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Sunday Politics


The moment is arriving this week. On Wednesday, lawmakers will have to put their vote where their speeches have been. The full House will cast their ballots for or against impeaching President Trump on Wednesday. That vote is expected to go along party lines. With the Democrats in the majority, President Trump will be impeached. And after that, a trial in the Senate to consider whether Trump should be removed from office. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News's Sean Hannity that there is, quote, "zero chance the Senate will vote to convict the president."

So is this all a foregone conclusion? NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson will have the answer for us this morning. Hi, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, no cliffhanger. That's the question. Do we already know what's going to happen?

LIASSON: Well, we know that the House will vote to impeach. The Democrats do have the votes. The vote in the Judiciary Committee was strictly along party lines, 23-17. We don't expect any Republicans to vote yes on the House floor, but we do expect a handful of Democrats to vote no. We just don't know how many of them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. So take us through the next steps. What exactly does a Senate impeachment trial look like?

LIASSON: Well, despite the fact that the president has said he wanted witnesses, he wants some kind of spectacular trial, he wants to call the Bidens, he seems to now be accepting the will of the Senate Republicans, who want a short trial with potentially no outside witnesses at all, because they know that if Republicans did try to get the Bidens as witnesses, Democrats would insist on having witnesses like Mick Mulvaney and Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, the people that the White House prevented from testifying. So...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. They don't want them there.

LIASSON: Right. It's a double-edged sword, or in the words of Mitch McConnell, calling witnesses is, quote, "mutually assured destruction." And even Lindsey Graham, who's one of the president's most ardent defenders, said, let's just deep-six this thing as fast as we can.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Deep-six this thing as fast as we can. How long do you think this is going to last, then?

LIASSON: I think it'll last about two weeks. That's what I'm hearing from people I talked to on both sides of the aisle. Republicans can't just dismiss this the minute it comes over there. They have to show the public they're serious about this process. But it seems like Mitch McConnell has decided that for his incumbent Republicans who are up for reelection in 2020, a long trial is not a good thing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to take us back for a moment to last week when we saw Democrats and Republicans really going at each other for hours and hours in the last hearing. It seems like Democrats and Republicans are living in these different universes. If you were watching this as a viewer, you were just getting these completely different narratives. What struck you about what you heard?

LIASSON: Well, what struck me - we already knew the basic contours of both sides' arguments. Democrats say the president abused his power by simply asking a foreign government to open an investigation into one of his top 2020 rivals. That's interference in an American election.

But the second article of impeachment - he obstructed Congress by, across the board, refusing to honor subpoenas for witnesses and documents. Republicans, which was more interesting to me, seem to be moving away from the, yes, he might have asked, but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment because there was no quid pro quo, that the aid finally went, to, he never asked - which is amazing because on the South Lawn back in October when he was asked exactly what he wanted Ukraine to do, he said this.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens. By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

LIASSON: So he did it in plain sight, in front of the cameras. But now Republicans - some of them are saying he didn't do it. And some Republicans are even going so far as to say it's OK to ask foreign governments to interfere.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is definitely a change in tune. That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who will be looking at impeachment all next week. Thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.