Senate Republicans concerned with how history will treat them may vote with Democrats during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, said former Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“This is a vote that people will remember always,” Reid, a Democrat who represented Nevada in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, said in a recent interview. “I think people are making a big mistake—and this is directed toward the Republicans, frankly—trying to make Trump happy.”
Reid served as Senate majority leader for eight years before retiring in 2017 and was minority whip during the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.
“That isn’t what it should be,” Reid continued. “This vote that they are casting will be looked upon in the history books always. Most votes that we do people don’t pay any attention to what they are. But this one they will. And so I think that Republican senators better be very careful.”
“I think that we may get a few Republicans because of that,” he said.
Reid praised the performance of House Democratic impeachment managers led by Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
Reid said he developed a friendship with Schiff, who reached out to Reid after coming to Congress in 2001 following the California Democrat’s victory over former Republican Rep. James E. Rogan, who was a House impeachment manager for the Clinton trial.
Former Nevada Democratic Sen. Richard Bryan, who also served during the Clinton impeachment, echoed Reid’s point, noting that the past is always present in the halls of the capitol building.
“Let me tell you that every day I walked into the Capitol, every day I walked into the Senate chamber, you're just immersed in the history of the country,” Bryan said in a recent interview.
Bryan, who served in the Senate between 1989 and 2001, believes that the chamber needs to ensure that the process is fair. “The institution itself, I think, is on trial here,” Bryan said.
He said he has been disappointed by the Republicans for their devotion to the president and noted that he was “highly critical” of Clinton even though he voted not to convict in his impeachment trial.
“One can agree or disagree as to whether this merits the replacement of the president, but the absolute silence of any real criticism of the president's actions by the Republicans is deafening,” Bryan said.
At the conclusion of the Clinton impeachment trial, 10 Republicans voted against the impeachment article alleging that Clinton lied under oath and five against the article that he obstructed justice.
“I think the tenor was very different,” Bryan said, noting that there were more moderates in both parties at the time.
While there is not the two-thirds majority vote required to convict Trump on either of the two articles of impeachment—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are holding out hope that four Republicans will vote with Democrats to give them the simple majority needed to subpoena documents and witnesses.
“I don’t know what will happen,” Schumer told reporters Thursday when asked about the argument for witnesses. “Am I certain that we’ll get those four Republicans? Absolutely not. Am I certain we won’t absolutely get those four Republicans? Certainly not.”
So far, the Senate has considered 11 Democratic amendments that kept the chamber voting until after 2:00 a.m. Wednesday. Only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted with Democrats and it was on one amendment to allow 24 hours to file trial motions. That amendment failed 52 to 48. The other 10 amendments, seeking to subpoena documents and witnesses, also failed on a party-line 53 to 47 vote.
Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have defended Trump and argue that the House push to admit new evidence and witnesses proves that Democrats rushed and mishandled their case.
“I am going to make my vote based on the evidence assembled,” Graham told reporters Thursday. “I have said consistently that I am not going grant witness requests...they could have called all these people if they wanted them in the House.”
“I want to end this thing sooner rather than later,” Graham continued. “I don’t want to turn this into a circus.”
Schumer has said he wants the Senate to hear from four witnesses, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. He also wants the Senate to subpoena relevant Office of Management and Budget and State Department documents.
The trial is working its way through opening arguments and then will move to questions from the senators before the issue of witnesses will be decided.
Democrats have pounded their case that Trump acted improperly when he pressured Ukrainian president on a July 25 phone call, by withholding congressionally approved military aid and a White House meeting, unless Ukraine announced that it would investigate Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival for the presidency, and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong. His legal team began their opening arguments Saturday.
Graham said he believes Trump, who wants to cut foreign aid around the world, has acted consistently, though he disagrees with the president on foreign aid.
“He has a worldview that we’re being taken advantage of,” Graham said. “He thinks we’re chumps and being taken for a ride and the Ukraine is sort of a hopeless endeavor. I don’t.”