Listen: Trump impeachment: What you need to know about the Senate trial
"Today. The big news coming out of Washington should have been the presentation of the articles of impeachment. Went to the Senate. The swearing in the chief justice to preside over the trial and of senators to serve impartial. Justice list was eclipsed however by new revelations revelations about trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine policy. Well we've Geoffrey Howard professor of political science at UC L. to come in and bring us up to date with the fast moving eating events have US domestic politics. Thanks so much for joining us. Jeffrey set who is left Pon us and what does he said. So let's partners is an associate of Rudolph Giuliani. Most people remember. Rudy Giuliani as the mayor of New York City. During nine eleven many thought he would go down in American history as one of its most storied figures. Someone who inspired brought the city together but this is a very different Rudolph. Giuliani we see before us in twenty twenty. He is the personal lawyer to the president of the United United States and by all accounts spent the last couple of years going around the world doing the president's bidding doing the president's alleged dirty work and life partners ukrainian-american American is one of his associates. One of his henchmen some have put it Who It seems has been spending quite a bit of time in Ukraine meeting with Ukrainian officials playing playing a key role in trying to pressure The Ukrainian government to fabricator find dirt on Joe Biden which the president could then use to smear near him with if Joe Biden turns out to be his opponent in the upcoming general election? And he's given this this huge interview where he absolutely says that trump knew exactly what it was going on. How credible is he? Well I think he certainly deserves a good amount of skepticism. He is himself under indictment partly for participation in he's very allegedly nefarious activities But what he's saying is corroborated by everything else. We've learned over the past few months. So this trove of voicemail as mail messages and texts in calendar entries demonstrates that there has been a concerted effort by trump's associates by Rudolph Giuliani and and his men To try to pressure the Ukrainian government to cook up this investigation Into into the former vice president Joe Biden That the president has known about it all along that the Attorney General Bill Bar has known about it all along the so many people have suggested that well maybe rudy. Giuliani has been up to no good but maybe the top people in the White House weren't totally sure that he was doing all this. He was just doing it on his own initiative well of left parties right The president has known about this all along then absolutely vital and orchestrating it and some of the elements of this evidence are really striking. Some of them are are handwritten notes scrawled on sheets of paper from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Vienna And they demonstrate that there was a wide range of tactics that were deployed by eh trump's or rudy Giuliani's men including left in Ukraine. It looks like there may have been in operation to Sir Vail then American ambassador acid to the Ukraine by Rudy Giuliani's own men. So I mean this really is the stuff of a of a movie plot. You really couldn't make it up and inevitably they will be a movie about about the We also heard yesterday that an independent nonpartisan office that works for Congress says the trump administration broke the law when it withheld held military assistance to Ukraine. So what has the Government Accountability Office said. Why does it matter so will it matter that is the question for the US Senate as we approached this This trial So the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. It's a it's a national watchdog organization and it did indeed find that the decision to withhold military aid for Ukraine dangling over the government in exchange for a promise to look into a Abidin was indeed a violation of the law. Now as we know the president cannot be prosecuted as part of a traditional Legal investigation it. There is a special process. The founding fathers of the United States for better or worse put into place with respect to holding the president legally accountable and that is the the impeachment process. Which of course begins with the House of Representatives? The Lower Chamber of the Congress deciding whether to charge the president with a particular offense Which has done that is why he's been impeached? And then it goes to the Senate to decide Whether to convict him the offense and if they do convict him of the events he will be the I president. US history removed from office. And that is where we are now the opening formalities of the Senate trial of happened. We've had the swearing in of jurors as we know the Senate is controlled told by Donald Trump's party the Republicans will the jurors be impartial. Well that's the big question. We're learning to find out so A month ago Mitch. McConnell the the leader of the Republicans in the Senate said that he didn't intend to be an impartial juror and he emphasized that this is a political process And of course there's a sense of what she's he's right that it is a political process. This isn't a standard ordinary legal process. It is a a decision that the senators get to make for themselves. They get to ask themselves. Do we think that this conduct that the president has engaged in amounts to what the constitution refers to as high crimes in misdemeanors has the president by allegedly abusing. His power demonstrated that he is fundamentally unfit for office such that he ought to be removed. That is not a matter of showing that the president violated highlighted some particular law on the books. It's it is a political judgement but that doesn't mean it has to be a a a narrow minded self interested partisan judgment political judgments can still be moral judgments and so when the chief justice of the United States who very intriguingly to preside over. This whole process swore the senators in in yesterday He got them to swear that they would do impartial. Justice in this context with that means I would argue is that they need to Genuinely we look at the evidence. Look at the facts And that really goes to the question of whether this will be a fair trial because we do not know for sure yet whether there will actually be witnesses called or or whether it will be a very quick process where they have opening statements And then basically closing statements and then it ends because trump had originally said he wanted witnesses. Nice Nice seems to be tons of them. Well it's it's not exactly clear what the president wants here One thing we know for sure is that if the president if we do have witnesses in this process For example the former national security adviser of the United States John Bolton long celebrated and regarded as a very important vigour by Republicans but who is said to have referred to Rudy Giuliani's little inquiry in Ukraine as a as a drug deal that he didn't have anything apart a part of he has said that if he's subpoenaed he'll be willing to testify. No doubt if left parnassus subpoenas. He would testify Now it could be that some of the more. Moderate Republicans pins people like Susan Collins from Maine who are going to rely in their next reelection. On more moderate members of their state voting for them will want to be seen as not just in the tank for trump as somewhat more independently minded Someone like Mitt Romney. For example the senator from Utah also wants to be seen as an indeed is more independently hundley minded. They may well go with Democrats in supporting calling witnesses. You might even get more Republicans than that to support calling pulling witnesses. But then they'll perhaps want include witnesses. That don't seem to have much particularly to do with whether trump is guilty not such as Hunter Biden and so if we start seeing people like Hunter Biden called in this thing could degenerate into a circus quite quickly and I mean such a huge week ahead then for the US and not just for the Republicans for the Democrats. Not Because of course we have Iowa coming up on one of the unintended consequences of this. Trial is the fact that two senators who are also running for the Democratic nomination not table to get on that campaign trail so Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both needing to be in Washington to actually be at this trial absolutely absolutely and so then. They're going to have to go so there. Of course the two most important ones given their rankings in the polls Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also needs to participate cle Bennett a senator from Colorado running for president. I saw the other day. He's still running for Pres- wasn't aware that he was still in the race. He hasn't been in the limelight bat. Much of that's four senators that have to Interrupt their campaigns and go back and so might that given a slight edge to South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buddha judge and the former former vice president Joe Biden it probably will and just indulge me here in a in a best case justice doing its job no partisan interest Outcome where trump is simply judged on whether he broke the Laura or not and we know he did really How soon could he be gone? Well it could happen quite quickly. So the Clinton trial took just over a month. Um that was in nineteen ninety nine. The previous impeachment was the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in nineteen sixty eight and that took about two months So if you manage to get so there are fifty three Republicans in the Senate. They're forty five Democrats there to independence any two two thirds of the Senate to convict and remove the president from office. Which means you'd need to get the forty five Democrats which you'd get you get the to independence and then you need to get Twenty or so little more more than twenty Republicans To sign on as well and that seems extremely extremely unlikely Because you can get someone like Susan Collins who will be able to say. Well we broaden auden witnesses. We looked at all the evidence and we just decided he was bad with the president. Had but it didn't rise quite to the level of an offense such that we should remove him from office and that might be a way. She's able to save face but if for some reason the political winds change dramatically. Maybe John Bolton gives a dramatic testimony that shifts public opinion radically medically and you do get that twenty those twenty or so senators. Well then trump could be gone within a couple of months Jeffrey. I'm holding my breath. Thank you very much indeed. That's Jeffrey free. How it"