23/09/2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the eyes of the nation were on the Senate on Tuesday, but Rep. Mike Johnson believes viewers who actually watch President Trump’s impeachment trial will get bored to death quicker than Adam Schiff can say “let me be…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the eyes of the nation were on the Senate on Tuesday, but Rep. Mike Johnson believes viewers who actually watch President Trump’s impeachment trial will get bored to death quicker than Adam Schiff can say “let me begin by summarizing.”
Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, is one of eight House GOP lawmakers chosen by the White House to help the president’s legal team during the trial.
And he knows that, despite the momentous issue at stake of removing a duly elected president from office, much of the televised Senate proceedings over the next several days and weeks will feature relatively dry, droning legal arguments. At the core of the case, he believes, is Democrats’ partisan game masquerading as an impeachment.
“I hope nobody watches this,” Mr. Johnson said Tuesday on KEEL radio in Louisiana as the trial got underway in Washington. “I hope they tune out.”
The White House has tapped Mr. Johnson and his seven Republican colleagues, in part, to spread their pro-Trump analysis each day outside the courtroom in the media. They were also chosen for their detailed knowledge of the House impeachment inquiry.
“We are not planning for them to present statements on the Senate floor,” a senior administration official told The Washington Times. “The group will continue to give critical guidance on the case because of their strong familiarity with facts and evidence, and they will continue to push those and the message in the media.”
The lawmakers had a conference call with the White House on Tuesday morning for a final review of their assignments.
On the first day of the trial, there was an op-ed by Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican, in the Wall Street Journal. There was an appearance on Fox News by Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, minutes before the trial opened.
And there was Mr. Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, making the rounds on local Louisiana radio shows and holding a press conference at his district office in Bossier City. He said his communication efforts outside the Senate trial chamber are “not about image.”
“It’s about ensuring that the American people get the true facts — the true record and the true reasons that we believe, and the president believes, that this whole impeachment process has been a sham,” Mr. Johnson said.
On one radio show, he insisted, “This is not an impeachment case.”
“You can take issue with how Donald Trump communicates or how he governs, or even his policy,” Mr. Johnson said. “That doesn’t mean you can kick him out of office. They’re trying to undo the votes of 63 million Americans, and that’s not the way our system works.”
He said he expects the Senate to acquit the president fairly quickly, and that some Democratic senators will vote for acquittal.
“I expect that the acquittal will be bipartisan because I think there’s a couple, maybe three or four Democrats in the Senate who serve from states where the people are watching this very closely,” Mr. Johnson said. “I think they’ll expect their senators to look at this objectively and do the right thing.”
Since mid-December, Mr. Johnson had been working with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on oral arguments for the Senate trial, and on the president’s 110-page legal brief. The lawmaker said the White House originally had tapped him to make an opening argument in the trial about the Constitutional aspects of the case, but he was replaced in that role by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
“Until probably two weeks ago, I had been planning actually to make the constitutional arguments in the Senate,” he told KEEL. “I’d been assigned that, so over the Christmas holiday while everybody else is having a great time, I’m preparing for trial. But they’ve done a shuffle, we added a few to the team. Alan Dershowitz is going to do the constitutional argument in much of the Senate trial now, which I’m delighted by because he’s a great scholar.”
After he got bumped from a trial role, Mr. Johnson said, he spoke briefly with the president at the White House last Friday when Mr. Trump hosted Louisiana State University national-champion football team.
He told the president, “Put me in, coach.” The White House announced the House GOP impeachment team on Monday night.
In addition to Mr. Johnson, Mr. Collins and Mr. Jordan, the group includes Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona; Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina; Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas; and Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin of New York.
In addition to their efforts, the White House communications team is pumping out rapid-response emails to pick apart the arguments of Democratic House impeachment managers.
And the president’s reelection campaign, via its “war room” Twitter account, is posting frequent criticisms of the Democrats collective impeachment effort and of individual Democratic lawmakers.
“Let’s remember how Democrats’ impeachment sham started,” the campaign tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “They made false claims about President Trump’s phone call [with the president of Ukraine]. Then President Trump released the transcript, showing that Democrats and their media allies were totally wrong.”
And of course, Mr. Trump was weighing in on the trial on social media while attending a high-level economic forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Read the transcript,” he tweeted in all-capital-letters after the trial began.
Nor are the Democrats sitting by idly.
The Progressive Turnout Project launched a $400,000 digital ad campaign targeting incumbent GOP senators in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina.
The ads are part of PTP’s “Stop Republicans” campaign aimed at raising funds for voter turnout efforts of Democrats challenging Sens. Martha McSally, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Susan Collins and Thom Tillis. The group’s previous pro-impeachment ads yielded $500,000 for its cause.
“Our ads have a simple message for Senate Republicans — if you refuse to do your job, then voters will do theirs and vote you out in November,” said PTP executive director Alex Morgan.
But on the Moon Griffon radio show in Louisiana, the host confided to Mr. Johnson that he expects the impeachment trial “is gonna be kind of boring.”
“I’m just I’m just throwing it out there from my side, because I already know there’s no way they’re going to kick him out,” Mr. Griffon told the lawmaker. “So maybe I’m not too enthused about even watching it, but my point is: Don’t you think most people are going to be just totally bored to death with this?”
“I do,” Mr. Johnson replied. “I actually hope no one watches it because it’s a sham. It’s not worth it. I think that their viewership numbers are not going to be what they hope and expect on these news channels, and I think most people are just going to tune out.”
He added, “They have real lives to lead.”
Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.
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