Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks back to his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon shortly after the Senate voted to acquit President Trump.
The new information is McConnell’s firm belief that this impeachment had more to do with Senators who are facing tough reelection fights in November than with President Trump. Democrats need to win four seats in November to take back the Senate majority. If they win the White House, they only need to win three seats, because the Vice President would then be able to cast the deciding vote.
McConnell’s theory is that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes that by forcing certain members, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), both of whom are running in states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, into tough votes, they would be easier to defeat.
Collins’ seat has been considered vulnerable ever since her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) faces a tough race in November. McSally was defeated by Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018. She was later appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy and faces a well-funded Democratic opponent in November.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) will be running against a self-funded candidate.
Another pick-up opportunity for the Democrats will be an open-seat race in Georgia.
McConnell told reporters that all of these members currently “have better polling numbers now than when all of this began.”
He also made it clear that this was a purely partisan impeachment and that, at least for now, it’s been a “colossal political mistake.”
The acquittal vote appeared to have eased the more fiery tone of his pre-acquittal floor speech. During his address, he had said, “Perhaps she [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] will tear up the verdict like she tore up the State of the Union address.” Speaking to reporters, McConnell indicated that Pelosi had been swayed by the more liberal members of her caucus and should have stuck to her initial position that an impeachment without bipartisanship would likely fail.
Following are some of the highlights of his comments to the press. (Full remarks can be heard on CSPAN):
The impeachment was a thoroughly political maneuver. I’m pretty sure she [Pelosi] did not want to do this, but that she’d been pressured by members of her party. Last year, she said she did not want to go forward with impeachment because it was not bipartisan.
The fact that she was pulled into this direction, against what appeared to be her political instincts, a year ago, underscores that this is a purely political exercise…After being pulled in this direction, her second impulse was, let’s get this over with as quickly as possible. They wanted to get it out of the house and over to the Senate to let them deal with it.
Even in that short period of time, they had unmasked a significant body of evidence…
Had they provided in the House record testimony from 13 witnesses and depositions from 17 witnesses, and we had 180 questions that witnessed. 193 video clips and 28,000 pages of evidence. So, I asked my staff to count up the number of times we heard from the House managers during their presentations, how many times it was already proven. There were 60 times, in which House managers said during their presentation to us that the case was either proven or proved 60 times. There were 33 more times when one or more of the House managers said the evidence was overwhelming. So where did the nonsense about witnesses come from? I have a pretty good idea.
After this exercise left the House and came over to the Senate, there was a lot of poll date taken. How are we going to sell this to the Senators? How are we going to sell it to the American people? Even though we already have all of this testimony and all of these witnesses, what do the polls say? Of course, if you asked the average citizen whether they think there ought to be witnesses in a trial, well, you’re going to get an answer that you want. So the speaker, I gather, decided to sit on an impeachment papers after arguing that this was an urgent matter and that he needed to be removed as soon as possible. So, she decided to sit on them for a month because she laughably thought that gave her leverage…
Once the papers came over, we knew this was all going to be about witnesses.
He said he had told his colleagues their strategy would be to get it out of the House quickly and “to leave it in the Senate infinitely, endlessly, so that we’d have it wrapped around our axle.”
And my suspicion was it was not so much about President Trump, but taking the Senate. And my counterpart, Senator Schumer, pretty much admitted that’s what this was all about. It was about taking the Senate and trying to bog us down in this. And to try to have my guys have a lot of tough votes. So, I am proud of my colleagues were seen through that, even though if you ask a typical voter if there should be witnesses in a trial, they say sure, there ought to be witnesses. But it was not about the President. We all knew he was not going to be removed from office. But trying to take the Senate. So I am proud of my members for resisting the temptation to go down that path and also preventing the second strategy. iI is pretty clear if democrats cannot win this one to embarrass the Chief Justice in the way that could’ve been done was with a 50-50 vote whether he would’ve been accused had he chosen not to rule I can imagine he would have, it’s pretty clear that what a drag the Supreme Court right into the middle of the maelstrom as well…This is a political maneuver from the beginning to the end.
And the final irony of it all is the speaker was right in the beginning. Because here we are today in a position to judge the political impact of this…The president has his highest approval rating since he has been in office. I’m not sitting here predicting what will be the biggest issue in November, but I will tell you this, right now this is a political loser for them. They initiated it, they thought this was a great idea, and at least for the short term, it has been a colossal political mistake.
I can tell you as a poll watcher who is looking at polls in certain senate races, every one of our people in tough races, every one of them, is in better shape today than they were before the impeachment trial started…
I hope the message to the House of Representatives is, ‘Don’t do this again.’
Unfortunately, they will.