sarah Mimms:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

HB:

So, Mitch McConnell, where to begin with this. Let's start with, ah, who the F is he?

SM:

Yeah, so Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. He's the Senator. He is, in fact the Republican leader of the US Senate and the longest serving Republican leader in US history. Elected in 84, took office in 85, so he's been around for quite some time, but he rules the Senate with an iron fist and as basically the one guy who gets to decide what happens there.

HB:

That's so wild that he's been there for so long. How do you manage to rise to the top of Senate and stay there for 13 years? That is so long.

SM:

Yeah, it's an incredibly long amount of time. So he was elected, served as a Senator for a bit, and then he took this job where he took over the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That's the person in the Senate who is in charge of helping other Republicans get elected. He did it two terms in a row, which is kind of unusual.

HB:

That's 12 years. Wow. Wait.

SM:

He was very, very good at it. And so that really helped him move up in leadership. He was elected minority leader, and then eventually when the Senate turned to Republican control in 2014, took over the Senate totally. He's really just, such a chess master of the Senate rules in a way that's only really been rivaled by Harry Reid, who was the democratic leader before McConnell took over. He has gained so much respect from Republican colleagues because he's so good at using these rules to just quash opposition. So that's kind of how he has stayed in charge and doesn't seem to be leaving anytime soon.

HB:

So, we're only just getting to the Senate, in terms of the impeachment process, but we've all known that this trial is going to be coming for months. What's McConnell's strategy been in the lead up to it?

SM:

Yeah so McConnell's strategy, as it has been with a lot of things, is to kind of put his head down and to say, this is up to the house. We'll deal with it when it gets over here, but I'm not going to answer a lot of questions about what I want to do, which has been pretty effective for him in the past. Now that it's coming over to the Senate though, all eyes are on him. As soon as Nancy sends those articles over, a trial begins. So there are a lot of questions about what Mitch wants to do and he's continuing, even on Friday, in a speech on the Senate floor, basically saying, we're not dealing with this until I actually get the articles. We're going to continue doing the business of the Senate and I'm not going to answer a ton of questions about what this is going to look like.

HB:

So, there was a lot of speculation early on that McConnell might not even hold a trial at all. Just say, no, we're good here. Is there still a chance of that if the house doesn't send over the articles of impeachment soon?

SM:

A very, very small chance. Mitch McConnell said on Friday, if the articles come over, it is our constitutional obligation to hold a Senate trial. But more than that, Trump wants a trial and if Trump wants a trial, Mitch is going to give him one because Trump wants to be acquitted by the Senate. It could be a very abbreviated trial. It could be that Mitch comes in and says, we'll have opening arguments and then we're going to vote to acquit him, and that's it. That's definitely a possibility, but I think the chances that there's no trial at all are very slim and really in Nancy Pelosi's hands at this point.

HB:

You talked about what Trump wants and, so that's a good pivot, because Mitch made a bunch of waves last month when he said that, he would not be unbiased in Trump's trial, that he would not be an impartial juror, and that he was coordinating with the White House, and that the President just plain wasn't going to be removed. Was that a fatal error saying the quiet part out loud like Democrats claim he did, or just him stating the facts like speaking truth?

SM:

I mean truly, just stating the facts. I thought it was really funny having a bunch of Democrats come out saying, Oh, Mitch McConnell isn't going to be an impartial juror. It's Mitch McConnell. Of course he's not. That's who he is. I think you know the idea that any of these senators could be impartial jurors, is frankly a bit hilarious. These people would never get put on an actual jury trial. He was just really being honest about what's happening here, which is that, Republican senators, so far to a person, don't believe that President Trump should be impeached, and that's not going to change just because the trial has begun. They are not going to suddenly come out and say, Oh, I actually have no opinions about impeachment. Of course they do. Of course he does.

HB:

So there's what, 53 Republicans in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell. You need 51 votes to pass anything during the impeachment trial. Is Mitch going to be able to hold all of them together both before the trial and during the trial? Keep them all in lock step?

SM:

Yeah. I think that's the way it's looking right now to our earlier discussion. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were more moderate Republican members of the Senate. They were kind of critical of Mitch coming out and saying, I'm not an impartial juror. I'm working with the White House. They were just like, maybe don't say that kind of thing. So there's a slight shake there. Certainly he's going to keep enough members together on the question of actually removing Trump from office. Could he lose a procedural motion here or there? Possibly. One of the big questions is going to be about whether or not the Senate ends up calling witnesses for the trial and that could be a place where things could get a little shakier for Mitch. It's a really tough position for him to be in, right? Because Democrats really want these witnesses in there.

SM:

They want Bolton, they want Mulvaney to come testify before the Senate. Some of the folks that we didn't hear from in the house portion of this trial at the same time, you had Mick Mulvaney come out and give that press conference. God, it feels like seven years ago.

HB:

Geez it does.

SM:

But where he came out and he was supposed to be defending the President and he was basically like, yeah we did hold up the money from Ukraine.

HB:

And we did it because of these investigations and also a CrowdStrike.

SM:

Yes, exactly. And he was just like, people do this in foreign policy all the time, it's fine, come at me. And then-

HB:

And then people came at him and he was like, Oh no, please don't do that anymore.

SM:

Exactly. Exactly. So you know, I think Mitch wants to very much avoid a situation like that. So that's going to be a really difficult question, but I think at this point it is looking like all Republicans are on board together.

HB:

Right. I can only imagine sort of retribution that Mitch would grant, given how much he controls the flow of money for reelection campaigns in the Senate. So does he have a weak point? Does that exist, Mitch McConnell's weak point? Because I can't think of one right now.

SM:

I mean, I think it goes back to what you were saying. Mitch McConnell truly what he cares about, is power. He cares about control of the Senate. He cares about the reelection of his members so that he maintains that control and that allows him to fill federal judgeships. Those are the things that he cares most about in the world, especially right now. If there is any weakness to Mitch McConnell, it is if he starts seeing voters turning against two, three, four Republican senators, that's the sort of thing that changes his mind and just about nothing else. We're certainly not there at all right now. If something like that were to happen in the course of this trial, that would be a weak spot for McConnell.

HB:

Okay, last thing before we let you go. It's a year into the future, the 2020 elections is in the rear view mirror. What's Mitch McConnell up to?

SM:

Doing the exact same thing that he's going to be doing.

HB:

The same thing we do every day in the Senate.

SM:

Absolutely. Mitch McConnell is almost certainly not going to lose the Senate in 2020, whether you have a reelected Trump or a democratic president. Mitch McConnell is going to keep absolute control over the Senate, keeping his members from tough votes. If Trump is reelected, filling more judicial vacancies, that's all he cares about right now.

HB:

Mitch. Mitch is eternal. Sarah, thank you so much for that. Really appreciate you joining us today.

SM:

Thanks.

HB:

All right, before we get on with your first real Monday of 2020, we want to hear from you. What do you all think is going to actually happen with impeachment this year? Send us all of your best predictions. Gaze into the crystal ball you got for Christmas from that one weird aunt who is definitely going to write in Marianne Williams in the democratic primary. Perhaps, you have a vision on when the Senate trial might finally start. If Mitch McConnell possibly will allow Trump to testify. If this trial will ever actually happen? What's the start date? How long will it go? What will be the lottery numbers on the day it ends? Just open the voice memo app on your phone, record your prediction and email it to impeachment@buzzfeed.com or just send me a direct message on Twitter. I'm at HB and my DM's are always open.

Okay, that's it for Monday. Tomorrow we'll be back at you talking about the man who will oversee the impeachment trial, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. Be sure to subscribe to impeachment today on the the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you go to hear my disembodied voice β€” and maybe leave us a rating and review. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out, together.

ADVERTISEMENT