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There May Be More Witnesses At Senate Impeachment Trial After All

The only logical reason to oppose further investigation is if you believe that additional evidence will undermine your preconceived ideas about what happened.

All hope is not lost for those who would like to see a real impeachment trial in the Senate rather than a pro forma acquittal of the president. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced last week that he had the votes to move forward on a quickie trial without Democratic input, it seemed that the impeachment would be over in a jiffy. Now, however, it looks as though the House impeachment managers may have a chance to call witnesses in the Senate after all.

On Tuesday morning, CBS News reported that unnamed “senior White House officials” said that they expected several Republican defections in the upcoming vote to establish ground rules for the trial. In addition to the usual dissidents, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah, the report also named Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Corey Gardner of Colorado, and Rand Paul of Kentucky as Republicans who might possibly vote to hear additional witness testimony.

 Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the Senate’s number four Republican, confirmed Tuesday afternoon to The Hill that Republicans did not have the votes to dismiss the impeachment articles out of hand, saying, “I think our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss. … Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”

McConnell, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, also said in a Fox News report that “All 53 of us [the Republican caucus] have reached an agreement,” but he did not say exactly what that agreement entailed. McConnel did hint that a decision on witnesses would be made “at the appropriate time” and that “both sides will call witnesses they want to hear from” at that time.

The possibility of more testimony and evidence is even more important in light of evidence that has come to light since the House impeachment vote last month. First, a Freedom of Information Act request unveiled emails that directly implicated Donald Trump in the freeze of aid to Ukraine. Then former National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that he would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate. Then Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, turned over thousands of pages of documents, text messages, and photos to House investigators. The Senate should also subpoena White House officials and Rudy Giuliani, who ignored subpoenas from the House.

The cracks in Republican opposition to a trial that allows new evidence may be the result of polling that shows voters strongly oppose a dismissal of the articles of impeachment. Morning Consult found that voters supported a trial with more witnesses by more than two-to-one. Majorities of Democrats and independents favored more witnesses while Republicans were almost evenly split on the question.

While it is by no means certain that the Senate will call additional witnesses, it is at least no longer a foregone conclusion that Senate Republicans will block additional testimony. Regardless of which side of the impeachment debate you stand on, this is a good thing. Hearing more witnesses and seeing more evidence would present an opportunity for the Senate to get to the truth of the matter.

If you are a Trump supporter and believe the president is innocent, then you should support additional testimony and evidence that may exonerate the president and, in so doing, embarrass the Democrats. If you are a Trump critic, you should support the deeper inquiry because further evidence may help build a more compelling case that Mr. Trump abused his office. The only logical reason to oppose further investigation is if you believe that additional evidence will undermine your preconceived ideas about what happened.

As Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” American voters want sunlight to shine on the details of the Ukraine scandal and let the chips fall where they may. The Senate should honor their wishes.

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